The first-ever Minneapolis planter protected bikeway may be installed next year on 3rd Avenue S Downtown! It's part of a broader plan to redesign 3rd Avenue as a greener, safer connection for biking and walking connecting the Convention Center (and points south) with the River (and points NE). It looks pretty darn exciting and can be even more so with some additional connections in the near future.
Proposed planter protected bikeway! What this area looks like currently...
The City has proposed a redesign of 1.3 miles of 3rd Avenue from 16th Street (behind the Convention Center) to 1st Street/the 3rd Ave Bridge over the Mississippi River. The proposal is being driven by several priorities for downtown: adding greening, having a north-south protected bikeway in the heart of downtown, and better connecting downtown to the River.
The proposal includes:
- additional trees and protected bikeway with flexible plastic posts between 16th Street & 12th Street;
- new sidewalk planter boxes and protected bikeway with a combination of green planter boxes and flexible plastic posts between 12th Street and 7th Street; and
- new sidewalk planter boxes and generally protected bikeway with flexible plastic posts between 7th Street and 1st Street.
General design with flexible posts... What this area looks like today...
Overall, the proposal includes about 10 percent more greenspace in the corridor in addition to the protected bikeway. The proposal does remove three planted medians to retain four car lanes generally between 7th Street and the River, but retains the medians south of 7th Street by removing an auto lane in each direction (turn lanes added).
This is a very important proposal and we hope it will be approved in December!
A north-south protected bikeway route through the heart of downtown has been a big priority for us. With Nicollet Mall being reconstructed over the next couple years (with no bicycle improvements), getting an alternative in place as soon as possible is extra important. This proposal will certainly make it a lot safer and more comfortable for thousands of people to bike downtown.
We are also excited to see the improved greening as part of this proposal. The area south of 7th will definitely be greener and more inviting, while we are pleased to see new sidewalk-side greening throughout the corridor. We have some other suggestions (below) on how this proposal can be improved, but it will be a big step forward. We're interested in your thoughts as well.
This proposal will be going through a stakeholder review over the coming months and the City Council will be voting on it in December. We think it is very important that it be approved. Look for opportunities soon to offer your support.
We want to especially thank Mayor Betsy Hodges, who has been strong leader on this proposal, Council Member Jacob Frey, who has also been a strong supporter, and Public Works staff, who have worked hard to bring this forward.
A couple challenging spots
The realities of 3rd Avenue present a couple challenging spots. We wish they could be better, but understand the limitations currently. We're interested in your thoughts on these.
Near Washington Ave. The most challenging spot is the half block just south of Washington Avenue (which will be rebuilt next year with protected bikeways as well!). This area currently has two car lanes in each direction and a left-turn lane. We would like to see a lane removed, but Public Works does not feel that would retain enough car flow in the afternoon rush hour. So, instead they have proposed (see right) a 5-foot bike lane in the southbound direction and a "shared" 14-foot wide outside lane in the northbound direction. We certainly worry that this will not make for a comfortable environment for everyone and would like to see a continuous protected bikeway carry through this busy intersection. But, Public Works tells us this is the best they can do given the constraints. We don't have any better ideas if they feel they can't remove a traffic lane. What are your thoughts?
Near City Hall. The current proposal seems to call for preserving most of the police parking along City Hall between 4th and 5th Streets (see images below). This means that it will be an unprotected bike lane and that super narrow sidewalks there cannot be improved. We understand that the City is looking to move some police operations that would allow for removing this parking in a few years, but we can't help but ask: isn't there enough police parking on the other sides of City Hall to allow for this parking to be removed now?
Current proposal by City Hall... "Future" vision for this block...
What to do with intersections?
The proposal includes "mixing zones" at intersections, which means that right-turning cars will intermix with bicyclists (see example picture from right or more details here).
We are concerned that mixing zones are not terribly comfortable places to bike. They also are used differently by different drivers--some drivers will go all the way to right (as intended) while others will stay out of the mixing zone completely and turn across bicyclists. And the Washington Avenue protected bikeway will not include mixing zones, which means that we aren't being consistent, which inevitably creates confusions. Confusion, especially in a downtown setting with drivers from auto-dominated areas not used to interacting with bicyclists, is not a good trait. We're interested in ideas for how intersections can be designed better on this proposal. That could include carrying the bike lane through and having drivers consistently turn across the lane (ideally with bike signals aiding safe interaction) or other things. Let us know your thoughts.
Other questions we hear:
- What about winter maintenance? Recognizing that this is intended to be a key north-south bike route in downtown, the protected bikeway will be maintained in the winter time. Thank you to the City for that! The City already removes all of the snow from 3rd Avenue S. New techniques will need to be fine tuned to manage things, but the City has been learning from early protected bikeways (most of which haven't been maintained very well so far). A winter walking and biking maintenance study will be happening this year to inform that work and more resources will support doing it well.
- Who will maintain the greening? The City is hoping that the Downtown Improvement District will maintain the greening (as it does in most public spaces downtown), but that agreement still needs to be finalized.
- How do we connect to NE? to South? to the River? We want to see the City finalize plans soon to connect 3rd to some protected bikeway into Whittier (1st, Nicollet, or Blaisdell) and to the Loring Bikeway. We also want to see 3rd connected over the River to at least University right away (the 3rd Ave Bridge will be redecked in a couple years and will likely see even more improved protected bikeway at that time). We want to see the City explicitly connect this 3rd Ave protected bikeway to the River through the woonerf being built as part of the Mill City Quarter development happening right now at 3rd Ave and 2nd Street.
Other suggestions we hope the City will explore for this project:
Overall, we are excited for this project and think it will be a big asset. We hope the City will explore a few things that can make it even better including:
- The connections to S Mpls and NE are really critical! Let's get those planned and in place soon to maximize the value of 3rd Ave protected bikeway! We really hope that they will at least include over the River to University Ave at the same time as this project.
- Can we improve the intersections? Can we do something with bicycle signals to improve safety? Can we add leading pedestrian/bicycle intervals at the stop lights to give walkers/bikers a couple second head start?
- We hope to see the police parking moved so that the City Hall block can be improved. Not having the protected bikeway there hurts continuity in the corridor.
- It sure would be nice to have a better solution at Washington Ave. That definitely feels like it will be a barrier for many potential riders. We also hope that the final design will specifically support easy turning from Washington to/from 3rd as they will both have protected bikeways.
- Can we do 10-foot traffic lanes throughout to provide more green space? Why would we need 10.8-foot lanes when we want traffic to go slowly and we completely remove the snow?
- Can we do a 25 mile per hour speed limit? With narrower traffic lanes, a lower speed limit could help improve attentiveness and safety, especially at intersections.
- Can we re-time lights to provide a "green wave" for bicyclists, so that if you bike about 12 mph, you will make all/most green lights?
- Can we have some wayfinding, especially to help connect visitors at the Convention Center with the River?
- We hope that the greening will include as many trees as possible.
- Can we add some bicycle parking on 3rd?