Big Momentum on Washington Avenue

Momentum is building for a big transformation on Washington Avenue in the heart of downtown, and you can help make this a reality. The next step is a public meeting hosted by Hennepin County to review draft design concepts on Tuesday, December 4 from 5-7pm at the Open Book. Please come to the meeting and bring your friends!

Washington Avenue South is going to be fully resconstructed from Hennepin Avenue to 5th Avenue South in 2014. The street and sidewalk will be torn up and replaced from building to building and the way it is put back will likely last 50 years. This is an incredible opportunity to implement a world-class separated bicycle lane, or cycletrack. These facilities have all of the advantages of off-street trails, separated and protected from vehicle traffic. With good design at intersections, they are safer and more attractive than on-street bicycle lanes, particularly for new riders.

The opportunity to improve walking, bicycling and public space in the corridor is so great that we collected over 500 hand-written letters in support of improvements this summer and delivered them to Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, Councilmember Lisa Goodman and Mayor R.T. Rybak. Many great things have come from our advocacy and the efforts of partners including the Downtown Council and downtown business leaders:

  • Hennepin County is creating a design plan for the whole corridor from Hennepin Avenue to Seven Corners, not just the small portion that is being reconstructed.

  • Hennepin County hosted a design charrette last Friday to develop ideas that will be presented on Tuesday. In a room full of diverse stakeholders representing residents, businesses, and other partners, bicycling ranked as the #2 priority for the design. Every group, five out of five, included a curb-separated bicycle lane (known as a cycletrack) in their design.

  • Mayor R.T. Rybak is now a strong supporter of incorporating continuous bicycle facilities in this critical connection between downtown and the U of M and has urged key partners to stay open minded about incorporating a cycletrack on this corridor.

  • The City has determined that traffic volumes warrent five traffic lanes instead of seven in most segments of the corridor. This leaves more space for bicycle lanes, a wider sidewalk and greening, so the public will not have to choose between one or the other.

This process alone is a huge breakthrough in how Hennepin County and the City can work together to take advantage of maintenance projects to implement improvements in our streets. Now that we have the chance to truly participate in the conversation, we hope you will come out to the public meeting to voice your support for safe and protected bike lanes on Washington Avenue.

Key messages for the meeting include:

  • We support a continuous bicycle connection through downtown

  • A curb-separated bicycle lane (cycletrack) will be the most likely to support bicycling by all types of bicyclists

  • Cycletracks have a number of benefits for pedestrians -- they provide a buffer between auto traffic, shorten the crossing distance across the street and, because they attract more bicyclists, will increase activity in what is often a very empty landscape today

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