Word on the Streets

Bike lanes on Central Ave NE? Come to the Bike Summit August 1st!

Central Avenue NE will undergo curb to curb renovation in 2012, presenting a cost-effective opportunity to add bicycle lanes along this major north-south route.  The good news is that there is room for bike lanes, a completed planning study from the City of Minneapolis that demonstrates how and where they could be added, and plans for a public process in which advocates for safe and practical cycling can show support.  However, there is no commitment from MnDOT that bike lanes will be included, so this isn't a done deal.

On August 1st, the 2nd annual East Side Bike Summit will be held at the Ritz Theater near Broadway and University from 6-7pm. [Facebook event] Gather with others and learn more!

Background on Central Ave project:

  • Central Avenue is a state trunk highway (Hwy 65). It will undergo a "mill and overlay" (curb-to-curb renovation) in 2012 as part of regular maintenance by the MN Department of Transportation. Final plans are scheduled to be approved in 2011. [Click here to see Mn/DOT's info about the project.]

  • In anticipation of this project, and with an eye towards expanding bicycling facilities around Minneapolis, the city conducted a study of Central Avenue with funds from Bike Walk Twin Cities in 2010. [Click here to go to the study]

  • The study makes recommendations for bicycling facilities along Central Avenue. For various segments of the corridor, the recommendations include on-street markings ("sharrows"), "share the road" signs, and bicycle lanes. Changes to vehicle traffic include a conversion from 4 lanes to 3 lanes along some segments (from two lanes each direction to one lane each direction and a central turn lane for left hand turns - also known as a 4-3 conversion) and the removal of a handful of parking spaces.

  • Because this is a state road that runs through Minneapolis, staff from both the city and state are involved in creating plans for the public. To date, no official plans have been released.

  • In late June, two open houses were held to inform the public about the upcoming change, but no specific draft plans were presented.

What can supporters do?

  • Come to the Bike Summit to learn more about this and other projects (in NE and SE Mpls) and meet other supporters!

  • If you're the wonky type, read the official documents that have been produced so far.

  • To get more involved in these efforts with the Mpls Bicycle Coalition, email us at info@mplsbike.org.

What's next?

  • At some point, which we expect will be fairly soon, the city and state will release official drafts for Central Avenue, along with a public participation process.

  • The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee will review plans and make recommendations.

  • Eventually, the plans for Central Avenue will have to be approved by Mn/DOT, with input from the City of Minneapolis, before a contract can go out for the project construction in 2012.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition will be working to inform the public and our members about this process - we'd love your help to encourage bicycling and help everyone feel comfortable riding in NE Minneapolis.

Hope to see you on August 1st!

Franklin Avenue

The bicycling community had a major win this month: there are now bike lanes on Franklin Avenue from the river to Minnehaha Ave, as my friend Nicolas demonstrates.

This is fantastic. It's a definite improvement. But there's more to this story - history, some design details that bear exploration, and some plans for the future.

First the history. I wasn't around last time Hennepin County repaved this section of Franklin, in the Seward neighborhood, but I've heard stories from Seward residents. It's pretty clear that the neighborhood asked about bike lanes back in the 90s, and were told that there simply wasn't room.  At that time, the County added lines marking the outside of the parking bays, but that was it.

This time around, the conversation was completely different, for many reasons. Traffic engineers at the County and City had already come up with a way to fit bike lanes, travel lanes and all of the existing parking into the current road width from Minnehaha to 29th. Seward Neighborhood Group and the local community development corporation, Seward Redesign, have done detailed planning and community organizing work around making Franklin bike and pedestrian friendly.The Bicycle Coalition had made bike lanes on this stretch of Franklin a key goal for 2011. The Non-Motorized Transportation pilot had funded a design for bike lanes from Riverside to the east side of the Franklin bridge, including removing some parking, and staff and the Council Member had brought that idea to the community and gotten their blessing.  The Council Member of the area is very supportive of biking (I can vouch for that - I'm his staff).  Bike lanes have been installed on the Franklin bridge over the Mississippi by a County project last year, along with the County's first-ever bike boxes.

So when the County chose to renovate (or "mill and overlay") Franklin this year, this section was ready to go.  Staff brought a good plan to the community for input, and the community made suggestions to make it better.  Unlike what happened on nearby 26th Ave S, bike lanes were included in the baseline project, rather than having to be added in later.  It's a great success story - community, engineers and policymakers in cooperation to make Franklin Avenue in Seward a great place to ride a bike.

Now for some of the details.  There are a couple of tough sections of Franklin: the block to the east of Minnehaha, the half block to the west of 26th, the area around Riverside/29th, and the west end of the bridge over the river.

Near Minnehaha, Franklin goes from a 2-lane to a 4-lane configuration, which doesn't leave room for bike lanes in both directions.  In that stretch, sharrows have been added to the rightmost westbound travel lane, at the community's suggestion.

The community also suggested a sharrow in the middle of this eastbound lane at 26th, where the necessity of a left-turn lane squeezes out the bike lane.  It's not there yet.  I'm hoping that the spray-painted arrow on the pavement is a guideline for where one will be installed...

And then there's Riverside, which is being reconstructed.  The location of the curbs is changing, and for that reason only the eastbound bike lane has been finished.  The westbound lane drops out at 30th.  I'm hoping this will be resolved after the Riverside project's first phase is complete.

There's at least one more suggestion from the neighborhood that doesn't seem to have made it into the project.  Residents asked that these strange gaps in the bike lanes corresponding to the driveways for the Holiday station at 22nd - not even dashed areas, just missing chunks - be filled in.  That hasn't happened.

And then there's a missing link that I happen to know well, as it impacts me personally every time I try to take the Franklin bridge to my house.  At the west end of the bridge, there is no good connection for folks going westbound to turn south onto Seabury or the West River Parkway.  There are several options, none of them good: cross the bridge in the middle and get up on the south sidewalk, bike in the opposing bike lane, take an illegal u-turn near 31st, go blocks out of your way down 31st, go down the on-ramp to the parkway (and climb back up a similar distance), or do like Nicolas and walk across.

We've got to fix this.  I know that some folks within the City have come up with workable solutions that didn't fit the budget or timeline of this project.  A bicycle-only left-turn lane would work, if we put some curb cuts in that median - seems like a chance to try something innovative.

But more importantly, we've got to bring these bike lanes further down Franklin, all the way from Minnehaha to Lyndale.  The Bicycle Coalition, the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee, Seward Redesign, NACDI and others are working on it.  We won't be able to get bike lanes included in this year's mill and overlay, but we're laying the same sort of groundwork that enabled this section to be a success.

Rear Flats ~ Stumped or Stomped?

I got a flat tire on my bicycle this week.

So did Thor.

Despite the obvious differences, the one thing that was different about our flat experiences was that I had to change my own tire.

Does concern about getting a flat tire keep you off your bicycle?  Did you get a flat and not know how to change it, so your bicycle sits in your garage?  Does a fear of what to do if you got a flat REAR tire make you begin to sweat lightly and your heart begin to beat a little faster?  Are you a woman and feel that mechanical thing-a-ma-jigs are not for you?

Well the best way to conquer a fear is be prepared and be able to look fear in the face.  I don't let flat tires ruin my ride, I know how to change them.  I did not used to.  I am a woman.  I am not into thing-a-ma-jigs.  I used to be intimidated with the thought of changing a flat tire.  But I ride a lot, and sooner or later, it was bound to happen.  Especially in the city, you see a lot of debris ~ glass is one of the most frequent obstacles I ride through.  This time my foe was a construction staple - big and bad.  Click, click, click and before I knew it I had wedged it into my wheel and phhhhhhh....my tire went flat.  I could have panicked, thrown up my arms, flagged someone down or walked home ~ but that's not me.  I like to be prepared.

Many times before I ever got my first flat on my bicycle, I practiced changing my tire and tubes at home.  My husband has been a racer and he is always changing wheels, tires, bicycle parts, etc.  Years ago I asked him to show me how to change a tire and tube, and I asked him to show me more than once.  Then I changed a tire and tube, more than once in a no-pressure situation.  With the changing of seasons I always am changing tires to put my bicycle on a trainer, because I have new tires for the year, because I want to switch tires between bicycles, etc.  Everytime I need to change a tire, I do it by myself in the comfort of my own home so I have gotten used to it and know how to trouble shoot.

What I used to find the most intimidating was changing the rear tire  - there is a lot going on back there and it can seem daunting.  Again, my patient husband explained how to do the rear tire change as he showed me, and then I practiced at every opportunity.  Then one day last summer it happened, I got a dreaded flat, and not only a flat, but the much dreaded rear flat.  Same as this week.  Two for two.  What did I do?

I always carry the proper tools with me every time I leave my house on a bicycle:  spare tube, tire levers, bicycle pump.  I know how to use these tools, I flip my bicycle over, I take off my wheel, and I begin.  15-20 minutes later, the tube is changed, tire is back on, and the wheel is back on the bike.  Did my hands get dirty?  Heck yeah, but that is the evidence of an empowered and self sufficient woman!

You can rely on the kindness of strangers, or you can be self sufficient and get on with your ride and enjoy the day.

Do you know how to change a flat and how did you learn?  What have you found to be the best local resources for classes on how to change a flat?

Here is some helpful information on changing your rear tire.  Please add to this list in the comments section:

This video is a bit more geared towards racers, but I agree with much of what they say and find it helpful.  They repeat the practice in a no-stress situation sentiment.


Places such as REI offer classes, there is one this week.  Info here.

Grease Rag Ride & Wrench is a good local resource.  Info here.

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