Bike lane or cycle track for Minnehaha Ave in Minneapolis: What do you want to see?

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We hate to spring it on you like this, but if you didn’t know, Minnehaha Avenue between 46th Street S. and Lake Street is slated for reconstruction beginning in 2014.

One of the bigger decisions that needs to be made is determining the type of bike facility to install – bike lanes or a cycle track. Since the number of bicyclists is growing in our neighborhood and the city has set a goal of becoming a more bike-friendly city, we wanted to see if there were data available about what type of path bicyclists preferred and if one facility was safer than another.

Currently there are two options for Minnehaha Ave – a bike lane in traffic, or an offset cycle track. Minneapolis has one cycle track already at 1st Ave N (downtown).

We were in luck. In a recent bicycle count done by the city, volunteers also recorded where cyclists rode – whether it was on a sidewalk or path, or on the street.

The findings are interesting. When a separate path is available (a sidewalk or bike path), 90% of bicyclists will use the path instead of riding on the street. When bicycle boulevards are available, only 4% of cyclists use the sidewalk; if shared lane markings are used, 14% use the sidewalk, and if a bike lane is available 17% use a sidewalk.

What is Safer – Cycle Track or Bike Lane?

In December, the results of a study about bike route safety and preference were published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study found that cycle tracks were the safest bike facility available and bikers preferred riding on the them – a win-win. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a major street (two or more lanes) with parked cars and a bike lane were not preferred by cyclists and were deemed considerably less safe than a cycle track.

Reducing the Fear of Cars

Increasing the safety of cyclists and reducing fear is noted to increase the number of people willing to ride a bike. In a report by Roger Geller from the Portland Office of Transportation, he wrote, “Survey after survey and poll after poll has found again and again that the number one reason people do not ride bicycles is because they are afraid to be in the roadway on a bicycle….When they say they are “afraid” it is a fear of people driving automobiles.”

Simon Blenski from Public Works echoed this sentiment, “I think one can assume that most people ride where they feel most comfortable.”

Hennepin County Plans

We asked Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction Project Manager Kristy Morter if the recent findings from the city survey would be used to determine the type of bike facility installed, and she responded that the following criteria would be used in the decision:

  • Motor vehicle speeds
  • Urban or rural location
  • Roadway functional classification
  • Average daily traffic volumes
  • On-street parking
  • Intersections and driveways
  • Right-of-way constraints
  • Vehicle turn lane configuration
  • Number of traffic lanes
  • Topography, grades, sight distances, and sight lines
  • Traffic composition, especially volumes of large trucks
  • Bus routes
  • Peak-hour vehicle traffic volume
  • Average daily and peak-hour bicycle traffic volume
  • Bicyclist characteristics (type of bicyclists served)
  • Corridor crash history

Sidewalk Riding

As a side note, the data from the Minneapolis survey also showed that the more vehicle traffic a street has, the more that bicyclists will chose to use the sidewalk. Sidewalk riding is legal in Minneapolis unless you are in a commercial district. Looking at the zoning map of Minnehaha Avenue, approximately half of the of the street is zoned commercial. If cyclists rode on the sidewalk because they felt unsafe on the street, would that affect the walkability of Minnehaha Ave?

Providing Feedback

Hennepin County will be holding a public open house in the future, and will be taking comments. When we hear the dates, we will let you know.

In the meantime, what do you think? Do you have a preference between cycle track or bike lane for Minnehaha Ave? Are there other issues you are concerned about?