A Diagram of the Cycle Track Option
Win Some - Lose Some, the BAC Keeps on Pedaling
The City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee- Engineering Subcommittee recently met with City staff and MnDOT representation to discuss projects that could create additional biking facilities throughout Minneapolis. Building world class bicycle infrastructure requires a high level of site specific consideration while maintaining an overarching vision, one creating a network of safe and efficient routes between places of work, commerce, and entertainment. As such, the discussion itself was very detail heavy, so I will spare you the time and give you details on a few key projects, as well as a short list of roads that will be altered as a part of the larger Bike Plan.
Penn Avenue Reconstruction: In attendance from the City’s Streets Department was Jeff Handeland, the project engineer for the Penn Avenue reconstruction project. Penn Avenue has never been an inviting road for bikers, but plans for increased accessibility could completely alter the look and feel of the thoroughfare. For reference, the work discussed would span from 50th Street to MN-62, with a possibility of connected facilities spanning from the south end of Lake Calhoun to 50th Street. Three options were discussed, including:
Sharrows- shared biking and driving lane. This was treated as the least-favored option due to it’s in ability to produce a more enjoyable cycling experience.
Bike Lane/Sharrow Hybrid- one bike lane headed in the southbound direction and a sharrow in the north bound.
Cycle Track- based on an idea from the Netherlands, this provides a 2-lane cycle track on the west side of Penn avenue. The Cycle Track was the preferred option, noting that a physical separation between automotive and biking is enticing to new bikers. The additional accessibility would likely increase visibility for businesses, and create a more inviting atmosphere. Here is a diagram:
Central Avenue: MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) controls MN-65 Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. While the preferred biking facility would have been a full bike lane in each direction spanning the entire length of Central Avenue, the varied and complicated mix of dimensions, medians, and parking configurations prohibited a consistent bike lane in some sections of the project. However, after extensive consultation with the BAC and advocacy by the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition members, a combination of bike lanes and sharrows are being proposed by MnDOT, providing a connected route for bikers. Though there is some room for additional improvement along Central in the future and many in the room expressed disappointment that MnDOT didn’t go further, there was a general thanks for the work to make improvements and the willingness of staff to consider changes. All stakeholders present in discussion acknowledged the need for continued collaboration on projects in the future to ensure better biking facilities on State managed roads.
Lowry Bridge: The BAC has been pushing for slip ramps on both sides of the Lowry bridge along with a safe bike facility, however County Staff have stated it is only possible on the West end. The East end presented issues with the existing driveways, which were cited as suitable entrance/exit points. This issue is receiving additional attention and consideration, because of the safety concerns related to bicyclists and drivers surprising each other at intersections.
7 Corners: Recently, this area was given a pedestrian oriented grant that will fund safer crossings for the intersection. The BAC hopes to have bicycle lanes included in the plan, to the extent possible given the space constraints. It’s possible that the pedestrian improvements will be installed first, with bike lanes to follow.
David Peterson (who works in the Traffic and Parking Services division of Minneapolis Public Works) presented a list of 2012 street maintenance projects, along with recommendations from Public Works about which projects should include some type of bike facility going forward. Connectivity was heavily emphasized, as well as finding those opportunities for implementation that are cost effective and quick. While percentages don’t tell the whole story, of all bike paving options considered, roughly 45% were recommended for implementation by City Staff, building roughly 5 miles of additional bike facilities in the next year, as part of already-planned and funded maintenance projects.
Bottom Line: While there were several projects in which ideal bike facilities couldn’t be included, I left feeling as though we were building in a positive direction.