A wrong-way bicyclist on Division St. nearly mows me down

wrong-wayI exited the Goodbye Blue Monday yesterday morning  at about 7:30 and, as always, paused and looked both ways before crossing the sidewalk (yes, the sidewalk) to check for anyone biking, as I was almost hit a couple of years ago.  I then walked between two parallel parked cars, paused and looked left to see if any cars were coming, took one step onto Division St. and was hit by a bicyclist going the wrong way.

‘Hit’ is an exaggeration.  As the young woman skidded to a stop, her front wheel and handlebars just made light contact with my body.  I don’t remember if she apologized but I looked at her and said "Do you realize you’re riding on the wrong side of the street?"  She flatly said ‘yes,’ got back on her bike, and continued riding south on Division on the wrong side of the street.

Two GBM patrons on the sidewalk looked at me and said something to the effect of "Wow, that was a close!"  As I crossed the street towards my car, I noticed a Northfield Police car slowly coming south on Division. I motioned to the car and the officer pulled over and rolled down his window.  "Did you see what just happened?" I asked. He smiled and said "Yeah, I saw that."  I said "She needs to be disciplined!"  He didn’t reply and pulled away.

I wondered whether he was going to pursue her. I saw him make a right turn on 4th St.so  I got in my car, turned right on 4th, saw that Water St was blocked because of people setting up for Riverwalk Market Fair and assumed that he drove across the bridge. I did likewise and then saw him on Hwy 3, turning right on 2nd.  So I don’t know if he caught up to her to issue a warning but it was clear that he didn’t issue a citation.

Back in July, I published a blog post titled Ticketing law-breaking bicyclists: if Edina and NYC can do it, why can’t Northfield? in which I cited the problem of bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the street. I was glad to hear from Mark Taylor, Police Chief/Director of Public Safety who said that they would stepping up bicycle law enforcement. It’s perplexing to me why this cyclist was not issued a citation but I’ll see what I can find out.

Later in the day when I was telling Robbie about the incident, it occurred to me that I should have asked the bicyclist why she was deliberately riding on the wrong side of the street.  My guess is that she would have cited her fears of diagonally-parked cars on the west side of Division backing out into the street and running into her. And that’s something I wrote about back in early July, How to make bicycling in downtown Northfield safer and more popular? Sharrows might work.

And see this Sept. 2011 NY Times article: Study Finds Higher Number of Pedestrians Hurt by Bikes.

More than 500 New York City residents are injured badly enough to be treated in hospitals after being struck by bicyclists each year, according to an analysis by Hunter College professors… Dr. Tuckel, a sociology professor, said these figures represent “the tip of the proverbial iceberg” because they only include pedestrians who wound up in the hospital. They do not include victims who visited their doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic for treatment.

For those of you snickering: 1) no, I’m not yet suffering from PTSD and expecting the City to provide me with CISD services; and 2) yes, it would have been more than a little ironic if she’d crashed hard into me and then cracked her skull on the pavement because she was not wearing a helmet.


  1. There’s a lot of wrong-way cycling I see in South Minneapolis in Richfield, especially among youth. I think there are several possible reasons for it:

    1. Kids are taught to walk facing traffic when walking in the roadway. Since they see bicycling as closer to walking than to driving, they also bike on that side.

    2. The cyclist is intimidated by the busy street and sees crossing it as more intimidating than riding on the wrong side.

    3. The cycling finds an element of the correct side of travel intimidating (like the diagonal parking Griff mentions).

    4. The cyclist has not thought through the consequences of wrong-way cycling — forgetting that right-turning drivers, and pedestrians walking out into the roadway, are not expecting traffic in that direction on that side of the street.

    The great thing with this, though, is that reasons 1-3 can easily be resolved through infrastructure improvement. Sharrows are cited as a way to reduce wrong-way cycling, and additional signage can be used as necessary. Division Street already has frequent crossing opportunities. And in the long-term, eliminating the diagonal parking and replacing with parallel parking would both free up room for wider sidewalks and probably improve safety.

    September 26, 2012
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, the timing is right for some of those infrastructure improvements downtown. Not only do we now have the Council’s endorsement for Complete Streets, next year we’ll have the construction of the TIGER Grant trail which will terminate on 2nd Street by the bridge. Hopefully, that’ll compel the City to create a plan for moving bike traffic more safely through downtown.

    September 30, 2012
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    On Thursday morning, I almost got mowed down in Dinkytown by the U of MN/Fairview hospital. I was walking along a sidewalk, about to wait for the light to change and cross the street at an intersection straight ahead of me. I then noticed that there was still 10 seconds to use the crosswalk to the left where cars were lined up, waiting for the light to change. I took one step onto the street in the crosswalk and a young woman on a bike going fast swerved to avoid me and then made an immediate right. She obviously didn’t consider that it was important for her to stop for a red light before turning right, like cars do.

    I’m starting to get a complex about young women and bikes. And no, this young woman was not wearing a helmet either. Jeesh!

    September 30, 2012

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