E-DEMOCRACY | New bike lanes on Central Avenue

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From: Christopher David

Date: Aug 26 16:58 CDT

Well, it looks like the bike lanes have been drawn onto Central Avenue between 27th and 18th Avenues. 

My first impression (after having biked down them last night) is that, while they help to an extent, that it still is probably safer to ride down side streets during peak hours. 

Particularly on certain blocks, the lanes offer a fairly limited width and so one has to be extremely careful to avoid being doored or veering into motor vehicle traffic. 

One potential result of the lanes is that motorists might slow down a bit due to the narrower traffic lanes, so I guess that’s good. Still, with heavy bus traffic, there’s a limit to how much they can avoid cyclists, and bikers as well as bus drivers will need to give each other space. 

Overall, my judgement is that they are a positive in that they more clearly delineate bicyclists’ right to be on the street, but that they are a preferred route only after dark when some side streets might be poorly lit and otherwise dicey due to potential criminal activity on problem blocks.  What do you all think? 

(Btw, Mpls schools start tomorrow, so watch for school buses. Transit bus riders should prepare for slightly slower rides as high school students begin using transit for trips to/from school. Also, additional service on Lowry Ave (rt 32) starts tomorrow as well.) 

 

From: Dan Haugen

Date: Aug 27 08:01 CDT

I bike between Waite Park and downtown several times a month, and I’ve been happy using either Monroe or Tyler-Polk-Fillmore. I already use Central at night, when traffic isn’t as bad and there’s more light and people than on side streets.

 I’ll probably use the new lanes when my destination is somewhere along that stretch of Central Avenue, but I doubt I’ll use them for downtown commutes. The side streets are much calmer, safer, and just a short jog over. Considering the number of stoplights on Central, I suspect the side streets might even be quicker for bikes. 

 

From: Bill Kahn

Date: Aug 27 10:57 CDT

What if Central had a street car, one lane of traffic in each direction, with a bike lane separated by street parking from traffic, like those downtown? 

 

From: phædrus (Jason Goray)

Date: Aug 27 11:24 CDT

Separated cycle tracks can work, but they require a more significant investment in infrastructure than the city did downtown.  If done without that investment, they function poorly and are dangerous.  #### 

The bike lane separated by street parking on 1st ave is not good. 

* Lack of physical separation between the parking spots and the cycle track means cars often park in the bike lane.  Since the bike lane is bounded by parked cars on one side and a curb on the other, there is no where for the blocked cyclists to go. 

* Lack of distance between the parking spots and the cycle track means that the entire cycle track is in the “door zone” of passengers getting out of their cars.  Combine this with right-side passengers being unaccustomed to needing to check before opening their doors and dooring becomes a real issue. 

* Drivers and passengers needing to cross the cycle track are endangered by and dangerous to cyclists – especially people who are stepping out from between larger vehicles where the cyclist and pedestrian have no chance to see each other before being in a position to collide. 

All three of those issues can be addressed by appropriate design, but the design needs to include something like a 3′ wide curb – it improves sight lines, gives peds a place to be before getting into the bike lane, provides space for doors to open, and keeps cars from encroaching into the bike lane.  The downside of this is it means that clearing the bike lane of snow, leaves, and debris becomes more challenging – solvable, but involves expense. 

The other issue is that parking needs to stop significantly before intersections where car drivers may wish to turn right.  The reason for this is that if you’ve got a cycle traveling at 10 – 25 mph screened from drivers by a row of parked cars, the chances of a car right hooking the cyclist at a green light becomes significant.  This accident has already happened more than once on 1st ave. 

A final issue is by retrofitting it onto existing roads, a significant portion of the “bike lane” is gutter.  This tends to be a collection of debris and often has broken concrete and uneven edges where the gutter meets the road and drain grates – pretty much the worst place on a road one could choose to ride a single track vehicle. 

 

From: Matt Brown

Date: 13:48 CDT

I’m pleased with the new bike lanes on Central Avenue. It’s great to see that MNDOT recognizes the importance of multi-modal streets and is willing to work with the City to add bicycle facilities on state highways. While the new bike boulevards on Fillmore and 5th Streets provide great commuter routes for Northeast residents, it’s also important to have a “frontage road” that improves bike access to businesses and institutions on Central Avenue itself. I’m optimistic about the possibility of connecting the new bike lanes to St. Anthony Parkway and the Grand Rounds with some type of bicycle facility in the future. As for compatibility with a future streetcar line, there are examples of streetcars and bike lanes coexisting elsewhere in the country. It can be a challenge to route bicycles through or around streetcar platforms, but not impossible.

 

From: Christopher David

Date: 14:41 CDT

I will say that it is unlikely that we can provide efficient flow of vehicular traffic, along with bicycles and a streetcar line, with the current Central Avenue width, unless the plan is to have no parking on the street, which businesses aren’t exactly going to be thrilled with. 

That said, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, because as it stands right now, the Mayor and Council Member seem to believe that the City can afford to pay for this project. That, of course, is not the case. The Metropolitan Council is the chief entity responsible for public transit, and any transit amenity needs to go through them and the Legislature, and perhaps the County, although the County is tapping themselves out as well. At the end of the day, any improvement needs regional significance, and a line that ends at 40th/41st Ave NE does not provide that regional significance and is not fiscally responsible. Instead, it is one of many fanciful proposals which will continue to be put forth by public officials in a bid to do what looks happy for campaign literature rather than what is fiscally responsible or even fiscally possible. 

I’m not necessarily against new transit infrastructure in Northeast, but I don’t want the City on the hook for the cost. Moreover, I don’t want us to have a mini-line. If this is to be built, it only makes sense if it is a replacement for the extent of Route 10, and that means running it all the way to Northtown Mall, providing regional significance and serving large multi-unit dwellings and businesses throughout the corridor, which runs through five cities. 

See the E-Democracy discussion here. 

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