The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) met at 4:00 on Wednesday, May 22nd in room 333 of Minneapolis City Hall. The BAC is a group that advises the mayor, city council, and the park board on how to encourage and accomodate cycling in Minneapolis. It includes an appointed member from each of Minneapolis's thirteen wards, and members from various city and cycling-advocacy organizations. In this month's meeting, the committee discussed cycle tracks, legislation on transit and bicycles, and upcoming events for cyclists and pedestrians.
Cycle tracks (a.k.a. protected bikeways)
The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition supports cycle tracks on Washington and Minnehaha Avenues, and so does the BAC. Lisa Peterson Bender presented a memo addressed to County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin listing the benefits of cycle tracks generally, and how they could improve Minnehaha Avenue specifically. The memo enumerates studies from the University of British Columbia and Harvard that suggest cycle tracks result in more riders and fewer injuries. A narrower Minnehaha Avenue would mean less speeding and fewer accidents among motorists and a shorter crossing distance for pedestrians, as well. The memo also refers to a study by the NY DOT showing that cycle tracks are good for local businesses. The coalition voted to approve the memo to Commissioner McLaughlin, and to urge him to give due weight to the proven benefits of cycle tracks to cyclists, pedestrians, and the local economy in the deliberations over Minnehaha's redesign.
The Washington Avenue public meeting took place last month, where the county unveiled four options for the rebuilding of the street from Hennepin Avenue to Fifth Avenue. All four of the county's proposals allot six lanes of traffic to motorists from Hennepin to Third, and a liaison from the county said the county is unlikely to seriously consider a fifth proposal, which would remove one lane of westbound traffic along those three blocks to limit the thoroughfare to five lanes throughout. Several committee members spoke in support of a five-lane configuration.
Elsewhere, analysts have criticized the analysis forecasting a .5% annual increase in traffic for the next 22 years, but the committee respected the work done by Hennepin County engineers and their contractors. Suppose that the traffic predictions for 2035 are accurate, and removing the third lane of westbound traffic would slow down future commuters by 90-180 seconds in the evenings of 2035. The county needs to weigh this cost against the benefits that would flow from using the eleven feet of public space to improve the lives of cyclists and pedestrians.
Ethan Fawley explained that with eleven more feet to play with, there could be two buffers; one separating the pedestrians from the cyclists, and one separating the cyclists from cars. This would provide a welcoming environment for children, elders, new cyclists, and sight-impaired pedestrians to safely and confidently move about the booming Mill District neighborhood. Ethan argued, and many other committee members agreed, that the immediate and continuous improvement in the quality of life for pedestrians, cyclists, and local businesses outweighs the cost of removing the sixth lane of traffic.
For more commentary on the county's traffic analysis and its implicit policy principles, read this series of posts by Brendon Slotterbeck, Bill Lindeke, and David Levinson at Streets.mn and Janne's post on the coalition's blog.
Updates on legislation
Ethan reported that the transportation funding bill supported by Transit for a Stronger Economy, which would've raised millions per year for bicycle and pedestrian projects through a raised sales tax, was not passed. On the bright side, the bill that passed secured funding for Safe Routes to School in the amount of $250,000 per year. A bill approved by the Senate and House conference committees would make cycling safer and easier in Minnesota by legalizing cargo bikes and fixed-gear bikes, and prohibiting parking in bike lanes.
Upcoming events for cyclists and pedestrians
There are four Open Streets events happening this summer. The first will open Lyndale Avenue South to non-motorized transportation on June 23rd. Kevin Kalligher, the coalition's volunteer coordinator, is looking for people to help make the event a success, so send him an e-mail if you're interested.
Bike Walk Week will take place from June 9th to the 15th, with a special celebratory event occurring on Thursday of that week. The city of Minneapolis will have an event at the Hennepin County Government Center, with an appearance by Mayor Rybak, and the giving away of lights, Civia bikes, and other prizes. There will also be food trucks and free lessons in safe riding.
Here's a list of the upcoming BAC meetings:
Thursday, June 13th: Education, Encouragement, and Enforcement Subcommittee
Tuesday, June 18th: Engineering Subcommittee
Wednesday, June 19th: Executive Committee
Wednesday, June 26th: Whole Committee
If you're interested in attending any of these meetings, send Shaun Murphy an e-mail to confirm the time and location.