by Andre Ragel
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For many Minnesotans, bicycling seems to be the primary choice of transportation for locals and tourists alike to get around. However, for Mahtomedi resident Dorian Grilley, a bicycle ride can turn dangerous in an instant.
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In 2010, Grilley was hit by a car while riding on the Gateway State Trail. The near-fatal crash has left Grilley permanently impaired, with bones broken in 16 places.
An avid cyclist, Grilley is also the Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, a statewide non-profit organization committed to educating the general public about bike safety and offering technical assistance to communities.
Although the driver pled guilty and was charged with reckless driving, all the perpetrator got was a $500 fine, a small amount compared to the $350,000 in medical expenses Grilley had to cover for his new steel and titanium plates.
A new law that took effect on August 1, 2015 changed it all.
The Vulnerable User Law that passed during the 2014 Minnesota State Legislative Session raises the maximum penalty for hitting and/or injuring commuters from a misdemeanor of $1,000 and 90 days in jail to a gross misdemeanor of $3,000 and one year in jail.
“It’s another tool in the toolbox to help move our vision of zero deaths and fatalities,” said Grilley.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, Minnesota is considered the second most bicycle friendly state in the nation, in part due to the state’s 4,000 miles of paved bike trails and the continually lowering trend of cycling-related injuries. In 2014, a report by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety indicated a 10% decrease in bicycle crashes.
“Minnesota is a great state for bicycling. We have a great system of trails and paths that separate motorists and bicyclists,” said Erin Petersen, Family Safety Coordinator of the Minnesota Safety Council, a private non-profit organization committed to making bicyclists safe.
Grilley is a strong advocate for rider safety and education. According to a public safety report, nearly half of the 755 bicyclists injured in 2014 were under 25 years old.
“Many drivers commit simple mistakes such as excessive speed or turning right on red, and I hope that education of children and adults by promoting the obeying of laws will make bicyclists more confident,” said Grilley.
After three surgeries and months of recovery, Grilley is back to riding bikes and making the streets of Minnesota a safer place for bicyclists.
“I’m glad I had a helmet, which ultimately broke into eight pieces. I’m compensated by being alive.”