MINNEAPOLIS, Minn - The quest for a protected bike lane along Minnehaha Avenue has brought a clash between bicyclists, businesses and Hennepin County.
Minnehaha Avenue from 46th Street to Lake Street is set for redesign in the spring of 2015. Hennepin County says reconstruction is necessary after ongoing safety concerns ranging from pedestrian accidents to poor pavement to drainage issues. County records cite two pedestrian deaths along the corridor in 2009.
A group of bicyclists is asking Hennepin County for what is known as a cycle track. It's an elevated two way bike lane separated from traffic by a barrier such as a curb.
Nearly 1,000 cyclists have petitioned the county to consider such a plan, according to Ethan Fawley, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition.
"There is a growing recognition from cities around the country that people really want to ride in protected bike lanes, they feel most comfortable if they aren't riding right next to the street," said Fawley. "That has been the most common refrain, especially from families with kids."
Fawley says cycle tracks are currently in 100 cities across the country, and the bicycle advocates have a goal of creating more than 30 miles of protected bike lanes in the Twin Cities by 2020. He points to two similar existing cycle tracks in Minneapolis, one near the TCF Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, another across from the Walker Art Center.
Hennepin County says it has long had a county-wide bike plan, with 500 miles of bike paths already, and is currently studying two main designs, including the cycle track plan. After public testimony, county officials postponed reconstruction to 2015 to further examine public concerns.
Transportation Engineer Nick Peterson says cycle tracks pose a concern when it comes to visibility at intersections.
"Holistically, we can't study one mode. While there are specific elements that would be safer for one mode, we have to balance all those modes and what those safety and implication are," said Peterson. "It's really a difficult balancing act."
Some Longfellow neighborhood business owners say they are worried parking will become another difficulty, estimating Hennepin County's plan will take away around 20 percent of on-street parking essential to customers.
Ella Ritzman, owner of E's Emporium antique and vintage store, is circulating her own petition. She's worried proposed curb extensions known as "bumpouts" will create another risk. Bump-outs are designed to allow pedestrian a shorter crossing distance at intersections and bring more visibility for motorists, but Ritzman says similar bump outs on Lake Street are hazardous in the winter when plows cannot maneuver around the extended curbs, leaving snow and ice to pile up.
"Pedestrians, bicyclists - they all say it's a very easy street to get around, it is the third safest arterial corridor for bicyclists in Minneapolis, so why are we trying to reinvent the wheel? It doesn't make sense," said Ritzman.
Hennepin County is seeking more input when it schedules public meetings in September.
"I hope the engineers will come up with a good solution that reflects all the neighborhood's values," said Fawley.
Read more about the project here.
Read more about opponents concerns here.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)