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