The Downtown Bikeways work group has been talking to people that live, work, go to school, eat, or recreate along the corridor that connects downtown with Loring Heights, Stevens Square, Whittier, and neighborhoods to the south. One person that we spoke with is Lindsey Wallace. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What is your connection to the Whittier-Downtown corridor?
I live in the Lyndale neighborhood now, but before that I had lived in Whittier for seven years. I’ve worked downtown for the past two and a half years. Biking down this corridor either from Whittier, or through Whittier into Downtown is something that I’ve been doing for a long time.
When you travel along this corridor, how do you travel?
I bike, [even] through the winter. I also walk along the corridor, take the bus along here, shop along this corridor, walk up to Eat Street. I do all of that. I love Nicollet, it’s a very vibrant street.
What is it like to bike on this corridor?
I love biking, but the behavior of drivers in Minneapolis makes me afraid and angry. I feel like people are often running red lights, driving and passing too close to me, and generally acting in a threatening and dangerous manner. I can understand why most people don’t want to bike on the same roads with drivers. I don’t really want to share the road with drivers, but I do it because I value biking enough to look past that. I don’t expect new bikers to get over that unless they have a really strong reason.
How does car traffic on these streets affect your life?
The traffic on Blaisdell is horrifying. People drive too fast, and they drive too close. And the bike lane even in good weather has big variations in the pavement and potholes that you can’t swerve to avoid because it’s so narrow, and the traffic is going so fast right next to you. I hate taking Blaisdell all year round. It’s such a bummer because Blaisdell is so nice where it’s protected south of 29th. But between where I would need to get on Blaisdell in Downtown and 29th Street, it’s really bad.
What would make these streets safer for you, your friends, or your family?
I would love to see an extensive network of protected bikeways throughout all parts of the city. That means protected bikeways with actual separation [using] curbs or planters. And a network of snow clearing, so that bicyclists know their routes will be clear after a snowstorm. I feel okay making do with the routes that we have, but we need to make sure that people of all abilities can get to places throughout the city conveniently and easily.
What are some parts of the city that have streets or sidewalks that feel really good to you?
Anywhere that is connected by trails. I love taking the Greenway, or the Cedar Lake Trail, Hiawatha, or the River. I think that we’re lucky that we have this world class trail infrastructure. But not everyone has good access to it. I would love to see a Northside and a Southside Greenway so that people that really don’t want to have to bike on the street with cars have other options. There is some great new protected bike infrastructure in North Minneapolis; the curb-protected bike lane on Plymouth Avenue is really great. I also didn’t know that Emerson and Fremont are protected on the Northside now. One of those streets has a cute little pedestrian island where people can wait to cross the driving lane after crossing the protected bicycle lane. It’s only in one spot, but it’s great!
If the city put in protected bike lanes along this corridor, what would you like them to look like?
I think that they should be protected with something solid like a curbs or planters. I think planters would be nice because it brings some interesting urban design in to the street. As we’re doing these projects, we should think about what can make our streets fun, lively, and interesting for people.
I also think the city should think about the dimensions of the bike lanes to discourage drivers from parking or stopping in them, which is always a problem.
We have some seven foot wide bike lanes [which have really wide] buffers, and they seem like a lot of wasted space. It might make sense to make those bike lanes into two-way protected bike lanes. The protected portion of Blaisdell could be two-way. On 26th, 28th, and on Blaisdell, there are good reasons why bicyclists might want to take those in the opposite direction. Especially on 26th which has a bunch of retail [and restaurants].
What would you say to your Council Member about these streets?
I have been biking all winter, and I have seen so many other people biking this winter, and I just think that so many other people want to bike, and would bike, if they just felt safe doing it. I think that the desire is there, but the infrastructure isn’t there yet. We can help people live healthier and more connected and climate-sensitive lives, but the city has to make that possible.
Any last thoughts you'd like to share?
It’s not the snow or cold in the winter that keeps me off of my bike, it’s the not knowing if I’ll have a clear, safe route to go on. We have these really nicely cleared bits and pieces, but they don’t all connect to each other. I usually know that it’ll be fine once I get in to downtown, but how do I get in to downtown?
If you would like to share your support for a safe, protected bikeway that will connect downtown with Loring Heights, Stevens Square, Whittier, and neighborhoods to the south, please fill out this digital postcard.
If you'd like to be featured in an interview about this corridor, or if you'd like to help the Downtown Bikeways work group advocate for protected bike lanes, please contact us.
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