Reminders for safe biking not very safe
To the editor:
There was an article on bicycling in The Journal issue of Saturday, April 8, titled “HONU issues reminders for safe bicycling.” Normally the HONU has good information and has done good work but in this case I believe that it gave some inaccurate and unsafe advice. The advice given is not consistent with safe practices as I was taught, or with Minnesota’s state statute on bicycle use. (https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/ , search MS 169.222)
Under the state statute, all bikes can be ridden on the sidewalks, except if there is a city ordinance restricting their use. New Ulm has an ordinance that restricts bicycle use in the downtown business district. If bike riders are on a sidewalk they have to yield to the rights of pedestrians. This is many times overlooked by bike riders of all ages. There is no advice in the article for bike riders using a bell for warning or using other manners when overtaking a pedestrian on the sidewalk, but it is recommended in the state statute.
Common sense says it is NOT safer to ride in traffic. The article says that kids should ride in the street after age 10. There is not a magic number regarding kids’ ability to make mature decisions, and the state law does NOT say that they have to ride in the street. There are many age 10+ kids who would likely get hurt if you told them to ride in the traffic instead of riding on a sidewalk. Such advice could even be considered child endangerment or child abuse if they were hurt. Since the time of the Roman chariots, mothers have told their kids to keep out of the street because it is not safe. That is experience, not statistics.
The article says that painted “sharrows” indicate where on the street bicycles should be ridden. Actually sharrows are only there to make other vehicles aware that there are bicycles on the roadway. They do NOT indicate where you should ride a bike. State law says bikes should ride “as far to the right as practicable” on a street or highway.
Only the official Bike Lane designation sets out a particular area exclusively for use by bicycles.
Statistical records for New Ulm on safety when riding on a street vs. on a sidewalk are probably non-existent. If there are such statistics they must be from some other location, statewide or nationwide. They could have been from New York City or Pahrump, Nevada. Our situation here is different. I have had some education and experience in statistical analysis and I would not rely on any such outside statistics when applied to New Ulm.