One of the many benefits of living in Lincoln is a good system of off-street and on-street bike trails. I enjoy riding on the Tierra/Willamsburg, Rock Creek/Antelope Creek, Jamiaca North and Billy Wolf trials for exercise and recreation. Many Lincolnites also bike to work – out of choice or by necessity. Unfortunately, it’s become too commonplace to see headlines about crashes involving bicycles and vehicles, and there have been many in the past couple of years in the local newspaper, the Lincoln Journal Star.
In addition to the news stories written, columnist Cindy Lange-Kubick recently profiled Chris St. Pierre, who compiled Bicycle Crash Analytics (Lincoln, NE).
“In March 2015, I was hit by a car while on my bike in a crosswalk, and was ticketed for failure to yield the right of way. I got interested in bicycle safety and, as a software engineer by trade, I decided to download, parse, and quantify as much crash data as possible from the Lincoln Police Department,” St. Pierre wrote in his compilation.
Lange-Kubick wrote some details from St. Pierre’s report in her column, and it definitely is both interesting and informative.
Here are some helpful takeaways:
“According to the numbers St. Pierre crunched:
- A majority of car-bike accidents happen in crosswalks (54 percent) or on sidewalks (15 percent). Only 23 percent occurred on streets.
- Intersections with the highest number of accidents include Capitol Parkway-Normal Boulevard at 27th, 33rd and South streets; 27th and Vine streets; the ‘entire length of 84th Street’; and Pine Lake at 27th Street.”
In my personal experience, I am not surprised about the accidents totals along Capital Parkway. The 40th Street/South Street/Normal Boulevard intersection is particularly dangerous. I avoid the intersection of 27th and Pine Lake and cross at the South Pointe trail crosswalk a few blocks north. But I bike for fun. The area around South Pointe mall employs retail, restaurant and fast food workers, some of whom rely on bicycles for transportation to get to work. Crosswalks that are convenient for recreational bicyclists may not necessarily be convenient for those who bicycle out of necessity.
I’d encourage people to read the rest of the column and St. Pierre’s report, too. “There are easy-to-read pie charts and interesting graphs and funny asides from its author,” Lange-Kubick wrote.
In addition, those who are bike riders for any reason should familiarize themselves and their loved ones with the local laws. Here’s a link for Lincoln’s bicycle laws. Bicyclists have to largely obey the same laws as motorists do, including yielding the right-of-way to both pedestrians and other vehicles, so as St. Pierre learned the hard way, bicyclists should yield to turning vehicles.
The only real exception that bicyclists have to obeying the laws of motorists is that bikers can ride on sidewalks in Lincoln, but not in the following areas: downtown, the Haymarket, Havelock, College View, Bethany, and University Place neighborhoods.
“… Ride your bike, but remember drivers aren’t programmed to look for you – you have to look out for them. And if you’re worried about riding through an intersection, walk,” Sydney Brown, vice president of Bicyclincoln told Lange-Kubick for her column.
It’s important to know your local laws and what the expectations are for cyclists. By sharing this information with your loved ones, hopefully accident rates will decrease, and folks can worry less and enjoy the ride more.
Lincoln is working to make bicycles an integral part of our transportation system. Lincoln City Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird has promoted on a bicycle lane on N Street that will connect to our trail system through the Haymarket. This is an effort to make Lincoln more livable and to spur further economic development. Bike safety issues should be and are part of that discussion. But bike safety issues go beyond just the downtown/Haymarket area. I would encourage you to contact Councilwoman Gaylor Baird or the council member in your part of the city about your concerns about bike safety in Lincoln.