After much discussion and advocacy, Park and Portland Avenues have been restriped by Hennepin County as (mostly) two-lane streets (down from three) with a buffered bike lane. At least two streets.mn’ers advocated for this change, and public sentiment seemed to support the change. Time will tell how successful this conversion is in terms of making the streets more desirable and safe for cyclists while not reeking havoc with traffic. I’ve heard anecdotally that both goals are being met, but again, it’s early.
Hopefully this type of project is not a one-off. Minneapolis, Saint Paul and environs is blessed with a pretty robust network of off-street trails, but we’re not likely to build many more of those in the future. In my opinion, if we want to attract more riders, the next step needs to be adding more on-street (or in right-of-way) protected facilities in a coordinated fashion. Chicago is aiming to add 100 miles of protected facilities by 2015. In one instance on Kinzie Street after the installation of a protected facility, ridership increased 60%, with 40% of users relocating their route to use the facility. 86% of the users felt safe or very safe, versus 17% in traditional bike lanes. We know from our own experience in Minneapolis that more cyclists mean a lower crash rate. This is the “safety in numbers” theory.
But rather than go at this piecemeal or opportunistically once a repaving project pops up, we should begin planning a coordinated system that not only serves heavily traveled routes (and meets other design requirements of cycletracks), but a system that is attractive because it’s a connected network, not a series of facilities that starts and stops haphazardly (see CDOT’s plan as an example). While this should be done more comprehensively, I’ll throw out my initial ideas for future corridors, realizing more careful thought is needed.
- University Avenue and 4th Street/5th Street. Something clearly needs to change here. These one-way pairs see some of the heaviest use by cyclists of any corridor in the city, and are in the heart of areas with the highest bike mode share. As Bill has pointed out repeatedly, real safety improvements are necessary here. New facilities should connect to Hennepin and 1st Ave N, and solve the no-man’s-land cyclists encounter around 35W.
- Washington Avenue on the East Bank. This one is kind of a gimme, since I believe the new roadways that are part of the car-free “transit mall” on the east bank will finally give cyclists a non-ridiculous route through the east bank. Gotta have easy, quick wins, right?
- Connect the West Bank and Downtown. I think it was a large oversight that the road reconstruction on the depressed portion of Washington Avenue/4th/5th Street that coincides with the new “Green Line” LRT didn’t include bike lanes. For the forseeable future, cyclists heading from downtown to campus (or vice versa) are forced to either use the somewhat terrifying Washington Avenue bridge over 35W or the circuitous Hiawatha Trail route. Wouldn’t it be great to use the new LRT vertical circulation near the Law School or on 19th Avenue to access the depressed Washington Avenue and a protected facility at least to 11th Avenue South? Traffic counts aren’t that high under 35W, and there certainly isn’t a lack of space.
- A Franklin reliever? While cycletrack experts might tell you that close block spacing isn’t ideal for cycletracks, lots of European and even pseudo-North American cities do it. Franklin carries a fair amount of bike traffic, and is a key east-west connector. While there likely isn’t space on Franklin, perhaps 22nd or 24th street could be enlisted. 22nd would require a new bridge over 35W, making it less likely.
- Blaisdell/1st Avenue South. There certainly may be a street in Minneapolis that is more over-built than Blaisdell (send your submissions to email@example.com), but I have the most experience with this one. With a current design similar to Park (two lanes, one-way), Blaisdell carries half the traffic on it’s busiest section. In my view, it’s a no-brainer to convert this street to a single-lane one way, with a cycletrack protected by a row of parked cars from Grant Street in downtown all the way to 40th Street. Perhaps the street could revert to it’s current design between 28th Street and 31st until Nicollet is reopened. The buffered lanes on 1st Ave South should be extended to Grant Street in downtown.
- Minnehaha Avenue. Minnehaha Avenue will be reconstructed from 46th Street to Lake Street, and it’s bike lanes could be reconfigured as cycletracks. Since it parallels the off-street trail on Hiawatha, this might not be top priority, but there is certainly lots of room.
- Plymouth, Broadway, and Lowry Avenues. These are key connections in North and Northeast Minneapolis.
- Something on/near Central Avenue NE. I told you this list needed more work.
- Saint Paul? People tell me that cyclists occasionally venture here.
Most of these corridors are arranged in something of a hub-and-spoke manner (no pun intended), although my list doesn’t identify a totally comprehensive and interconnected network. What do you think?