9 myth-removing facts about cycletracks on Minnehaha Avenue

Hennepin County will host a second public meeting 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, to discuss the reconstruction of Minnehaha Avenue, at Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, 4101 37th Ave S. If you want a bike-friendly Minnehaha Avenue, you need to come to this meeting.

At the last public meeting on July 11, Hennepin County staff made very clear that they do not support a protected bikeway, or cycletracks, for Minnehaha. They have expressed concerns about cycletracks being unsafe, and about the loss of boulevard trees, but these concerns are unfounded.

The recent academic literature makes clear that cycletracks are safe, and there are good options for building a cycletrack and keeping street trees. Feel free to print these facts, bring them to the meeting, share them with your neighbors and use them as you give feedback and ask question about the county's plans.

1. Cycletracks are safer.

• The single most important thing for increasing the safety of each bicyclist is increasing the number of bicyclists. The safety in numbers effect is real.

• 80 percent of crashes happen at intersections, but that means one-fifth of crashes - like dooring accidents - happen mid-block. Those crashes will be substantially reduced by a cycletrack.

2. Multiple academic studies have found that cycletracks are safer.

A University of British Columbia (Vancouver) study found that cycletracks are the safest type of bike facility, and also feel safest.

A New York City study of new cycletracks says that they reduced injuries for all street users by 26 to 58 percent.

A 2011 study by Dr. Anne Lusk of the Harvard School of Public Health, published in the journal Injury Prevention, says that cycletracks are 28 percent safer than on-street riding, and attract two-and-a-half times more riders. Four of the six Montreal cycletracks in this study were just like the one proposed for Minnehaha (two-way cycletrack on one side of a two-way street).

3. Tree removal isn’t necessary.

• The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) has offered three different ideas for how transit stops and the cycletrack could coexist without any extra tree removal.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has prepared example layouts for how better transit stops could be designed, and leave all the trees in place.

4. There are ways to improve intersection safety that the County hasn’t explored.

• Bike signalization and colorized bike lanes through intersections (the City has successfully piloted both of these treatments on 15th Avenue SE)

• Material differences through intersections (like concrete vs. asphalt)

• Speed tables at low-volume streets

• Bike boxes for left turns (the County put in a bike box at Franklin and East River Parkway)

• The County brought three design firms with national reputations to Minneapolis to talk about cycletracks in April, and those firms shared all of these ideas, yet they still don’t show up in the County’s cycletrack layout.

5. Many other North American cities are investing in cycletracks.

• New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore., Vancouver, Montreal and Seattle have all implemented cycletracks.

• These cities are increasing the percentage of commuting trips made by bike, while Minneapolis remains stagnant – we’ve slipped from #2 in the country to #4.

6. Other cities have designed safe cycletracks on streets on a skew (road that runs diagonal to the normal perpendicular grid).

• Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., has a two-way cycletrack in the middle of a major two-way street on a skew. 15th Avenue in Washington D.C. has a cycletrack, and intersects many streets on skews. These facilities increased ridership by 200 percent or more. The cycletrack on 15th Avenue has not increased the crash rate.

• Seattle is building a cycletrack on Broadway Avenue, a street on a skew with significant hills and a streetcar line.

7. The cycletrack will work better in the winter.

• The current bike lanes cease to exist as a bike facility in the winter, filled by snow and parked cars. The County’s proposed bike lane layout will actually make this problem worse by narrowing the parking lanes.

8. There is broad-based support for cycletracks.

• Both the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Minneapolis Pedestrian Advisory Committee support a cycletrack on Minnehaha.

9. Cycletracks improve economic development.

• The New York study found that streets with a new cycletrack saw a 49 percent increase in sales, vs. a 3 percent increase for the surrounding area.

You don’t need to be a bike expert to come to the public meeting and voice your support for a protected bikeway on Minnehaha Avenue. These facts are simply here to help you separate myth from reality when it comes to designing a bikeway that will work better for everyone on Minnehaha. We hope to see everyone who supports a safer, calmer and more vibrant Minnehaha Avenue at the meeting!

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