COMMUNITY VOICES | Making Minnehaha safe for biking


I am writing in response to the TC Daily Planet’s recent article by Rebekah Peterson concerning the debate surrounding Minnehaha Ave cycle tracks.  After carefully reviewing the scientific literature I’m afraid Hennepin County’s claim that in-the-street bicycle lanes are a safer alternative than cycle tracks has little merit. Studies comparing the relative safety of cycle tracks versus in-the-street bicycle lanes have found cycle tracks to be the safer option by statistically significant margins.  In fact the most recent data suggest cycle tracks have less than 1/6th the risk when compared to in-the-street bike lanes (Teschke, et. al. 2012).   Furthermore, cycle tracks are particularly effective at eliminating midblock accidents such as riding into a car door and being hit from behind, the latter having the highest fatality rate of all cycling injuries (Thomas and DeRobertis, 2013).

Cycle tracks also increase rideshare while bike lanes do not.  A recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found a 250% increase in ridership when compared to in-the-street bicycle lanes.  This is important as increased ridership results in real safety benefits, as shown by Jacobson (2003), not to mention the associated societal health gains.  Ridership rates are also an important consideration when contemplating the local economic benefits safe bicycling infrastructure provides.  These benefits are one reason the City of Chicago is currently constructing more than 100 miles of urban cycle tracks. 

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Fear of motor vehicles, both real and perceived, is the #1 reason more people do not bike (Jacobson, 2009).  A recent survey conducted by the City of Portland found that 60% of Portland’s population (~600,000 people) are interested in biking but concerned about safety.  “Having to share the road with cars & other motor vehicles is the main reason I don’t ride more” was the most cited safety concern expressed by survey respondents.   Fear of motor vehicles also appears to be a primary cause of the gender gap in commuter cycling rates, as discussed in a recent Australian study that found female commuter cyclists preferred to use routes with maximum separation from motorized traffic (Garrarda et. al., 2008).

Hennepin County argues that cycle tracks on Minnehaha Ave are unsafe due to numerous access points, yet cycle tracks throughout Northern Europe have far more access points while providing a safer riding experience.  In fact North American cyclists are eight to 30 more times likely to be seriously injured while cycling than their counterparts in Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands.  A primary cause of the increased risk for North American bicyclists is a lack of segregated bike lanes which are common in Northern Europe (Dill, 2009). 

I am not an expert however, so I decided to ask three of the world’s leading authorities on bicycle infrastructure for their opinion concerning the Minnehaha Ave reconstruction project: Dr. Anne Lusk, Harvard School of Public Health; Dr. Kay Teschke, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia; and Dr. Anne Harris, School of Occupational and Public Health, Ryerson University.  I will copy each of their responses below.  I believe the people of Minneapolis deserve to know that current scientific research does not support Hennepin County’s claim that in-the-street bicycle lanes are a safer option.  Thank you very much.


David Maki

Longfellow Neighborhood, Minneapolis

PS: A list of cycle track references is also provided below. 


From: Teschke, Kay

Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013

Subject: Cycle tracks versus in-the-street bicycle lanes


Dear David

Do your city planners have copies of our research results? I am attaching the two main papers from our study. Cycle tracks were much safer than bike lanes between parked and moving cars (less than one-sixth the risk). In addition, bike lanes between moving and parked cars do not motivate cycling, whereas cycle tracks do. So cycle tracks have two health positives: fewer injuries; and improved public health via increased cycling. The attached figure shows the combination of safety and preference of difference route types.

I’ve also included a review of cycle tracks that was conducted before our study came out.

In Vancouver, one of the factors that motivated a trial of cycle tracks was concerns about liability, since an injured cyclist had successfully sued the City. The infrastructure she was riding on had inadequate provision for cyclists and contributed to her crash and the extent of her injuries. This was before the evidence about the relative safety of cycle tracks was as good as it is now. I don’t know if this would be an issue in Minneapolis, but if I were a planner, I think it would important to consider whether the City could be liable for crashes that involve doorings or cars moving into painted bike lanes, given that safer infrastructure is possible in the same space.

Many planners worry about intersection treatments for cycle tracks, but there are ways to make sure both cyclists and drivers are aware of the crossing. In Vancouver it is done with bright green paint. A photo is attached.

all the best,


Kay Teschke

Professor, School of Population and Public Health

The University of British Columbia


From: Lusk, Anne

Sent: Monday, July 22, 2013

Subject: Please consider cycle tracks and not bicycle lanes in Minneapolis


Dear All,

I heard that you are considering putting in painted bike lanes and not cycle tracks in Minneapolis.  I am writing to provide peer reviewed research on cycle tracks, and against bike lanes, in the hopes that you will reconsider and install cycle tracks.

First, an article was written by Chen in the American Journal of Public Health, June 2012, titled “Evaluating the Safety Effects of Bicycle Lanes in New York City.”  Though the title and the abstract would lead the reader to believe that bike lanes improve safety, Table 2 suggests that painted bike lanes improve safety for pedestrians and car occupants but bicyclists are less safe with the bike lanes.  The authors wrote in the Discussion, “Our results indicate that installation of bike lanes does not lead to an increase in crashes despite the likely increase in the number of bicyclists after the addition of such lanes.  In fact, all crash types on segments where there are treatments (except with bicyclists) decreased.”  In other words, the crashes increased for bicyclists, the intended beneficiaries of the “bike” lanes.  If you want a full copy of this article, let me know.

Second, a recent review of the literature on cycle tracks was written by Beth Thomas and Michelle DeRobertis in Accident Analysis and Prevention 2013 titled “The safety of urban cycle tracks: A review of the literature.”  The authors write in the abstract, “The review indicates that one-way cycle tracks are generally safer at intersections than two-way and that, when effective intersection treatments are employed, constructing cycle tracks on busy streets reduces collisions and injuries. The evidence also suggests that, when controlling for exposure and including all collision types, building one-way cycle tracks reduced injury severity even when such intersection treatments are not employed.” The authors had reviewed a total of 22 studies on cycle tracks to reach their conclusion.  You have to pay to receive this journal article but here is a link to a table the authors had produced.  If you want a copy of the full article, let me know.

One of the articles included in the review was our article on the cycle tracks in Montreal. We suggested that cycle tracks have a 28% lower injury rate compared to biking in the road and 2.5 times as many bicyclists as biking in comparable roads.

We also recently published another article on cycle tracks that was in the American Journal of Public Health. Again, cycle tracks were suggested as safer compared to the crash rates for bicycling in the road. We also revealed that AASHTO has cut and pasted the same recommendation against cycle track facilities that they first wrote in 1974.

 Kay Teschke in Vancouver has published research on cycle tracks.  Her recent article in Injury Prevention suggests that cycle tracks are considerably safer compared to bicycling in the road.

Kay and her team had also written this article in the American Journal of Public Health (2012) that suggested cycle tracks “have one ninth the risk of the reference street.”

There are many other articles that have documented that women, children, parents, and seniors prefer to be separated from cars. Here is a review of the history of bicycle facilities in China, the US, and the Netherlands that I wrote for Harvard Asia Quarterly that includes much of this review (Winter 2012, second chapter).

We had applied for a National Institutes of Health grant to compare crashes on bike lanes in the door zone, bike lanes by the sidewalk curb, roads, and cycle tracks but the grant was not funded.   Even so, we have not seen recent research by other academics that has shown that biking in bike lanes is safer compared to biking in cycle tracks.  With the above evidence and the need to lower obesity, we believe that the responsible bicycle facility for both safety and improved health in all populations is the cycle track.

Please let us know if we could provide more information.

Thank you for your consideration,


Anne Lusk, Ph.D.

Harvard School of Public Health


From: Harris, Anne

Sent: Saturday, July 20, 2013

Subject: Cycle tracks versus in-the-street bicycle lanes


Dear David,

I hear you. The situation is nearly identical in Toronto. It can be a challenge to know how best to present research on safety to policy makers. However, I would say that our research adds to increasing evidence that physical separation from motor vehicles and a reduction in obstacles can substantially reduce injury risks for bicyclists. Just as sidewalks are needed to protect pedestrians, separated bicycling infrastructure is needed to protect current and future bicyclists.

I hope you have found our study website: which has lots of resources and charts that may be helpful. Our peer reviewed articles are also there to download

One chart in particular may help:

The second chart on this page compares route safety to route preference. It shows that bicycle specific infrastructure (and separation) has great potential to reduce injury and encourage cycling.

I hope this email is helpful to you.

All the best,


M. Anne Harris, PhD

Assistant Professor, School of Occupational and Public Health

Ryerson University



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