Word on the Streets

Stopping at Red Lights

During a recent bicycle ride to work on the beautiful Bryant Avenue Bike Boulevard, I stopped at a red light going North at 34th Street. There is a bus stop there. After a couple of pulls from my water bottle, I looked to the right and noticed the 6 or 8 people waiting for the bus staring at me. I thought nothing of it and peddled on until I got to Lake Street. There was a Minneapolis police car parked at the corner facing North. I thought the car was empty, but it turned out the officer was leaning over to get something from the floor on the passenger side. Anyway, I stop at the red light at Bryant and Lake as I would normally do and as I am ready to peddle away on the green, a pedestrian asks: “Would you not have stopped if the cop car had not been sitting there?” Turns out the officer was back up in his seat and was watching the intersection.

I pulled my bike over and explained to the pedestrian that I stop at every red light no matter what and that approaching age 63, my vision and reflexes are not what they used to be and that if I just stop at every red light, I can avoid unexpected traffic issues. The pedestrian then said: “Well you are only one of a thousand!” I guess the bus riders on 34th thought the same.

This got me thinking that I certainly have noticed an increased number of bicyclists running red lights and that as bikes become more common on our roadways, this will certainly be the first area where the police will crack down. This is already happening in other bicycle-populated cities such as New York and San Francisco.

The leads me pose two questions for blog discussion:

1. Do you stop, roll through, or blast through red lights?

2. Do you believe we can get a change in state law (in the near future) that would allow bicyclists to treat red lights as stop signs?

Bill D

Take Action to Support Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

The City is planning to hire a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator (job description here). We feel that this position is critical for helping maximize the quality and efficiency of the City's efforts on walking and biking.

But today a misleading negative article about the position was published in the Star Tribune, and the position is under some threat.

If you live in Minneapolis and care about biking or walking, please write a letter to your local neighborhood paper or the Star Tribune today!

To submit to the:

General message:

Supporting safer walking and biking is valuable work the City should be doing and I support hiring a new bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

A few important points:

1. This position will improve road safety. Safety is our #1 priority. There were 46 pedestrians and bicyclists killed and an additional 5,509 crashes in Minneapolis between 2000 and 2009. Having a coordinator work on a big picture approach will reduces crashes and save lives. Our most vulnerable road users need to be protected.

2. This position will improve cost-effectiveness and save the City money. The coordinator will be tasked with making the City’s processes more efficient by jumping on opportunities that arise and reducing the time needed to review and developed projects. Having a central point of contact for the public, city staff, and other partners (County, Met Council, MNDOT) on bike/ ped issues will streamline project and process issue resolution, saving the city money. The coordinator will also help the City find creative outside funding sources to support walking and bicycling programs and ensure that all investments are used most effectively.

3. This position is not paid for with new money. The coordinator was created through reorganization within the Public Works Department to make a more efficient use of the same dollars. Creative restructuring to improve efficiency and outcomes is exactly what we want government to do.

4. This position will expand economic development in Minneapolis. Investment in Bicycling in Minneapolis and Minnesota provides jobs & money to our communities.

Nicollet Avenue Design Update

Nicollet Avenue will be reconstructed next year between Lake Street and 40th Street South. While the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition chose not to take a position on the design details of Nicollet (we previously were unsuccessful in getting Nicollet included in the bike plan, so there wasn't an opportunity for bike lanes), I wanted to share an update for those interested.

Yesterday, the City Council Transportation and Public Works Committee voted to approve a design for Nicollet between Lake and 40th Street South that is generally 44-feet wide with no bumpouts or bike lanes. That will be arranged as two 11-foot wide driving lanes and two 11-foot wide parking lanes. There will be areas for right-turning vehicles at each intersection and left-turn lanes at 36th Street.

Earlier designs had a 42-feet wide street with bumpouts. It sounds like the design for the street was widened and the bumpouts removed because of concern from local businesses over narrower streets being less safe (the opposite is typically true for streets like Nicollet) and because of concerns around snow removal. The 11-foot parking lanes are super wide! No bumpouts and the wider road will likely lead to higher traffic speeds and certainly will not be as inviting for pedestrians. It is worth noting that the road will be significantly narrowed over what is there today and a grass boulevard (hopefully with trees) will be added between the street and the sidewalk.

For bicyclists it is more a mixed bag in my opinion. The 44' width does allow for the potential for future bike lanes if/when the City joins the ranks of places that allow for designs that have 10-foot driving lanes, 5-foot bike lanes, and 7-foot parking lanes. Until then, the wide parking lane provides more space for cyclists that don't want to "take a lane," but cyclists will likely have to compete with faster traffic that will think that you should be riding in the parking lane.

What's your take? Are you disappointed (or happy) about the step away from bumpouts? Happy to have an extra foot to ride next to the park cars or disappointed that there is less boulevard space? Just happy to have a smooth surface coming? Or content riding on nearby 1st or Blaisdell?

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