This is a guest post from volunteer Philip Schwartz. The Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for adding bike lanes to Franklin Avenue for the past year. Our position is that we want to see bike lanes on Franklin west of where they end in Seward all the way to Hennepin Avenue. Philip offers a summary of a recent public meeting and his detailed opinion on the bike lanes. Offer your thoughts in the comments!
A couple weeks ago, Bike Walk Twin Cities held a public meeting to go over the options for bike and walk improvements on Franklin Avenue. An option was presented by representatives from Toole Design Group and CH2MHill that included bike lanes on most of the corridor, and shared travel lanes at the most challenging section, between 4th and Columbus Aves. (The details were nicely laid out in a previous blog post.) This was followed by a short Q&A session before breaking into small groups to allow for more engaging conversations.
As someone who hasn't attended too many public meetings, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. There was a good turnout of about thirty people, which included not just active cycling advocates and representatives from various community groups, but also interested members of the surrounding neighborhoods. The general consensus was that Franklin is without question a harsh place for pedestrians and cyclists. No one spoke against bike lanes. The main concern about the presented plans was the use of shared lanes, which look not too different from those on Hennepin Avenue in downtown, and if you've ever ridden there during rush hour, you know they simply do not work. Other concerns regarded the county's willingness to accept 10' travel lanes, and how things will be configured at high traffic intersections. This is warranted because, unfortunately, in Minneapolis it's not too hard to find that your bike lane has vanished and suddenly you are in the middle of a turn lane. The engineers that sat in on our small group discussions were taking good notes of our ideas, and I look forward to seeing how they respond to our feedback.
I enjoyed the format of this meeting because it allowed me to voice my opinions without having to address an entire room. My main concern was that while the options presented make it easier and safer for all existing users of Franklin, it missed by a long shot on what not only the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, but also the city, really need to be aiming for: Attracting new cyclists. I believe strongly in the 8-80 Cities concept, which means that if a city is safe for an 8 year old and an 80 year old to get around freely, the city will work better for everyone. The options presented lacked in that aspect by shoehorning a 5' bike lane right alongside traffic that usually moves at 40 MPH with nothing but a strip of paint keeping the cyclists "safe," just so that there is still room for vehicle storage (parking). We cannot settle for this. While complete separation from traffic at this point is not part of the project, buffered bike lanes, similar to those on Fremont Ave. N. are really the only option we should accept. This will make things more difficult for motorists when it comes to congestion and parking, but we need to ask ourselves if giving priority to a safe, comfortable, and family friendly bike route on the only viable east-west route for bikes in the area is something that is worth compromising. We need to stop accepting the bare minimum when it comes to our bike infrastructure, hold the city and county to higher standards that will work for everyone, and put Minneapolis back in its place as the number one bike city in the United States.
What do you want to see on Franklin Avenue?