BAC Pedals Against Uphill Odds On Minnehaha Cycle Track

At Tuesday's meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee's (BAC) Engineering Subcommittee, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin informed the committee that the Hennepin County Board remained unconvinced by arguments for a cycle track on Minnehaha Avenue.  He said the chances of the seven-member board approving a Minnehaha cycle track remained low.

“The Hennepin County staff is not convinced [a cycle track] is a safer alternative [for Minnehaha Avenue].” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said Minnehaha's skewed angle presents a huge design problem for bicyclist safety at intersections because of the high number of conflict points and poor visibility. McLaughlin suggested skewed roads are poor candidates for cycle tracks.

BAC member Robin Garwood disagreed with McLaughlin's analysis.

“Steve Durant with Alta is designing a cycle track for a skewed road in Seattle right now,” Garwood said.

Moreover, Garwood questioned whether the plan Hennepin County staff presented was a true cycle track.

“The county gave us side paths that cease at intersections,” Garwood said. “This group has never asked for side paths. We can't call these protected cycle tracks.”

A protected cycle track in any other city always includes some sort of intersection intervention such as striping and signals, Garwood added.

Both the BAC and the Hennepin County staff seemed to agree they had reached an impasse with almost all members of the BAC convinced of the merits of a properly executed cycle track design while the Hennepin County staff was still convinced it was a bad idea, because of safety concerns and continued worries about tree and parking impacts.

“Everyone is pretty well entrenched and everyone has taken a side.” Minneapolis Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Shaun Murphy said. “How do we break this stalemate?”

On a more hopeful note, McLaughlin estimated there's a 50/50 chance that the cycle track option on Washington Avenue will get approved, and he and other members of the staff will advocate for that option.

“We are not categorically opposed to cycle tracks,” McLaughlin said, but added he hadn't seen a viable cycle track design yet on Minnehaha.

McLaughlin asked the committee to consider other options such as enhanced bike lanes and help with those designs. He also asked whether we should revisit doing one-way cycle tracks. 

BAC members reiterated the benefits of cycle tracks, especially their being more family friendly and encouraging more people to bike.

“Enhanced bike lanes don't attract new bikers,” Garwood said.

Minnehaha-area resident and BAC chair Nick Mason noted that a cycle track can add an attraction for the street that will help define the area. McLaughlin agreed with that notion and vision.

In the end, McLaughlin directed his staff to work for a constructive conversation between advocates and project engineers in hopes of breaking the stalemate and coming up with the best proposal possible. 

Staff from Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy’s office noted that the Longfellow Community Council will hold a community meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. September 11th at the Tapestry Folkdance Center (3748 Minnehaha) to discuss the Minnehaha reconstruction.


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