I’m thrilled to announce that earlier this month, Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein announced his support for the Lowry Bridge safety improvements that the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for over the last several months. Thank you Commissioner Stenglein for championing these important improvements!
Specifically, the Commissioner’s office announced that it will be directing staff to include “slip ramps” in the project, to allow bicyclists to more safely transition from the bike lanes to the off-street biking area on the bridge. (For more detail on why the slip ramps are important, see the related posts here and here.)
This marks an amazing transformation of this project! Last March–when we were first alerted to problems with the bridge–the plan was for bicyclists to more or less figure it out with pedestrians on the sidewalk with no consideration for how that would happen. Now, there will be 5-foot bike lanes on the road, a signed and marked space for bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk (so that bikes and peds can both be safer), and the slip ramps to connect the two. What an improvement!
It is wonderful news for the people of North and Northeast Minneapolis, because when the Lowry Bridge opens this summer, it will be as safe and inviting as possible for bicyclists of all types. Several other bridges around the country have used this slip ramp design successfully, including Austin and Portland. However, because of the off-street bicycling area on each side of the bridge, the Lowry Bridge will be a premier national example of a Complete Streets design on bridges.
We’ll be working with County staff on the final designs to ensure that they will include important nuances to ensure the safest possible interactions between bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists, but the critical work is in place!
MANY THANKS to all of our members and supporters who spoke to their elected officials about the importance of making Lowry safe and inviting for all users. Your voice was vital to making this success possible.
And many thanks to each of the County Commissioners who represented their constituents’ concerns by advocating for this change. In particular, I want to highlight the considerable work of Commissioner Stenglein, and his staff, Kari Dziedzic (now former staffer) and Steve Gershone as they tracked this project over the months and encouraged County staff to make improvements. Fellow County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and his staff also played an important role. If you live in North or Northeast, please consider sending a thank you note to Commissioner Stenglein (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I also want to thank Matthew, Lisa, Billy, Robin, and others who volunteered many many hours to build understanding for the need for safety improvements on this bridge and the best solutions to make this bridge work as well as possible for everyone. They are a perfect example about how motivated individuals can really help make Minneapolis more bicycle friendly. Thanks to Portland-based planner Steve Durrant for helping us understand how the slip ramp can work well in this location and showing off Portland’s examples when County officials were there for a recent visit. And thanks to Dorian and Nick and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota who also supported the project. Finally, this effort wouldn’t have been possible if Coalition super-volunteer Janne hadn’t had a conversation almost a year ago with Hawthorne Neighborhood resident (and blogger) Jeff Skrenes, who first alerted us to the fact that bike lanes had been (at that point) taken out of the bridge project. (So, let us know if you here something that seems off for biking, and we’ll see what we can do!)
It takes a community to build a bridge–or, in this case, to make sure that it works safely for everyone!