Planning a Protected Downtown Bike Route

The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) met on April 23. Anna Flintoft, a planner with the city of Minneapolis, gave the committee new information on the city’s bike plan update, and we heard updates from the engineering subcommittee. 

Minneapolis Bike Plan

The city of Minneapolis plans to update its bike plan to include protected bikeways, and specifically on-street protected bike lanes. Ms. Flintoft said the city considers protected bikeways to be part of a low-stress network for bike transportation, including painted bike lanes, shared lanes, shoulders, and bicycle boulevards. This project is to revise to the city’s existing bike plan, not draw a whole new plan. Minneapolis and Hennepin County are co-hosting an open house next week, where they will collect thoughts and opinions on their bike plans. Show up!

One thing that keeps coming up is the cost of maintaining protected bike lanes during the winter. Sometimes, the cost is used in cost-benefit analyses of building protected bike lanes. A planner might say, “Removing snow from a protected bike lane will cost more than our current snow-plowing practices.” Several members of the BAC pointed out that this thinking is flawed, saying it doesn’t compare apples to apples.

Currently, most painted bike lanes in the city are not maintained during winter. They serve as seasonal auxiliary parking for when snow banks expand from the curb into the street. So saying, “Maintaining protected bike lanes would be more expensive than what we’re doing now,” is tantamount to saying, “Maintaining protected bike lanes would be more expensive than not maintaining painted bike lanes,” which isn’t a surprise. Robin Garwood, aide to CM Cam Gordon, suggested that the city update the cost-benefit analysis to include the costs of three scenarios: 1) current plowing practices, 2) clearing snow from existing painted bike lanes, and 3) clearing snow from prospective protected bike lanes. Having these three estimates would enable officials to make informed policy decisions. BAC members also welcomed the option of prioritizing snow removal for select key bike routes, rather than demand the highest level of service for the whole system.

Engineering Subcommittee

Go read Doug’s report on the BAC engineering subcommittee for a more detailed account.

The BAC urged the city to plan for a protected bike route through downtown from the southwest. Nicollet Mall plans are crystallizing, and it looks like there won’t be space for protected bike lanes. That’s not really a surprise. But it means that there are only a few options left: Hennepin, Lasalle (which ends at 8th Street), Marquette, 2nd, and 3rd. Lasalle is scheduled for a reconstruction next year, and the BAC passed a resolution urging the city to plan a protected bike lane on Lasalle or some nearby parallel street this year.

Tune in next month for more developments.

Upcoming Events:

Bikeways for Everyone kick-off 4/29

Minneapolis Bike Week 5/4-5/11

Minneapolis/Hennepin County public input event 5/8

North Minneapolis Greenway Open Streets 5/31

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