Improvements to 15th Ave SE Bike Lanes
Yesterday, the City unveiled major improvements to the bike lanes on 15th Avenue Southeast. The "conflict zones," where cars and trucks making turns cross the path of bicyclists going straight, are now colored green approaching the intersections with University Ave, 4th St, and 5th St. At University and at 4th, the green coloration goes all the way through the intersection. Most of the twin cities media covered the event: Fox 9, KARE 11, KSTP, WCCO (twice), the Daily, and the Star Tribune.
This installation merited a public event for two main reasons. The first is that the intersection of 15th and 4th is where University student Audrey Hull was hit and killed by a truck earlier this year. The additional attention to these intersections is in part a response to that tragedy.
Second, this installation is innovative in a number of ways. While Minneapolis has experimented with green bike lanes in a few locations, this treatment is still rather uncommon. This is also the first time we've used colored thermoplastic rather than latex paint. That's important because the thermoplastic is supposed to last quite a lot longer than paint, reducing maintenance costs. If the material works as intended in this location, I predict we'll be able to colorize more of these conflict zones around the city. Lastly, but most importantly, this is the first time we've continued a colorized bike lane all the way through an intersection. That is done in a few other bike-friendly US cities, and is quite common in European cities with high bike mode shares, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Even without the tragedy earlier this year, 15th would be the ideal place to try out these improvements. According to the City's bike counts, 15th carries more than 3,500 bicyclists on an average day. That equates to a greater than 12% mode share, meaning that one in every eight vehicles on 15th is a bicycle. That's the largest number of people on any street in Minneapolis, and rivals many of our off-street trails. We don't have data on facilities outside the city, but I believe it's a safe assertion that 15th serves more bicyclists than any other street in Minnesota.
I want to specifically thank the person who did the most to make this happen: Steve Mosing, with the City of Minneapolis Public Works department. Steve made contact with the manufacturers of the thermoplastic material and received a very good price for this installation - they gave the City a break on the cost so that we can try the material out, in hopes that we will purchase more in the future. He worked to identify funding within the Traffic and Parking Services department's budget. Steve saw a problem that he could do something about, and worked to resolve it. On behalf of the people of Ward 2 and the bicyclists in Minneapolis: thank you, Steve.