Minneapolis Police Fail to Protect Bikers

A rash of robberies along Minneapolis’ East-West running bike highway, the Midtown Greenway, has generated a response from the Minneapolis Police Department. In their communication (I received it via email) they described the ongoing problem, then offered a pathetic piece of advice to citizens: avoid biking on Minneapolis’ bike highway after dark.

Here is the email:

Midtown Greenway – Hiawatha LRT Trail

Recently we’ve had series of robbery/assaults on the Midtown Greenway. They’ve occurred in both the 3rd and 5th Precincts at different locations along the trail.

Typically the victim is surrounded and pushed off their bicycle. The attackers are taking wallets, backpacks and purses. Many of the assaults have occurred after dark. Some have occurred during daylight hours. So far the attackers are not stealing the victim’s bicycles.

The suspects have been described by their victims as groups of 2 or 3 younger males. At this time we do not have more specific descriptions of the suspects. It appears that more than one group of suspects may be committing these crimes.

The Minneapolis Police Department is investigating these crimes. Police are doing extra patrol on the Greenway. The Police Dept. met with the Midtown Greenway Coalition to discuss some prevention strategies.

What You Can Do?

– If you can, avoid riding or walking the Greenway after dark.

– Whenever possible ride/walk with others, not alone. You are much safer with a group than you are alone.

– There are “Bluelight” phones at intervals on the Greenway that will connect you directly to 911. Carry a cell phone as well. If you aren’t close to a phone, you can call 911 if you need help.

– Pay attention to your surroundings. If you see people ahead of you, that make you nervous or uncomfortable, exit the Greenway at the nearest ramp.

– If you should be assaulted, try to stay calm. Give the attackers what they want. The more you resist, the more likely it is that you will be injured.

– Be sure to wear a bike helmet while riding. If will reduce you chances of injury considerably.

– When you call 911 give the operator your location. Due to recent changes in our police reporting system, the Greenway is now listed as a street (i.e. Midtown Greenway W. (Nicollet Ave. westward) and Midtown Greenway E. (East of Nicollet to the river). When you riding or walking during daylight hours take some time to familiarize yourself with the addresses of the cross streets over the trail. It will help ensure a quicker police response.

– If you have questions please contact Crime Prevention Specialist Don Greeley at the 3rd Precinct – 673-3482 or donald.greeley@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.

Removing law-abiding citizens from a bike highway doesn’t make people safer: it caves to criminals. Molly Priesmeyer explained this well on Twitter:

Molly on MPLS Cops & Greenway

Dear Minneapolis Police: The problem here is not the bike-commuting, law-abiding, citizens of Minneapolis who use our trails 24 hours a day. It’s the criminals.

Would you tell people to stop driving down Hiawatha Ave after dark if cars were being stopped and robbed at random?

Solve the problem.

Bike Safety Whack-A-Mole on Midtown Greenway

A group of bike commuters in Minneapolis are taking a glass half empty approach to the new crossing of Hiawatha. While the Hiawatha bridge will help bikers avoid 6 lanes of traffic, they’ll now have to deal with 4 lanes of traffic on 28th St withotu traffic signals. More precisely, there is a planned yellow flashing light but nothing to stop car traffic in either direction.

Here is a shot of the area where the bridge comes back to street level and crosses 28th:

Future Midtown Greenway Route

Frankly, I don’t see a particularly difficult area to cross. Especially compared to crossings further West in St. Louis Park. However, here’s the take of a fellow bike commuter from MPLSBikeLove.com:

When a popular local cyclist dies at the 28th Street intersection because one car barreled on through the blinking yellow light, while two lanes of 28th Street traffic stopped and waved the cyclist through, we’ll have a big memorial effort, the city will be eager to put up a suitable crossing light, and donations will pour in so that we can have a proper traffic signal. But why should we have to suffer through the tear-jerking TV and newspaper coverage when we could just cut out that dead middleman altogether?

Let’s just have a “Pre-Memorial” campaign in “pre-Memory” of you, me, the promising young grad student from the U, the funny kid who always loved to bike …. Our “Pre-Memorial Fund” can raise the 50 grand that an ideal traffic light would probably cost, and get a system with the two features cited above.

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t support a below or above grade crossing that would allow me to keep my momentum. But as far as safety goes, the sight lines are pretty long and traffic from the East is coming off a turn so shouldn’t be moving particularly fast.

If I was to predict a bike-car accident on the Midtown Greenway, I’d go with one of the at grade crossings to the East of Minnehaha. The sight lines suck and cross traffic has little warning about the trail. Especially from the South.

Winter Biking Tips: Bike Lights

The eco-warrior blog on the TimesOnline has posted 10 tips on how to be a winter biker. Good stuff. It looks like the problems I noticed are fairly universal: keeping hands and feet warm.

Other than those two, the biggest challenge I’ve encountered is the lack of light. My commute from Eden Prairie to Minneapolis is almost entirely on a rails to trails trail with little lighting. For some reason, suburbs don’t seem to find the money to invest in lighting the trail with Minneapolis does.

Since I’m on trails rather than the road, my biggest concern is having a head-on collision with another biker or plowing into a dog walker or runner. All could be ugly for all parties involved. I decided to pick up this cateye light to help make myself more visible to oncoming trail traffic and cast some light on the trail:

CatEye Bike Head Light HL-EL500

What I like about this light is that it’s easy to install, runs on four AA batteries, so it’s easy to keep charged (I use rechargeables), and it’s pretty darn bright.

I’ve mounted it on my fork just above my breaks to keep it from sliding down. This worked out well because I already have a handlebar bag crowding out room on my handlebars. The only challenge with the fork mounted position is getting the light to point down or straight rather than up due to the angle of the fork. The mount can be adjusted with a screwdriver to correct for this, so you shouldn’t have any problems unless you have a particularly curvy fork.