County decides against cycle track on Minnehaha Avenue

A cycle track on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis as envisioned by bicycling advocates. (Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition)

Bicycling advocates are disappointed that Hennepin County has decided not to build the city’s first full-fledged cycle track on Minnehaha Avenue.

A cycle track is a protected bike lane that is often separated from traffic by some sort of buffer. In the case of Minnehaha Avenue, the county was considering a curb between street traffic and bikes. Minnehaha Avenue is set to get a facelift starting in 2015.

Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Ethan Fawley said the county told him two days ago that they had decided against the cycle track in favor of a painted bike lane similar to what’s on Minnehaha right now.

“We’re disappointed about that,” Fawley said. “We had a conversation with them about designing the on-street bike lane the best it can be, but we know that based on the conversations we had and the public involvement in the process that there was really a lot of support and interest for a protected bike lane.”

The bicycling advocates attended public input meetings held by the county in July, and Fawley said about 900 people sent postcards to the county in favor of the cycle track.

Fawley said the county’s public process didn’t seem as responsive as it has on other projects. His organization was unhappy with the engineers’ proposed plan for the cycle track, which included taking down some boulevard trees and the loss of  some parking spaces.

“We were supportive of a protected bike lane on Minnehaha, very supportive, but we wanted it to be designed right so it would be a good asset for the community for the next 50-60 years,” Fawley said. “We really wanted a protected bike lane design that would have no impacts on trees, no impacts on parking, no impacts on traffic.”

The group lobbied unsuccessfully for the county to consult with engineers experienced with cycle tracks. The engineers working on the Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction project didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nicole Nafziger, who lives near Lake Nokomis regularly uses Minnehaha to get to grocery stores in the Seward neighborhood. Her children, six-year-old Linus and four-year-old Freya, often accompany her.

“My son is an independent rider but he’s not allowed to ride on Minnehaha by himself,” Nafziger said. “We do not perceive that’s a safe place for him to ride — it’s too busy a road for us to feel comfortable for him to ride on.”

Nafziger is disappointed by the decision not to build the cycle track, but she said the plan for bike lanes will be a big improvement over the situation for bicyclists on Minnehaha Avenue now.

And bicyclists may have something to celebrate. A cycle track is being considered for Washington Avenue when it’s reconstructed in 2014.

The county is holding informational meetings to explain their plans for Minnehaha Avenue this coming Monday and Wednesday evenings at Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church.

  • Chris Deck

    This is disappointing. I bike to work (not on Minnehaha Ave but on 1st Ave), and literally every day people pull into the bike lane, stop in the bike lane, open their doors into the bike lane, etc. One of my good friends just got hit and injured when a girl swerved into a bike lane to pass a car. Why do pedestrians get a separated space but bikers are stuck in the streets with the 1ton plus vehicles jeopardizing our lives?

  • Scott S.

    County engineers said the additional cost of a protected bikeway would have been between 0% and 2% of the total project. This mistake will last for about 55 years. Very disappointing, but I guess I’ll try again next time around. When I’m 82.

  • blindeke

    missed opportunity to make Mpls a much better place to live; hennepin county has a long way to go if it wants to join the 21st century.

  • Matt

    It’s time to devolve county roads that are within the city of Minneapolis. The suburban and exurban parts of the county should have no say in in the traffic system that serves primarily Minneapolis residents.

  • Hokan

    I’m glad the county engineers took a close look at the safety issues with cycletracks. It seems that many bikers are afraid of being hit from behind so being physically separated seems to them like a good idea, But very few cyclists are hit from behind. The vast majority of bicycle – motor vehicle crashes happen at or near intersections and cycletracks don’t do anything to mitigate that danger, indeed they make the problem worse by making cyclists almost invisible off to the side.

    We do need to do something to encourage fearful cyclists, but putting in a facility that is actually more dangerous, while seeming safer would be a bad idea.