Bike Anonymous


Minneapolis :: A Pedal Backwards by thebikebar
October 25, 2009, 6:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Downtown Minneapolis switched its two main throughways from one-ways to two-ways recently.  The switch has found mixed sentiment, none more than with city cyclists.

Hennepin Ave and First Ave, two of Minneapolis most heavily trafficked streets, were switched to make the avenues more accessible.  The reasoning the city provided, from the city website:

The conversion means many drivers will be able to get more directly to their destinations, because two-way streets decrease the need for “around the block” trips drivers experience with one-ways. Having Hennepin and First as two-way streets will mean that traffic will move at reduced speeds at times. However, drivers will have better, more direct access to the businesses and entertainment along these streets.

Bicyclists and pedestrians will see important enhancements. New traffic signals will include pedestrian countdown timers, and bike lanes on 1st Avenue, shared bus/bike/right turn lanes on Hennepin Avenue, and new “bike boxes” will make bicycling more efficient and attractive to commuters.

To disect this content:

“…many drivers will be able to get more directly to their destinations…decrease the need for around the block trips…”

Disheartening.  The city has undertaken this development with the single passenger car in mind.  Attempting to make downtown more “driver friendly” at the cost of pedestrians and cyclists to encourage downtown driving and visits by car.

“Having Hennepin and First as two-way streets will mean that traffic will move at reduced speeds at times.”

Reduced speeds for cars does not mean increased speeds for cyclists.  Clogging major through ways with left-hand turning traffic and higher automobile count means less attention to cyclists.

“…drivers will have better, more direct access to the businesses and entertainment along these streets.”

A testament to Minneapolis catering and encouraging single passenger automobiles.

“Bicyclists and pedestrians will see important enhancements.”

The enhancements are, apparently, TBD.  At this point, a 365 day bicycle commuter can tell you bicyclists have been moved from the middle of a crowned black top pavement to the side of a questionable (at best), uneven, gutter-ridden lane shared with motor vehicles (busses) that entertain larger than normal blind spots.

“New traffic signals will include pedestrian countdown timers, and bike lanes on 1st Avenue, shared bus/bike/right turn lanes on Hennepin Avenue, and new “bike boxes” will make bicycling more efficient and attractive to commuters.”

Bike boxes and added traffic signals do not exist to date.  From my point of view, bicycle commuting takes commitment and work – especially from those who only commute part-time.  City encouragement should be realized in the form of safe and effective commuting bicycle lanes and supported bicycle infrastructure.  Additional safety measures to make existing bicyclists safe from a automobile-centric infrastructure hardly seems like the way to increase new (or existing) bicyclist (or pedestrians) usage.

First Ave and Hennepin Ave changes were clearly a reactionary measure to automobile traffic with little to no consideration to the vibrant and pronounced bicycling community Minneapolis is so well known to support.

R.T. – I’m usually a big supporter.  This time, you missed the mark.

If you disagree, lets start the conversation.  An open and honest dialogue is the best way to create a working system for all parties.

jdfrahm@gmail.com

I look forward to the conversation and your point of view.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Agreed. While I can’t say that I am a downtown bike commuter, I frequent the entertainment establishments and bike is the choice mode of transportation. My experiences so far have be rather frightening. Riding between cars and a curb seems safe in theory, but leaves no room for avoiding a pothole, a staggering pedestrian, or an opening door and reduces visibility at intersections. A cyclists safety is now greatly in the hands of non-cyclists, and that’s never a good idea.

I also feel that an overlooked issue here is the statement that was created. The dedicated bike lane in the middle of the road was a bold statement to everyone in Minneapolis that we are a progressive city that places a high value on modes of transportation other than cars. Everyone is equal, and that is key to bicycle advocacy. Putting the bikes in the shoulder and at the mercy of others re-establishes that cars are king, and puts us on the same page as Texas. And that sucks.

Comment by Wide Base

Great point about Minneapolis being a progressive city that places value on alternatitive modes of transportation.

Look at the current investment in the light rail system, Nicollet bus/pedestrian mall or even the skyway system to encourage foot traffic.

While bicycling is a just a portion of the overall transportation picture (the second most number of bicycle commuters of the larger metropolitan communities, with the current percentage around 3.8%), I couldn’t agree with you more the city emphasis needs to realign itself to provide equal support for all modes or transportation.

I get the taste in my mouth that this change was made in order to cater to the single passenger automobile driver. I won’t bore you with the cons on these types of trips – it is just disappointing that a city with such a strong approach to alternative transportation has chosen to encourage something that stands for quite the opposite.

Comment by thebikebar




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