Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The "Copenhagen Model"

There is an idea for increasing bicycle mode share that seems to be catching on in this country. Of course, we're just catching up - it's been used in European cities for years. I've been calling it the "Copenhagen Model."

The idea is to change the location of bike lanes on streets. On many Minneapolis streets, the layout is: sidewalk, parking lane, bike lane, driving lane, driving lane, bike lane, parking lane, sidewalk. In the Copenhagen Model, the bike lane moves between the parking lane and sidewalk, for a layout like this: sidewalk, bike lane, parking, driving lane, driving lane, parking, bike lane, sidewalk.

New York City, again trying to catch up with Minneapolis, has recently proposed to install a very similar system as you can read about in this New York Times article.

I believe that this layout offers some important benefits. It removes bicyclists from direct contact with moving cars, prevents conflicts with cars parking or pulling from parking spaces, and prevents bicyclists from being hit by opening driver's side car doors (my Aide, Robin, a daily bicycle commuter, has been "doored" an astounding five times in Minneapolis since 2001, most recently last month). Some of Copenhagen's other innovations include specific pavement colorings for the portion of bike lanes that go through intersections and special bike-only signalization that gives bicyclists a head start to get through intersections and complete turns before the cars get the green.

This June, after a bicyclist constituent brought the idea to my attention, I pushed for the following staff direction to be included in the Council's action accepting the 10 Year Transportation Action Plan (look for it here):

"That staff be directed to explore new designs for bicycle facilities / treatments, including, but not limited to, bicycle lanes between the parking lane and sidewalk, curbed bicycle lanes and bicycle signalization, and identify appropriate locations, in downtown if possible, for testing these designs."

Reviewing some of the literature on bike lanes (which is a significantly more contentious subject than I had realized!), there seem to be some downsides to these "cycle tracks" as well, which I will be pushing for Minneapolis to avoid through a careful design. For instance, some studies point to an increase in accidents between bikes and turning cars at intersections when cycle tracks are in place. Copenhagen seems to have come up with a good solution with the pavement coloring that gives drivers a visual cue that they are intersecting with a bike facility.


At 12:59 PM, Blogger justinph said...

Very interesting idea. I think it could work, but I wonder what happens with plowing in the winter.

The bike lanes in some areas are downtown are more in the middle of the street, and that seems to work well. You're much more visible to drivers there and not in danger of getting doored. I think there are some pretty strong lines and diffrent colored pavement on some too.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous pwenzel said...

I am curious how well this would work with regards to Minneapolis plowing? I could see the bike lanes getting ignored during the winter months, thus negating the Copenhagen Model altogether. This would be a bummer for the increasing number of winter bikers in the city.

Cool idea, though.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger pc said...

Montreal, which has winters arguably similar to Mpls, has similar bike lanes. Some are left snowed in for the winter (and used for snow storage), but the core routes are plowed just like off-street trails.

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Hokan said...

I am half-owner (along with Bob) of that DVD. I'm glad it provoked discussion.

I don't think that the specific applications at Copenhagen will work here. Our weather and topography are too different.

The strength of the "Copenhagen Model" is this: a long, steady effort to improve conditions for cyclists. Minneapolis is starting to do this. There're a number of projects -- different kinds of bike lanes, of signage, of pavement markings, that the city is implementing. We're trying things and seeing what will work here.

Bicyclists have strong opinions about which improvements are appropriate and which are not. But Minneapolis is poised to go beyond opinion and find out what really works; what really gets people bicycling; what really improves safety.

What a great time to be a bike rider!

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Tim Mac said...

Late to the party by a month or so... The "Copenhagen model" would have to be an improvement. The current bike lane setup in downtown Minneapolis looks like it was designed with homicidal intent as part of a plan to ride the city of cyclists. Putting the bike lanes on the left hand side where they are not expected; left-hand bike lanes that come to an abrupt end leaving the cyclist facing oncoming motor vehicle traffic; bike lanes that are the buffer zones between motor vehicle traffic and a contraflow bus/cab lane; and the "piece de resistence," Hennepin Avenue's bike lanes down the middle of the street- which are so dangerous even the bike cops don't use them.

Minneapolis's downtown bike lane system looks like it was designed by a committee of angry drunks. It is truly the most horrible set of bike lanes I have ever ridden. I ride around downtown Minneapolis rather than through it, or on streets with no bike lanes which are safer.

Good luck to you getting a more rational set of bike lanes installed.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger Leopoldo said...

I almost got killed today by a driver on his cellphone who chose to use the bike lane on Hennepin as a turning lane.

Is there any enforcement of this lane, or is it there just to f*ck with bike riders?

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Hokan said...

Leopoldo, motorists are supposed to use bike lanes as turn lanes. Properly changing lanes and executing a turn is safer than turning across a through lane. It's too bad that more people don't know that the law requires this behavior. We'd be safer for it.

for an interesting letter to the editor about this practice.


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