Safety concerns have spurred a Minneapolis Park Police crackdown on bicyclists using walking paths and pedestrians using bike paths.
Brad Johnson, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board police chief, said there had been a few accidents, but "complaints and the near-misses" are driving increased enforcement. The effort will also include stricter enforcement of the 10 mph bike-path speed limit.
In the past, park police have given warnings to people using the wrong path. Johnson said he would dedicate one agent full-time to enforce path rules, and the agents will start issuing tickets, he said.
"It has gotten to the point where we have to take control," he said. "We feel we have to do enforcement to get the attention of the violators."
Biking or rollerblading faster than 10 mph on park paths is a misdemeanor, Johnson said. It is also a misdemeanor for cyclists and rollerbladers to use a pedestrian-only path or for pedestrians to walk on a cycling path, he said.
Misdemeanors carry a maximum fine of $1,000 or 90 days in jail or both, Johnson said. A judge would decide the appropriate punishment, (but, obviously, it would not be the maximum, he said.)
Park Police have received a number of complaints on West River Road, Johnson said. He attributed some to running clubs doing marathon training. "They start running in big groups, they practically take over everything," he said.
Park Board staff recently repainted the pedestrian, biking and speed limit signs on the park paths.
In one accident this summer, a cyclist hit and injured Tangletown resident Amy Ollendorf on a shared walking/biking path along Minnehaha Creek near Garfield Avenue South.
Ollendorf said eastbound cyclists have a nice hill down from Lyndale Avenue, and like to get up speed. She was walking Yofi, her wire-haired fox terrier; she was on the right-hand side of the path, Yofi on the left.
She looked up and saw a cyclist coming down the hill, she said. She didn't have time to pull Yofi across the path and worried the dog would dart in front of the bike. She dashed across the path to hold the dog, but the cyclist was going too fast and didn't have time to stop or swerve.
"I was really scraped up and shaken up and ended up at the emergency room that night just to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be," she said. "[The cyclist] was really apologetic. He wasn't moving too fast either afterward."
Ollendorf said she sees people going too fast on the hill all the time, and before the accident, she was probably guilty of speeding herself.
"Now, I am not shy about saying, 'Hey the speed limit is 10 mph. Slow down,'" she said.
Ollendorf has asked Park Police to set up a bike speed trap in the area, to warn or ticket speeding cyclists.
Johnson said Park Police have received a number of path complaints along Minnehaha Parkway between Lake Nokomis and Lake Harriet. However, most complaints they get are from bicyclists saying pedestrians are walking on their path, forcing them out into the street.
That forces the cyclists onto the parkway, creating conflicts with vehicle drivers, Johnson said. "It kind of snowballs."
Park path misuse happens citywide, he said.
People are encouraged to report problems. Call the Park Police at 370-4777.