The first public meeting on the reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue in downtown is Wednesday, February 17 (details below). We hope to see a more lovable Hennepin and hope it will include protected bikeways. Here's 5 reasons why we think protected bikeways make sense on Hennepin downtown.
1. A protected bikeway would add to the vibrancy of Hennepin Avenue
Hennepin Avenue is one of the most important streets in all of Minnesota. It is the cultural heart of Minneapolis with historic theaters, numerous other artist venues, Hennepin County Central Library, the Pride Parade, and more. However, as Janne points out, the street itself doesn't invite people, but rather pushes them away. The sidewalks are pretty wide for Minneapolis, but the intensity of car traffic makes it a less desirable place to be.
A protected bike lane would provide a buffer between the sidewalk area and the traffic. And having Hennepin again as a leading downtown bike street (as it was before bike lanes were moved to 1st Avenue in 2009 as part of two-way conversion) will bring more people to Hennepin and add to the energy of the street in a positive, people-oriented way.
Biking is also part of the identity of Minneapolis and having world-class protected bike lanes on Hennepin would further add to the unique culture of the street.
Photo by Snak Shak on Flickr
2. Protected bike lanes would improve safety & get bikes out of the street and off the sidewalk
Today's shared lane design has bikes directly mixing with cars and buses, which is uncomfortable for most people biking, less safe than protected bike lanes, less predictable for everyone, and slows things down for everyone. It also leads to more sidewalk bike riding. A protected bike lane would take people biking out of the traffic lanes making it more safe, fast, comfortable, and predictable for everyone regardless of how you are using Hennepin.
3. Hennepin is a better bike route than 1st Avenue North
About twice as many people bicycle on Hennepin today as on 1st Avenue North. That's even with Hennepin being an uncomfortable place for biking and with the (admittedly poorly designed) bike lanes on 1st Avenue. That's primarily because Hennepin connects across the River to Northeast and to the Loring Bikeway and destinations to the south whereas 1st is relatively short and doesn't connect to routes on either end.
4. Hennepin bikeway could replace 1st Avenue bikeway to make way for pedestrian space
Adding a bikeway on Hennepin means we could take out the bikeway on 1st Avenue North. That would free up additional space to widen the way-too-narrow sidewalks on 1st Avenue and help support renewed vibrancy there. (I recently penned an op-ed on the future of 1st Avenue with Alex Cecchini, a member of the Pedestrian Advisory Committee.)
5. Hennepin and 3rd would provide an amazing biking spine in Downtown
Accessing the heart of downtown by bike is currently a real challenge. 3rd Avenue will go a long way to changing that when it opens with a protected bikeway later this year. Having Hennepin and 3rd as the main north-south bike routes in downtown with Nicollet as a viable option (although no separate bike lane) would provide ideal north-south bikeway spacing for accessing the heart of downtown.
Protected bikeways can fit pretty well on Hennepin
It's important to note that protected bikeways can fit pretty well on Hennepin. It's a wide street--much wider than 1st Avenue, for example. The current design leaves extra space on every other block where there are not left-turn lanes. Protected bike lanes would fit in that space relatively easily. Narrowing the traffic lanes and eliminating left-turn lanes where not needed, would allow for protected bike lanes with modest narrowing of the wide pedestrian area on the blocks with left-turn lanes. (We will push on a design to make any impact on sidewalk space as minimal as possible and also would support a more transformative change for Hennepin that puts people first.)
Please share your vision for Hennepin
First Public Meeting
Wednesday, February 17 at 4:00 p.m. with a repeat presentation at 5:00 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall
Doty Board Room (2nd Floor)