Do We Really Want Bike Lanes?

Portland bike lane

New Bike Lane On Portland

Tony Hunt recently put up a great post (Park, Portland, and Alliteration) which garnered a question of why more people aren’t riding on these wonderful new bike lanes. This is not an uncommon question when new bicycle facilities go in, with most people also thinking “after all that money was spent and lanes taken away from cars”.

Well, it’s a bike lane. It’s a great bike lane, probably the best bike lane in the Twin Cities, but it’s still a bike lane. It still has cars whizzing very close by at 45 mph—separated only by a bit of paint, that disappears under snow in winter and is pretty well gone after five years anyway. It still has cars and trucks driving in to the bike lane to make a right turn, park, drop people off, deliver stuff, pull out of a parking spot (without looking?), get around another vehicle, or just because it looks like a great place to drive (and looks better and better with each beer or cell call the driver has had). It collects tire flattening and fall producing debris that only get swept away occasionally. It gets clogged with snow in winter and anyone daring to use it in winter is likely to get splattered with salty slush by those cars going 45 mph next to it. And then there’s the salt dust in your eyes and mouth after things dry out a bit. And after all of that, you still have to share a right turn lane (even though you’re going straight) with cars and the, not unfounded, fear that they will turn in to you and crush you.

What mom wouldn’t want to take her kids for a thrill bicycle ride on Park or Portland?

Don’t get me wrong, these bike lanes are a great improvement for some of us. I’ll take these over what was there before any day. But, they’re not even minimally good enough for the vast majority. So, instead of the 2% of us who were willing to ride on Park before, now maybe 4% of people are willing to do so. That’s good. But what about the other 96%?

Along with the 7 bicyclists they killed in Minnesota last year, drivers of cars also killed 276 people in cars (and over 100 pedestrians and others). Who really thinks it’s a good idea to share the road with these folks?  Even with those painted lines to protect you?

Here are the keys that, in my opinion, need to happen to get people bicycling:

dutch children cycle bicycle track

Dutch children riding to school on a cycle track (photo: http://boudartj.blogspot.com)

Safe, Comfortable, Segregated Cycleways – Rational people don’t like to mix with motor traffic. They know, and feel in their gut, that we can’t even keep people in steel caged cars safe on our roads, what chance do they stand on a bike. Most people will not begin riding much until they have physically segregated cycleways that they feel safe riding on, are safe riding on, and can count on being available year-round. Bike lanes, boulevards, and sharrows are great, but they’re only great for a very few, and many fewer during winter.

Intersections need to be made safe and efficient and the entire network of cycleways needs to be smooth enough that people can carry a fews pints home on their rack without bottles breaking. A good measuring stick of safety and navigability is if it’s good enough for parents to allow their 8-year-old to ride a mile or two, by themselves, to school. Anything less may not be worth it.

dutch bicycle path network

The Netherlands has a complete network that allows people to go anywhere safely. (Photo: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2010/11/18/dutch-planners-school-u-s-cities-on-bikeability/)

Complete Reliable Network – People need to be able to go somewhere. If they can’t get from here to there safely, comfortably, and reliably, they ain’t gonna do it.  Imagine if the only roads for cars were those that currently have good segregated bikeways? And that they were often closed with no viable detour? How many people would invest in a car? Or use one very often if they had it?

Perhaps most important, we need great infrastructure at destinations. People may be able to get close to places on Grand Ave, Lake Street or Central Ave, but the closer they come to their destination, the more terrified they become of being killed. Even if they quash their fear, they then can’t find good places to park and lock their bikes once there.

By the way, this is a very equal opportunity problem in the suburbs as well as urban areas.

Dutch city bike suit

Dutch City Bike

Bikes – The vast majority of bikes sold in our bike shops are not appropriate for daily transportation for most people. They’re complicated, uncomfortable, unreliable, and have exposed chains, gears, and brakes that ruin clothes and don’t do well in anything but the best weather. There’s a reason that few people in Europe ride them. People need to know that there are better alternatives in the form of city bikes and cargo bikes. Bikes that are dependable and easy to ride anytime no matter what you’re wearing.

Bike Shops – Bike shops in the U.S. are geared towards kids toys and recreation. Recreational shops make much of their money from selling accessories that most people don’t need, namely helmets, gloves, jersey’s, and shorts. Most of these shops have little or no knowledge about bicycling for daily transportation for the average person nor do they stock the appropriate bikes.

We need shops that are knowledgeable about and focused on transportation cycling instead of recreation. Shops that stock good city and cargo bikes (not just replicas) and who understand the needs of the average mom who wants to bike to the store with her children every day. Shops that make their money on the bikes and don’t need to push unnecessary clothes, shoes, gloves, and helmets. And, we need more shops. Lots more shops. People need shops with dependable bike repair close by so that if something happens they can get to a shop for repair. 200 small shops with 20 bikes each is much better than 50 big shops with 80 bikes each.

Mindshare – People need to think about riding. We’ve been getting in cars for the half-mile trip to the store two generations—bicycles are toys for kids or maybe for recreation, not for transportation. We need to plant seeds that bicycles are great for daily transportation in regular daily clothes for regular people of all ages. And, that bicycling is safe (yes, even despite what I wrote above) and does not require helmets any more than walking down the sidewalk does. Even in places that now have fairly good segregated infrastructure, this will take time, but it’s coming.

What came first, the bikeway or the bicyclist?

Both will take time. Even with really good Dutch style cycletracks, paths, intersections, bikes, and shops, things will take time. It will take time for the average person who doesn’t ride much, or at all, to begin thinking of riding as an alternative. It will take time for all of the little segments of good infrastructure to be connected so that people can actually go somewhere. It will take time for people to know that there are good alternatives to being hunched over with your pants stuffed fashionably down your socks so only your socks get greased by the chain. It will take time to get enough bicyclists to support the density of shops necessary to support transportation cycling throughout the metro.

Bicycling in The Netherlands didn’t happen overnight. It took years of effort to accomplish what they have today. In the 1960’s they were not much different than the U.S. They were on the same car-dominant trajectory.

One major difference may be that The Netherlands didn’t have a contingent of ‘cyclists’ running stop signs and pushing for share-the-road vehicular cycling—bicycles doing battle with cars. They started off with segregated bicycle facilities that 40 years ago were safer and more inviting than what we build today and call state of the art. They started with the idea that all children should be able to safely ride their bikes to school or the store. How many rational parents would let their 8-year-old ride by themselves to school on those Park and Portland bike lanes?

We can continue with this interim step of bike lanes for the daring 2% and wait 40 years for something better, or we can skip this step and go directly to a much safer and more inviting infrastructure for everyone that will get many more people riding much sooner.


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46 Responses to Do We Really Want Bike Lanes?

  1. Tony Hunt
    Tony Hunt October 4, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Yes and yes.

  2. Jon DeJong October 4, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Great points on the larger issues. But I would add, if the focus is just on Park and Portland, that they put these great bike lanes in and then immediately tore out the bridges that went into downtown. I used to take Park and Portland to and from work most days, but like drivers, when the bridges were torn out, I looked for alternate routes.

    It’s a little unfair of people to say, “We built these great new bike lanes and no one is using them.” They’re not great bike lanes when the city then cut them off from the one place most commuters need to go: downtown. I suspect next summer they will be far more heavily travelled.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      I agree Jon. Bicycle traffic will certainly increase considerably when those bridges are done. But so will motor traffic?

    • Kelly Chaffee October 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      I agree with Jon. I’m one of those fair-weather bikers I feel that the City is trying to attract more of. I live in South Minneapolis and work downtown, I LOVED the bike lanes last fall -but then was confused when the bridges went away. These new pretty lanes and I still had to detour all the way to Chicago to get over the interstate? My neighbors and I found other routes in the meantime and I only accidentally realized Park and Portland were back open again last week. I think that next summer will be a better evaluation.
      On another note, the lanes on the right side of the street feel much better than they used to, but I hate having to switch sides of the street to stay in the bike lane on Portland downtown. And there are areas where the streets feel poorly lit which makes me nervous. Then there is the pools of glass next to cars in some areas and the UPS truck that is always parking in a bike lane. This all makes riding for me a bigger production than it needs to be so I only do it 1 -2 times a week instead of every day.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

        Kelly, “makes riding for me a bigger production than it needs to be” Bingo! It shouldn’t be and you’re absolutely right that it doesn’t need to be.

  3. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini October 4, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    I think it’s important to note that every street cannot have this type of high-quality bicycle infrastructure. If every street were a “complete street” with facilities for autos, bikes, pedestrians, car and bike parking, and some transit, they’d all be 100′++ wide.

    We absolutely need high quality segregated bicycle infrastructure on key routes (which I agree Park and Portland should count) that allow people to bike the longer distances (to work, that restaurant 2 miles away, etc) while still feeling safe. We shouldn’t need grade-separated Greenways or bike trails along Hiawatha to get this feeling of security (although they are wonderful pieces of the bike infrastructure puzzle).

    But more importantly, we need to address what makes driving mixed-in with cars so distasteful in the first place, because starting and ending a journey for many people will still require being out in the open for the beginning and/or end of their journey even if we built out 100 miles of quality segregated bike paths. The wide, numerous lanes, the wide shoulders, wide parking lanes, curb cuts every 30 feet for vehicles, etc etc. These all impact driver behavior in an unsafe way while setting in stone a feeling of “right to the road” mentality over the past 60 years.

    I suspect that riding a bicycle in the middle of the street in the Dutch school-children picture would not be anywhere near as dangerous or un-enjoyable as many of our streets in Minneapolis. It has narrow lanes and like very slow, safe speeds (20-25 kph I would imagine). How can we make every neighborhood street in Minneapolis look and feel like that, even if we didn’t get cycle tracks installed on all of them?

    Great, great post, though.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks Alex. In The Netherlands I think the general goal is to have a segregated and dedicated bicycle facility on every through road and every roadway with speeds of greater than 20 kph. So, the only places where bicycles routinely share the road with motor traffic are non-through streets with 20 kph (13 mph) or less speed limits.

      Their belief is that any roadway that can be used as a through route by motor vehicles, e.g., any use other than very local access, is usually not appropriate for sharing. Or, as you so well put it—distasteful. Mostly these are dead-ends, Woonerf’s, or Woonerf-like retail streets. They’re the first or last few hundred feet of a motorist’s journey and so people are much more inclined to be able to drive slowly.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini October 4, 2013 at 11:22 am #

        That’s exactly what I mean. It’s completely bogus that it’s a political unreality to suggest that having quality, segregated bicycle infrastructure as often as Hennepin-Lyndale-Nicollet-Park/Portland (or perhaps Chicago), basically every 1/2 mile. And it’s because these through-routes (or corridors with heavy bsiness traffic) NEED that valuable public realm for thru-lanes, turn lanes, and on-street parking. At a design speed of 35 mph. And no space dedicated for transit to move more efficiently.

        Realistically, every street that isn’t a major connector in our cities should be more of a woonerf-type space, but I’ve walked along enough of them to know this is simply not true (people routinely driving 35+ mph).

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg October 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        13 MPH. Think about that for a second…that is a staggeringly low figure. We call that an alley! We’ll have to radically change our street designs, but should explore doing so.

        • Jeff Klein October 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

          Let’s remember for a second that we’re not Dutch. Our cities are not as dense, and consequently both bicycles and cars need to move faster than 13mph to be realisitic transportation options. Granted it’s just a photo, but those Dutch folks on that crowded narrow bike lane sitting bolt upright on their cruisers sure don’t look like they’re moving very fast. If I were forced to use such a facility I’d just give my bike and drive because it would take me two hours to cross town.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex Cecchini October 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

            Don’t you think part of why our cities aren’t as dense is because we built all our streets to be more conducive to driving fast through? Minneapolis once had over 500k residents with the same land area it does now – roughly 30% more dense than it is today. There was more “here” – fewer parking lots, fewer freeways limiting pedestrian/bike permeability, and more housing/businesses.

            I’d argue that we don’t need to be moving faster than 13 (let’s call it an even 15) mph, and in reality, we aren’t today. Even with 30 mph speed limits (and people frequently going 35) on local streets, and all the catering to the auto we’ve done to improve travel times (at the expense of pedestrian safety, the built environment, other travel modes, and the environment), people don’t achieve much better than that average speed. Stop signs, stop lights, parking cars, etc bring average through speeds well below what people race up to. Using data from the Nicollet-Central corridor study, cars currently travel on average 20 mph on different segments (Grant to Lake & Lake to 38th on Nicollet, 41st to Lowry & Broadway to 8th St on Central). Freeways (roads designed to be limited access and thus high speed) consistently jam up during peak periods to a crawl.

            If our streets were, in general, slower but had shared space intersections, we wouldn’t be losing much time (if at all) as drivers compared to our current methods, people wouldn’t be funneled to key arterials for local travel (because average moving speeds on all streets would actually improve), and safety for all users would improve.

            Saying “we’re not XXXX, that will never work here” is defeatist; it basically says we’re either doing just fine as we are or there is nothing we can do to improve our situation. Yes, Dutch, and other, cities are different in built form. A comprehensive move in land-use and transportation priorities and design will help us get to a safer public realm. We can do it.

          • Walker Angell
            Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

            Jeff, great comments. The Dutch don’t drive 13 mph much either. That’s usually only for the first or last few hundred feet of their journey, otherwise they’re on more connector/arterial type roads going 30 – 50 mph, or on motorways going somewhat close to the 82 mph speed limit.

            Kids going to school probably average about 10 mph, partially because the bikeways near the schools get packed with kids and the ages range from 6 to 15. Otherwise I think the average is about 13 mph though people doing 20 aren’t unusual. How far is your journey?

        • Morgan October 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

          13MPH streets would require totally different vehicles. Out current cars can’t travel at that speed comfortably.

          But I don’t give a shi*t. Let’s do it!

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex Cecchini October 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

            I disagree. My car operates just fine in a parking lot at 10-15 mph. It also operates just fine at 20-25 mph, which would also be a big improvement over what we have on many streets.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      You’re absolutely correct as well that we need to figure out how to make sharing less dangerous and distasteful. Even if we started now with a mandate that every through stroad is required to include a minimum of a segregated cycletrack and proper intersection, it’ll likely take 20-40 years to get there.

      So, we still need interim solutions that don’t require complete reconstruction and that can allow time for bicycling to build up as motor vehicle traffic and parking decreases. We can push the envelope some on replacing motor lanes and parking with bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but only so much at a time. I’m not sure what the answer is.

  4. Chris October 4, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    If cars are going 45 mph on Portland/Park that is a major fine at this point. The speed limit is now 30. I have noticed reduced speeds personally but have not seen any data on that.

  5. Rebecca Lowen October 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Thanks for this great piece ( which I read on MinnPost). I am currently living in Norway where lots of people use bikes as means of transport. Lots of real bike lanes here, as you describe, and the bike shops here sell commuter bikes, not just racing bikes.

  6. Kathi Lee October 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Can anyone explain the rational of bicyclists that routinely stay on the road with vehicles on West or East River Roads instead of using the dedicated bike lanes alongside each road? For the most part, walker’s lanes are separate from bike lanes. Yet routinely, bike riders stay on the road and there get to be long lines of cars, with drivers fuming, behind the bicyclist. Meanwhile, the bike lane is empty. I walk and bike downtown a lot and hate bike riders who seem to be at war with vehicle drivers (pretty much a losing battle).

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Kathi, generally, some reasons are:

      For a segregated path or MUP:

      People riding faster than about 15 or 20 mph will be (and should be?) in the street as it is unsafe for them to ride faster than that on a shared use path. HOWEVER, in northern Europe it’s not unusual to see pro racers riding slowly on cycleways until they get out of congested areas and then move to the traffic lane.

      Or, see several of the issues here: http://localmile.org/?p=236

      For bike lanes it could be that they are adjacent to parked cars so they want to avoid getting doored, or the lane is filled with debris.

      And for both I think some people simply think they look cooler in the road than on a ‘granny path’.

    • Dave October 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      W/E River Road, Bike Path speed limit is 10MPH. Fast road bikes average 18-20MPH. Maximum speed limit on W/E RR is 25 MPH. Anyone who gets “fuming” mad need to re-evaluate their priorities or find another route to commute on. It is a “Parkway” after all. Also, consider that roads are in generally entirely level while paths change (and get quite rough) when they intersect a road or parking lot, plus create a danger point.

      On these routes, fast bikers are a much bigger hazard to peds/slower bikers than they could ever be to car traffic.

    • Jeff Klein October 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      This comment does so much to support the arguments I’ve made about cycle paths on this site before. The examples in question are clogged with runners and children, not to mention they extra steps to access. In most places they’re less smooth than the road. So sensible, serious, fast commuter bikers don’t use them. But then drivers complain because they feel like they’ve given us our facilities and once again deserve complete rights to the road.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

        Jeff, yep. Many of the MUPs that we’ve been putting in aren’t necessarily appropriate for a fast commuter, especially if they have a bunch of pedestrians/runners/skaters on them. Actually, many can be quite awful for just tooling 1 mile to the store. Completely different world than what the Dutch have implemented.

        However, they are a good interim step. Despite my critiques of the paths in Shoreview (http://localmile.org/?p=236), I’m thankful that they’re there. A lot of people ride on them who otherwise would never ride. We need to keep pushing for better infrastructure though that will make regular transportation bicycling, as Kelly put it above, less of a production.

    • Andy October 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      A few reasons:

      1). The bike lanes are posted at 10mph. So just following the posting, I’d say they are better suited for a 25mph road if they are holding 15-20. The river road is posted at 25mph while neighboring streets in residential areas are assumed 30. It’s a parkway. Cars need to slow down regardless of bikes.

      2) when I’m running (there are many shared walk/bike sections on these roads) or biking with my children and two or three cyclists whiz by, I find that rude. They are not necessarily trying to be, but it is. They should ride single file or use the street if they plan to bike over 10mph

      3) East River Road is a National Scenic Byway. Not a freeway. There are other routes. Cars should respect that they are driving through a park and yield to bikes on the paths and in the road.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

        Andy, great points.

        Is the issue of bikes whizzing by that the path is too narrow for them to pass? That they pass at inappropriate times like when people are also coming the other way? Would their using a bell to let you know that they’re passing help? Other?

  7. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg October 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    If anyone has ever seen a “heat map” of density along bicycle routes, I’d like to see one. I don’t doubt Minneapolitan’s propensity to cycle, but as a municipality we are pretty spread out. The beautiful images Walker shows reveals the Dutch also build to pretty good density, as even the school children biking shows duplex/rowhome housing and the others are solid four stories or more, whereas much of south Minneapolis single-family homes are built at 5 units to the acre, and the result is unless you are Uptown or downtown you live more than one mile from daily needs. I believe the sweet spot for a lot of cycling is trips of less than one mile. Even the best cycling facilities won’t attract riders if they must travel 2.5 miles to the grocery store.

    Density, sweet density.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      I think your 1 mile and 2.5 miles is pretty close from my experience. I’ll nearly always ride 1.2 miles and very often 1.7, beyond that the car gets increasingly more use. Similar to Kelly above, I can also be a bit of a fair weather person. Facilities also make a big difference. I’m far more likely to ride 1.7 miles along Hodgson in Shoreview (MUP) to the grocery or cafe in winter than 1 mile in Vadnais Heights where for 1/3 mile on Koehler the only option is to take the lane the entire way since that’s all that’s plowed.

      In northern Europe there’s apparently a somewhat steady decline after about 3/4 of a mile that steepens at about 2.5 miles and then drops pretty quick beyond 4.5 miles.

    • Dave October 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      Wouldn’t that yield lots of 0.2 acres. The overwhelming majority I’ve seen on the MLS are .1 acres, around 10/acre. 4-5 units to an acre is a lots more like lots in Woodbury which are generally 1/5 to 1/4 acre in the older subdivisions.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini October 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

        Most lots in Minneapolis for single family homes are 1/8 an acre. But that doesn’t include the street, sidewalks, parks, schools, businesses, etc. I think total dwelling units per acre in Minneapolis is around 4-5, with apartment complexes being balanced out by commercial/office space most likely.

        • Rosa October 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

          we have a lot of comparatively empty space and light industrial, too. You see it all along the Greenway and throughout Near North. It’s not bad – it’s good to have places people can work! but it makes us less dense.

  8. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg October 4, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    “Design speed” may be the key phrase in this post and comments. The fact is Park and Portland have design speeds of 35 MPH or more, and therein lies much of the problem shared by many other streets in the city. Notice in the images none of the Dutch streets seem to have designs speeds that are that great…even well-designed cycletracks are often on streets with 25MPH speeds. The slower the better in many ways.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      I often wonder what role lane width plays on speed and danger as well.

      • Rosa October 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

        It seems like the wider the bike lane, the more likely cars are to just drive in it. I do take Park/Portland (though only alone – if my 8 year old is riding, we go WAY out of the way to take the Greenway-LRT to downtown instead) and it seems like the extra lines are helping with that. But the weird middle lane on 26th Ave near the Cub foods seems like it would be more useful if it was narrower – cars just use it as a 3rd lane since it’s a car wide.

        I’ve always commuted on Park/Portland when I’ve worked downtown, since back when I had to risk my life on 28th/26th because the Greenway wasn’t there yet. I think for actually commuting those higher-speed higher-traffic roads are the way to go – they are fast, they’re not as unsafe as they feel because there’s not a lot of cross traffic, they get plowed/swept/paved often and they connect in a really useful, direct way. My one complaint is that Portland’s bike lane is on the wrong side of the street for getting on the Greenway.

    • Drew October 15, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Design speed can have a huge impact on bike lanes. I am a University of Minnesota Student who regularly uses the bike lanes around campus. University Ave. is 25MPH and is arguably the busiest street on campus. If this speed limit was higher, I feel the road would be very dangerous for bikers. There are still problems with bikers and busses interacting on the road because the busses need to pull into the bike lane every so often. If we limit traffic speed, many casual bikers like me will feel safer on the road.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 15, 2013 at 10:10 am #

        Great point Drew. In The Netherlands the general rule of thumb is that bike lanes are appropriate for speeds of 30 kph (18 mph) or less. Many 30 kph streets have no bike lanes though. Above 30 a cycletrack is usually the minimum. I agree w/ you about Univ. It’d be great to see this changed to 20 mph or the bike lane changed to a cycle track or protected bike lane for its entirety.

        Overall, are busses and other vehicles fairly cognizant and respectful of bicyclists?

  9. hokan October 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Ah, more “build it and they will come”. Even at the low point in the 60s the Dutch had a mode share we would consider huge. True that in the 70s they started building bike facilities, but they also began implementing policies that discouraged motoring. Their cities are much more dense, motoring is less convenient and much more expensive.

    Facilities didn’t have anything to do with their mode share, according to the Copenhagen Bicycle Coordinator.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg October 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      Sounds like we need the Copenhagen Bicycle Coordinator (Minister) to pay us a visit. Actually, a summit that included both a Danish and Dutch representative could be very enlightening if we could get them in front of mayors, county commissioners, Met Council and traffic engineers at MnDOT and counties.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 4, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

        Or require the mayors, county commissioners, met council, and traffic engineers to utilize multiple modes of travel to work each month. I wonder how quickly things would improve if they were required to ride a bike to/from work at least one day each week? :-)

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini October 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

        Maybe traffic/civil engineering programs should require study abroad to places that have implemented strong multi-modal transportation options? We need loosening of the rules/formulas/guidelines from the top-end (Federal/State DOTs, Met Council, etc) as well as a strong base understanding of what makes good places and how to connect them from the people implementing projects. We also need general citizens to be more aware that the public entity’s job isn’t to facilitate automobiles (moving or parking) necessarily, but people. I think events like Open Streets do a great job making people aware of this.

  10. Adam October 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    I have to agree with Jeff Klein. As a year-round commuter/pleasure rider, I’ve developed a caution-laden comfort with the street, and I’m leery of using infrastructure designed with “the other 96%” in mind. I bike 20 mph, give or take, and I can assure you I’m more of a hazard – and at greater risk myself – on a sidewalk or slow bike path like that seen onEast/West River Parkways than on the road.

    My concern with cycle tracks and designs like it continues to be its feasibility for cyclists like myself. I’m not saying those tracks should not be implemented, but it seems like those of us who bike everywhere, all the time, at great speed, will be unsafe on the bike tracks and reviled even more on the roads for not using them. Plus, there is only so much real estate; if the tacks go in on major thoroughfares, that’s less room on the roads for the rest of us.

    The greatest feat of cycling infrastructure continues to be the Greenway. If we can dedicate a few more such corridores throughout the region, it more than makes up for some of the extra time/distance to ultimately reach our destinations.

  11. minneapolisite October 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Since these streets are one-ways, wouldn’t it be easy to make them both “no right turn” lanes with signage, bollards, and filling in the empty spaces in current dashes near intersections? The city isn’t timing signals for 25 MPH (which would be much easier and cheaper I’d think), so obviously if safety perception is the problem then something else needs to be done to get more people using the lanes.

    At the same time though, the 15th Ave bike lanes between Como and the U of M are heavily trafficed w/o taking bikes off the road. And a cycletrack where you have to stop every block or half is just an inconvenience a lot of us won’t take even if it is an option. I’d still use the bike lane because I can actually reach destinations quickly by bike: the whole reason I ride to begin with.

    And I bring that up because possibly the biggest problem that Portland and Park face is that, well, there just isn’t much on either end of Portland or Park to give a lot more people a reason to use them. There are some destinations in the Mill District, but it’s still a bit sparse and south of there Downtown is a parking lot ghost town, futher south Franklin has very, very little to entice would-be cyclists, Lake is probably densest commercial area, but Portland and Park take cyclists to businesses of no interest to them: Portland Lake Motors, Valvoline, Midas, Lake Street Tire, etc. These bike lanes take you directly through Lake St’s car district, not to the interesting dining options a block or so outside of this zone.

    In reality, the most likely inexpensive and effective step to take would be large way-finding signage for cyclists, especially visitors, for high-profile destinations just off of these corridors: a huge sign letting cyclists (and motorists) know that a right/left turn coming up on Lake will take you to Midtown Global Market, another for those upon entering Downtown East not to despair: the Mill District is just blocks ahead, and then 48th and Chicago, signage to other bikeways, etc.

    • Rosa October 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

      Better signage would be awesome. With maybe little maps & bus line help.

  12. BEB October 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    This is what we need.

    More leaders and less enablers

    Tougher laws and dl suspensions which turn the mindset into Peds and Cyclists first.

    Slower speeds maximums and less motorist subsides.

  13. Eric October 4, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    I agree that there should be more cycle-track areas for the elderly and children to ride safely. I also agree that, if forced to use these, it could seriously hamper those of us who use bicycles as a primary mode of transportation right now.

    I have owned a Workcycles Fr8 and currently own a Gazelle Tour Populair (both Dutch bikes). I must say, living in St. Paul, that these two bikes are so heavy and slow that they discouraged me from riding any more than the 1.7 miles or so that you mentioned. My work is 3.6 miles away and it was a major victory if I made it to and from without some serious knee pain after struggling up hills. I couldn’t go where I wanted to go in the city.

    I since have purchased a Surly Cross-Check which is serving me very well and cut my commute from 27 minutes to 18. I am no longer afraid to bike across town, which is necessary on the east side of St. Paul. I don’t wear spandex.

    Our cities simply don’t have the density right now to make Dutch-style bikes practical. I don’t know that St. Paul really wants the density, either. Apparently certain parts of Minneapolis do, but not all.

    It’s not just bike lanes that would have to change to make this vision practical – it would have to be everything. We would need smaller and more frequent stores of every type to allow local bicycle trips rather than longer-distance trips. Commuting to work would mean that everyone would need to live close to work, whether in the city center or elsewhere, or that the transit system would need to be reliable and accommodating to cyclists.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 5, 2013 at 8:04 am #

      Eric, can you expand a bit on this. What has made your commute better since the change in bike? Is it that the bike is lighter/faster? Do you take a different route with this bike? Do you ride in the vehicle lanes more with this bike?

      BTW, I agree completely that we’ll need more density of retail and I think it’ll happen. And, we’re already seeing people moving closer to where they work and working closer to where they live than probably any time in the past 60 years. Also keep in mind that over half of people in The Netherlands and the rest of northern Europe drive or take transit to work.

      • Eric October 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

        My commute is better primarily because the bike is lighter and because the geometry allows me to put more power into my pedals. I can get to my destination faster, and I struggle less on the hills. On flat ground I would be faster on the Surly, but it is particularly on the hills (or even a long incline) where the excess weight slows momentum.
        The Fr8 was an unusually heavy bicycle, but the Gazelle is a classic Dutch bike. I am a fan of steel bikes, chaincases, lights, bells, internal gears, fenders, mudflaps, o-locks, robust racks, etc. Altogether it makes a really heavy bike.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell October 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

          Thanks Eric. City bikes can be quite heavy. Workcycles does also have the Secret Service that is a bit lighter with a bit more forward lean but otherwise still a city bike. That said, if the Surly works for you then that’s certainly the best option.

          I occasionally ride my Opa or a Gr8 from Vadnais Heights to Selby & Western which involves a number of hills with the worst likely Cayuga at the end of the gateway trail (though that’s closed for construction) and then climbing up by the Cathedral. So, I fully understand taking these things up hills. :-) It takes me about 45 minutes on my Opa vs about 30 on my road bike. But I’m also not working as hard or sweating on my Opa, can wear whatever clothes I want, etc. so that’s been my choice.