New Minneapolis bike boulevards aim to attract new class of bikers

Minneapolis is planning to add two significant lengths of street to the city’s system of bike-friendly paths and boulevards.

But these aren’t projects intended primarily for the already-spandexed. Instead, Minneapolis planners want the new bike boulevards to serve as a gateway for people who are intimidated by riding on streets with heavy car traffic.

The goal is to attract a new groups of people to biking in Minneapolis, said city Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator Shaun Murphy.

“We know that the commuters and recreational people will probably be attracted to this too, but this is really about getting people who are more timid in traffic out,” Murphy said. “It’s about trying to appeal to a wider array of people rather than a smaller slice or special interest.”

The planned bike boulevards in south and northeast Minneapolis are slightly different than previous efforts because they’re incorporating more devices that “calm” motorized traffic on the streets. That means things like bumped out curbs, traffic circles and speed bumps. Cars still will be allowed, and parking won’t really be impacted, but the instinct will be to drive more slowly and carefully.

Murphy said most of those design ideas were vetted by the communities they’re in. The Powderhorn neighborhood boulevard will have three traffic circles, all of which will contain gardens maintained by neighbors, while the Marcy Holmes segment doesn’t have any traffic circles because the design didn’t appeal to residents.

“With all traffic calming there’s positives and negatives,” Murphy said. “The best thing is to just go to the people who live there and say, ‘What are you comfortable with?'”

And it’s an added bonus that the seven miles of new bike boulevard flows into Minneapolis’ already extensive bike and pedestrian system, which includes 92 miles of on-street and 85 miles of off-street bikeways. The Southern Bike Connection hooks up with a trail around Minnehaha Creek while the boulevard in northeast leads right up to the Stone Arch Bridge.

The new Southern Bike Connection runs on 17th Avenue South between 24th Street and Minnehaha Parkway. It then continues south on 12th Avenue South.

The Stone Arch Bridge and Presidents Bike Boulevard in northeast Minneapolis starts at Tyler Street Northeast and zig-zags down to 6th Avenue Southeast.

The combined cost for the two projects is $985,000, which is covered by federal funds from the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program. Construction on the projects is expected to be complete this fall.