County decides against cycle track on Minnehaha Avenue

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.