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:

Monday, September 30, 2013

More Study Needed on Minnehaha Avenue

For months, we have had a public conversation about the type of bicycle facility that should be installed on Minnehaha Avenue.  This is part of a broader community conversation about how public agencies can change our streets to make them safer and more welcoming for bicyclists and pedestrians.  In turn, this is part of a much broader set of discussions about how we can increase public health, reduce our impact on climate change, and reinvigorate our commercial corridors.

Unfortunately, Hennepin County has decided to reject a physically protected cycletrack option for Minnehaha Avenue and to instead pursue a more traditional on-street painted bike lane option.

Few people I have spoken to supported the cycletrack layout that Hennepin County presented to the public, because it had several major problems:
  • It required the loss of approximately fifty additional trees
  • It required the loss of approximately fifty additional parking spaces
  • It did not include any of the national best practices for designing safe cycletrack intersections.

My staff or I attended every one of the public meetings on Minnehaha this summer and fall, both those organized by the County and those organized by the Longfellow Community Council.  From our observations, these three design problems generated nearly all of the negative comments regarding the cycletrack design.

These design problems are not inherent to a cycletrack layout.  They were created by particular design decisions made by Hennepin County staff.  The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee pointed out these design problems and suggested several possible solutions to each back in June of 2013.  Hennepin County brought national experts on cycletrack design into Minneapolis for a presentation in April, and these experts shared many ideas for making cycletrack intersections safe.

Despite these timely comments, Hennepin County has never generated a cycletrack layout that incorporates intersection safety best practices (ironically, I have heard that some of these best practices have been incorporated into the bike lane layout) and minimizes tree and parking loss.

It is impossible to make a rational comparison between a well-designed bike lane and a badly-designed cycletrack.  We simply do not yet know if a well-designed cycletrack on Minnehaha would increase safety and ridership while winning broad public support, because such a cycletrack layout has not been generated or presented.

It has been clear from the beginning of this design process that Hennepin County Public Works staff was opposed to the concept of a cycletrack on Minnehaha.  This position has remained unaltered despite:

Hennepin County’s decision to proceed with bike lanes rather than a cycletrack on Minnehaha is unsurprising, but it is not based on national best practices, academic research, the stated opinions of bicyclists who participate in our bicycle advisory committees, or the preponderance of contacts from stakeholders on Minnehaha.  More importantly, it does not reflect an “apples-to-apples” comparison between the best possible bike lanes and the best possible cycletrack.

This decision will have very long-term impacts.  Minnehaha will likely not be reconstructed again for fifty years or more.  This is our opportunity to make a major improvement for bicycling infrastructure in Longfellow.  Before Hennepin County misses that opportunity, it should at least strive to create the best possible cycletrack layout, to give all stakeholders a chance to do an honest assessment between the options.  Creating such a layout will likely require a delay to this project, but it is important to get this fifty-year project right, because we won’t likely get another chance.

Because Hennepin County Public Works staff has been clear that they do not support a cycletrack for Minnehaha since the beginning of the process, it would be helpful at this point to bring in outside experts on cycletracks to redesign the cycletrack layout and present that design to the public.  Either of the firms Hennepin County brought to Minneapolis in April would do this work well.

Because I know that both options have not been fully and honestly explored, I am not prepared to vote to give municipal consent to the Minnehaha layout being finalized by Hennepin County staff.  I will be urging my colleagues on the Minneapolis City Council to join me in voting against granting municipal consent, so that we can see a better cycletrack option before making a decision with such long-term impacts.


At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the county designs cycletracks to be safe, they will have to signalize each intersection with separate restricted and protected turn phases. That will slow speeds dramatically for motorists and for cyclists.

Bike lanes work fine for most people, and for the rest there's Snelling.

-- Hokan


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