Diminishing returns of off-street bicycle facilities

cedar lake 2

Photo from Kevin J. Krizek

This is a subsequent post (part 2 of 3) focusing on characteristics and perspectives of off-street facilities.

Some attention to my previous post seemed to stem from the incredulity of implying anything negative about the Midtown Greenway—one of America’s most beloved darlings of a bike path[1]. At the risk of appearing to cave, I agree with a majority of the comments. The Greenway raises the profile of “real” spending on non-motorized infrastructure. That funding, while high for bicycle facilities, still pales relative to auto-based infrastructure. The Greenway provides blissful riding which helps lure more cyclists. The Greenway catalyzes economic development. The list can go on. But there is room on the table for the sentiments mentioned in many of the comments (and subsequent postsand those in the original post.

A main point is that while off-street networks are great, there is opportunity to evaluate some of their characteristics and costs amidst the larger transport systems. At the risk of fanning some flames from the original post, here is another perspective.

The on-set of off-street networks

Several factors influence the quality and extent of a city’s off-street bicycle network. Legacy effects of railroads have a lot to do with it. The perimeters of rivers and lakes, when they are available, are pretty easy to line; the founding fathers of city planning for Minneapolis leveraged this aspect to the max. Having cheap and available right-of-way space is often important. Access to a good chunk of money to spend—pork barrel or other—helps build these facilities where the natural landscape would otherwise preclude such.

The most progressive cycling communities continue to augment their off-street network: adding a new off-street bike path here; installing a grade-separated underpass there. Such facilities provide much value to the transportation network for cyclists. When strategically placed and effectively implemented by bicycle planners, they also go a long way to induce more users.

But off-street improvements are more costly than most of their on-street counterparts—an important consideration when expending public funds. At some point, building more of them fails to yield as much return. The outstanding question is when might that web be almost full?

A change in priorities in Minneapolis

Bike planning in Minneapolis reached a critical point a few years back with regard to their off-street network. The financial wells dried up and most space to expand was already spoken for. The city had already leveraged what it could by putting paths in railway and open space corridors; correspondingly, Minneapolis turned their focus to complementing their renowned off-street network with an outstanding on-street network. Other advanced bicycle cities are following suit. They are thinking more strategically about the costs and merits of adding more off-street facilities and this is a healthy thought process.

Has Minneapolis mostly caught the flies it can with its with its expansive off-street network? Many advocates contend that off-street paths are necessary to connect every nook and cranny of a city. Only then will the most timid rider come out of its shell. But, understanding the extent to which the “web is almost full” is analogous to the law of diminishing returns. Consider the 10k runner who successfully reduced her race time to under 45 minutes in six months of training but cannot break 44 min with even a year’s worth of training. Reflect on the morning delight that an initial cappuccino provides, which is less so for the second or third. The classic example from economics reminds us of the company who throws more workers into an assembly plant—which actually decreases production (e.g., the workers get in each other’s way, they end up waiting for parts). A cousin to this theory comes to us via Metcalfe’s Law, which is an inherent property in the design of a network—Ethernet, transportation or other[2]. The more extensive the network becomes, each incremental addition has a reduced overall impact. Can bicycle facility planning benefit from such thinking?

How to research diminishing returns

Ideally, this requires time use information. Gathering data about the onset of off-street paths; then doing the same for a dependent variable of your choosing[3]. Try to control for confounding explanations to the extent possible. Assuming the initial effects are largely linear, discern if and when the two trend lines diverge. Alternatively, gather a bunch of cross-sectional data and use regression modeling to uncover threshold effects.

But time use information is hard to come by. Reliable data about the nature of off-street facilities is similarly difficult to glean. These facilities are defined and measured differently; I can tell you that what an off-street facility means in Minneapolis is far cry from how the Italians define it. And, expansive off-street facilities sometime contribute little to a city’s useful cycling network for transportation purposes (as opposed to recreational purposes)[4].

Ranking of off-street networks

My inner bicycling sense suggests that Minneapolis has largely milked most of its potential from its off-street network; Boulder, Colorado even more. If we furthermore accept the turn of priorities in Minneapolis as an indication of such, what is that level and how does it rank? Minneapolis has 85 miles of off-street paths spread across 55 square miles of city [converting to kilometers, 136 km over 142 km2] for a density of 0.96. Other top cycling college towns of Davis (California), Boulder (Colorado) and Madison (Wisconsin) come in at 3.2, 1.3, and 0.34, respectively. Big city comparisons are 0.65 for Washington, DC and 0.35 for Portland (Oregon) [5], [6]. Minneapolis is among tops in the list, notably so for a relatively large city (see below, values represent: Off-street facilities (km) / Area of city (km2))

    1. Davis, California – 3.2
    2. Boulder, Colorado – 1.3
    3. Minneapolis, Minnesota – 0.96
    4. Washington, DC – 0.65
    5. Portland, Oregon – 0.35
    6. Madison, Wisconsin – 0.34

Other considerations in thresholds

Fully thinking about a point of diminishing returns in each city requires us to consider local needs and local opportunities[7]. Much of the network in Davis was built as part of new development. Boulder has lowered the pains of building their network by leveraging space adjacent to creeks and the sort and also building requirements into new development. And even if a threshold might be exceeded for bicycling, that does not necessarily mean that more of it would not benefit other users (e.g., pedestrians) with different needs. But the above analysis does suggest that an abundance of off-street facilities is not necessarily needed to obtain status as a well respected cycling city, at least for U.S. standards.

There is always more to the story. The role of discontinuities of the off-street system plays an important role. And, the degree to which an off-street system is complemented with a solid on-street networks is paramount. The aspiration of many advocates—a complete off-street cycling network to every address in a city—is out of reach for almost all communities. It is helpful to consider a point of diminishing returns, given that off-street facilities cost more than their on-street counterparts. That point will inevitably vary by community and its local characteristics. In Minneapolis, the density hovers around a “single kilometer of off-street facility per square kilometer of city size” –a convenient threshold to help start such discussions.

The next post (part 3 of 3 addressing off-street facilities) will be a lighter fare.  After all, it is scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving; it will focus on Bologna’s (Italy) network.


[1] USA Today describes the top 12 bike paths in America here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2013/07/23/best-urban-bike-paths-across-the-usa/2576801/

[2] Law of the Network” (and in a computer networking context, Metcalfe’s Law, named for Robert Metcalfe

[3] For cycling, the typical dependent variables include number of overall cycling trips, percentage of cycling commuters, distance of cycling trips or number of new cyclists induced.

[4] For example, 2012 Benchmarking Report: Bicycling and Walking in the United States, prepared by the Alliance for Biking and Walking reports an astounding amount of multiuse facilities for some cities: 177 miles for Albuquerque, 194 for Austin, 173 for Houston, and a whopping 274 for Phoenix. The area of each municipality is also correspondingly large, yielding normalized ratios of 0.6, 0.4, 0.2, and 0.3, respectively. While these communities have many miles of off-street paths, these places are hardly regarded as cycling bastions.

[5] Distances for off-street facilities for the larger cities were gleaned from distances recorded for multi-use paths in 2012 Benchmarking Report: Bicycling and Walking in the United States, prepared by by the Alliance for Biking and Walking (Portland 75 mi; Minneapolis 84 mi; Washington DC 64 mi). Network length for Minneapolis was verified via November 7, 2013 email conversation with Don Pflaum and Simon Blenski of the Minneapolis Public Works Department. Land area data was obtained from respective Wikipedia sites.

[6] Distances for smaller cities obtained from: Handy, Susan L., Eva Heinen and Kevin J. Krizek (2012). Cycling in Small Cities. City Cycling. Editors: John Pucher and Ralph Buehler. Chapter 12, pages 257-286. MIT Press and other local sources (Boulder 52 mi; Davis 51 mi; Madison 47 mi).

[7] Thanks to both Susan Handy and Steve Hankey for their useful reactions to drafts of this post.

 


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38 Responses to Diminishing returns of off-street bicycle facilities

  1. Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I was over by the U yesterday and was considering the percentage of students who bike to class must be in the 30-40% range even in November, as compared to the city-wide bike commuter rate of something like 5%. It must be because of all those fancy new cycle paths bringing out the timid bikers.

    Oh wait, no, those don’t exist. There are two reasons, I suspect, that many students bike to class. One is that they live close. The other is that biking near the U is *normal* – there is a critical mass of bikes on the streets and so cars respect them and bikers aren’t indimidated.

    • Dave November 15, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      You forgot a major reason… Cost of owning and storing a car. Biking is also the single fastest way to get around the Minneapolis campus.The number of bikers lower than 30-40%, the largest mode is walking.

      I don’t know if you are joking, but the UMN points to exactly WHY good biking infrastructure is needed. The horribly poor bike infrastructure creates dangerous situations for peds, bikers and cars. They try to “enforce” biking and walking rules with tickets, but it does not work.

      There is a shortage of bike parking. Have you ever tried parking your bike on campus when school is in session? Good luck. Bikes are literally locked to anything, trees, fences, signs.

      Fix these things and the number would only grow.

      • Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 11:07 am #

        My point is that it’s data that contridicts the idea that claim that you need a cycle path on every street to get the bike mode share above 5%. The biking by the U is largely driven by density and critical mass.

        The arguents for cycle paths seem to be motivated by an claim of increased mode share, until I point out that the mode share is best near the U where there isn’t much in the way of that kind of infrastructure, at which point the argument shifts to safety. I’m not aware of there being an unusual number of bike or pedestian injuries near the University. Certainly more consistent marking of bike lanes would make things safer. But biking appears to be thriving without grad-separated two-way trails.

        Certainly more bike parking is needed near the U.

        • Scott Shaffer
          Scott November 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

          “My point is that it’s data that contridicts the idea that claim that you need a cycle path on every street to get the bike mode share above 5%.”

          Not a single person is asking for a “cycle path on every street.” You’d do better to focus on arguments that people are actually making.

          • Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

            Well, forgive my (obvious) hyperbole, but suffice it to say that the following opinions are very common on this forum:

            - cycle paths are necessary to increase bike mode share beyond its current value
            - cycle paths are almost always superior to bike lanes on any major street
            - bike mode share is low because people are scared to ride on streets.

            I don’t think it’s unfair to extend the third point to say that if you believe there is a large number of people who aren’t biking because they find bike lanes inadequate, they will be at a loss when the reach the end of the path, so unless you have one helluva network of paths, you’re not going to do much for these people.

            In any case, observing the way bikes are used near the university appears to be an example that at least suggests those three points are suspect.

            • Bill Lindeke
              Bill Lindeke November 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

              The actual Minneapolis Bike Master Plan (which isn’t great, but is a good start for what people are actually trying to advocate for) has this goal:

              “All residents are within 1 mile of a trail, 1/2 mile of a bike lane, or 1/4 mile of a signed bike route by 2020. The plan encourages innovative treatments where appropriate.”

              That’s basically what city bike people are calling for, a “network” of high quality (greenway-ish level) bike routes at 1-2 mile separation, with bike lanes in between to connect these key routes to actual destinations. It’s hardly “every street,” but you’d be correct in thinking that most bike advocates would like to see most key commercial streets striped with bike lanes (at the very least), and cycle-track-style routes interspersed throughout the city at 1-2 mile intervals.

              Around the U of MN, the best places for this would be Washington Avenue, University / 4th Street, and maybe something like Oak / Church Streets as dedicated and high-quality bike routes, safe for the massive (but still small) percentage of students that ride bicycles to get around this dense place filled with poor young people.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell November 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      The average college student, who considers themselves invincible to pain, death, or the making of a bad decision, is not very representative of the population. :-)

      • Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

        I will grant that college students are not an average cross section. Still, it’s hard not to observe the way that a critical mass of bikers makes people increasing comfortable using bike lanes and streets. Additionally, I’ve not known anyone to get less comfortable with city biking as they age, so assuming these kids develop the habit, they could conceivably become life-long riders.

        • Dave November 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

          As a UMN student biker from a decade ago who is currently a 9-10 month/year biker commuter, I can say that is a same assumption (sample N=1).

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell November 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

          “I’ve not known anyone to get less comfortable with city biking as they age”

          I can give you a neighborhood of them. Many of the folks in our neighborhood rode bicycles fairly extensively while in college and soon thereafter. Most of these same folks will not ride to local destinations today because they fear death by motor vehicle without a motor vehicle of their own to protect them. They are simply uncomfortable doing it. The habit died very quickly. These same people will not allow their children to ride to school for this same reason.

          Safe and safe feeling infrastructure will not alone turn half our city in to bicyclists, but it will remove the key barrier for most people.

          • Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

            It’s hard not to wonder how much of that is a post-facto justification for life changes that happen as you age, own a home, have a job, etc. As someone that has ridden continuously for the last decade, I can say for me – and everyone I know – it only gets easier. It’s a little hard to understand why someone who was a confident rider at 20 and kept riding until they were 35 would wake up one day terrified of it.

          • Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

            …. Also, it begins to beg the question how much we should can can humor peoples’ famous inability to accurately assess risk. These peoples’ kids are doing to die from diabetes, not bike accidents, statistically speaking. The “safest” thing they can do is exercise more, by biking, for example.

            • Walker Angell
              Walker Angell November 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

              I’m not humoring any person’s ability to assess risk. A 4000 pound car vs a 200 pound bicyclist? Really? You think that’s a good bet? If I was confident that every driver was attentive, not drunk, not high, not talking on a cell phone, not eating, not doing their hair, not checking out the gal walking down the sidewalk, not texting, not reading the morning paper, not in an extreme hurry to take a leak, not driving in slippery conditions where they might loose control, not so immature that they dislike someone riding a bicycle, and on and on, I MIGHT feel safer intermixing with them.

              FWIW, I ride over 3000 miles per year around the Twin Cities, the vast majority on roads with zero bicycle facilities.

          • Scott Shaffer
            Scott November 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

            Thanks, Walker. I’m 27 years old, and I’m frustrated by other physically-able, twenty- and thirty-something males who use pejorative language like “timid” and “afraid” and “scared” when referring to cautious novice and older cyclists who aren’t young and male. I think it betrays a lack of empathy. I want to build a city where biking is safe and pleasant for everyone.

            • jeffk November 16, 2013 at 10:50 am #

              Well, I took the word “timid” from the original article.

              It really isn’t my goal to be lacking in empathy or be perceived as one of those people who thinks bikes are exactly the same as any other kind of traffic.

              But I do find the idea that we should accept a tiny bike mode share as acceptable or inevitable until we’ve built up an idealized bike infrastructure that may take decades. Riding with our current facilities is a skill that can be learned – just like driving a car, which is also dangerous – and it’s a skill I’ve been involved in teaching quite a few people, not all or even most of whom are young, white, and male.

              • Janne Flisrand
                Janne Flisrand November 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

                I think it makes sense to teach people who are steering multi-thousand-pound devices that hurtle at speeds easily reaching 8mph. We also mandate all sorts of things to reduce the harm those folks can do — like putting in little design features to help them avoid accidentally shifting into reverse, or carefully shaping entrance ramps to avoid them careening off the edge.

                I don’t think that we should expect (or require) the same amount of education for those steering 20-pound bikes around at 15mph. And we certainly don’t provide design assistance to those on bikes to know the best way to ride for safety. (Or hints to those other heavier/more powerful vehicle drivers what they should do to avoid harming those on foot or bike.)

                We need to accept people as they are — uncomfortable riding in close proximity to distracted or uninformed drivers — and figure out how to change the street network to work for them rather than demanding they get educated.

                And as Scott points out, how about some empathy for how they feel on the streets, rather than scorn, eh?

                • jeffk November 17, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

                  I don’t have scorn for anyone. I know it’s hard and I want to see more effort put into bike facilities as anyone, even if I have a few misgivings about one type of bike infrastructure.

                  I just don’t want us to have an attitude of giving up on raising the bike more share while the bike infrastructure is improved. People go out every day and drive their 3000 lb cars next to 80000 lb trucks and think nothing of it. So while I do have sympathy for shy bikers, I don’t think it makes a callous monster to point out some inconsistencies in peoples’ perception of risk.

  2. Alex November 15, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Defensive much? Most people, I think, can handle actual criticisms of the real flaws of the Greenway. What caused reaction to your last piece was astonishment that you could be astonished that it cost $1.6m per mile. Check around, Kevin, that’s how much roads cost. Riverside, Nicollet, and Penn Aves in Minneapolis are all being built right now for comparable amounts. As for the $10m per mile for the Cedar Lake Trail, why don’t you try to obtain right-of-way in a major US downtown for less? From what Steve Kottke told the Council, the actual infrastructure costs were a petty fraction of that.

    I disagree with your assertion that the on-street network is outstanding. I’d say 9 out of 10 times I cycle in Minneapolis the lane is blocked at some point along my trip. Many lanes are too narrow or crowded in with parking to provide separation. Motorists drive too fast and are too apathetic to non-motorized users to avoid constant close calls (for me, 2 or 3 per trip typically).

    In my opinion, what is holding back greater utilization of the off-street network is poor implementation of the on-street network. People won’t use the comfortable off-street facilities if they can’t get to them comfortably. If the city were willing to create buffered or curb-separated lanes then use of the off-street network would continue to grow. There are, of course, other issues, but this is the primary one.

  3. Janne Flisrand
    Janne Flisrand November 15, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    This article is premised on a red herring.

    “The aspiration of many advocates—a complete off-street cycling network to every address in a city—is out of reach for almost all communities.”

    I’ve never seen an advocate who claimed this as an aspiration. Can the author point to such a statement? As an advocate here in Minneapolis, I can state with certainty that neither I nor the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition would every say that’s what we want.

    To quote the Coalition’s mission, “The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition advocates for a city where bicycling is encouraged and everyone feels comfortable riding.”

    An entire off-street network is not important to achieving that goal. Traffic calming is, and protected bikeways are.

    I’d also note that the off-street networks that exist in Minneapolis are not equitably distributed around the city. South and Southwest especially have more than our fair share, whereas parts of North, Northeast, and Southeast have to ride miles to find one. Part of what allows people to comfortably use bikes for transportation is either
    1) almost always sticking close to home, and having calm streets connecting home and destinations, OR
    2) is having calm, comfortable ways to get to enjoyable routes (often off-street, although not always) for longer distances.

    I’m not quite ready to say Minneapolis has all the off-street bike routes it needs, for reasons of equity. But I also disagree with the premise of this post that advocates are clamoring for an network of off-street routes “to connect every nook and cranny of a city.”

  4. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke November 15, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Evan left a comment on our facebook page that I find useful for clarifying Kevin’s research question with this series:

    “Even if marginal returns from off-street are still positive, it may well be true that the marginal returns to the biking network from new on-street are greater. That is the question, what’s the best use of our next $x,000 of bike facility money?”

  5. Walkable Princeton November 15, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    The analysis of ‘thresholds’ for off-street infrastructure is really hard because cycling mode share is impacted by too many other variables, most notably the quality of on-street infra.

    I agree with the underlying point, which is that we need to think of guidelines for spending on infrastructure. ‘More is more’ is not always right. It’s worth noting that the Dutch do not put separated bikeways on every street. The bike infra chosen is context-sensitive, and for streets with low car traffic, other less-expensive solutions are used. They have a clear manual on what solution to use, dependent on context. (This is explained in ‘City Cycling’ by Pucher and Buehler, chapter 6-well worth a read!)

  6. Jeff Klein November 15, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    It might be useful to divide bike infrastructure into three categories rather than two. The way I see it break down is

    1) off street trails like the Greenway, Cedar Lake, etc.
    2) grade-separated two-way trails that run along a street like East River Road
    3) on street lanes

    I suppose I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m usually (though not always) not in favor of (2), but I’m strongly in favor of (1). It just seems work pointing out that this is a position one can take.

  7. Jeremy B November 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    In spending monies on any project, one should be circumspect and avoid profligacy whenever possible. This sensible position is hard to argue with, and is by no means earth-shattering. This seems the underpin the motivation behind Krizek’s argument. And I appreciate his doing what most cycling advocates avoid: namely, highlighting some weak points in some of the generally-held orthodoxy about cycling infrastructure. It’s always good to be critical of one’s own thinking.

    But I think he’s wrong about there being diminishing returns. We haven’t even had the Greenway and Cedar Lake trails fully open for a long-enough time to be able to ascertain the nature of their returns. My own impression is that there are more people out on these paths than ever before, and while ten years ago the Greenway was scary at night, now there are enough nighttime users to make it feel normal to ride down there, though I wouldn’t want to do so at 3am.

    Pace Alex, depending on your frame of reference, Minneapolis actually does have an amazing system of on-street lanes now. Now, if you compare it with Copenhagen’s, then of course it sucks. But compare it with most other American cities, and it’s superlative. I say this after just having lived in Berkeley and Chicago, which are my reference points.

    That said, Janne is absolutely right, traffic-calming is one of the best things we can do. I see cars bomb down W 27th St in East Isles all the time, and never once have I seen a cop pulling them over. Bryant Ave Bld is super, but, again, cars are not brought to book for their speeding. This makes my and everyone else’s commuting stressful and infuriating. It’s also downright offensive.

    But back to infrastructure: if we’re going to make Minneapolis a livable place with clean air and safe streets and a healthy populace, we ought to take every opportunity to build out the network. Thus we need more protected bike lanes, more bike boulevards, more traffic-calming, and if we can throw in any more off-street bicycle highways such as the Greenway and the Cedar Lake Trail, then we ought to do so. For first-time cyclists, these are of crucial importance, beyond the fact that some of us, myself included, rely heavily on the Greenway to get around town and over to Saint Paul in a reasonably timely manner, or to access Park & Portland or Longfellow or West Calhoun.

    • Alex November 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      I interpreted the author’s use of ‘outstanding’ as meaning ‘very good’ but if he meant that the amount of on-street facilities in Minneapolis ‘stands out’ when compared with the rest of the USA, I’d agree. Low hurdle. However, I think that even our ‘outstanding’ system is not preferable for the vast majority, and is leading to underuse of our off-street network.

      • Jeremy B November 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

        “However, I think that even our ‘outstanding’ system is not preferable for the vast majority, and is leading to underuse of our off-street network.”

        By this do you mean that the on-street system is doubly bad because 1) it doesn’t sufficiently provide cyclists with appropriate infrastructure, and 2) it is luring cyclists away from arteries such as the Greenway and the Cedar Lake Trail?

        • Alex November 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

          I would agree with 1 rather than 2. Even if our on-street network is better than every other city in the USA, it’s not good enough for people who would otherwise cycle on the off-street network. These are loose terms of course, but I’m trying to explain one possible reason for a plateau in the use of off-street facilities.

  8. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell November 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Perhaps I’m being quite ignorant here, but can you please tell me what your definition of ‘off-street’ is. I assume, from your previous post, that you are speaking exclusively of cycleways that do not follow any motor vehicle corridor (eg, greenway, etc.). However, many people will use the term off-street for side paths along roadways, cycletracks and other segregated or protected cycleways, or even shoulders (marked or unmarked).

    If the former, off-corridor, I am not hearing much strong demand for these facilities nor anyone saying that we need any significant density of them. The strong demand I hear, from those who don’t like doing battle with motor vehicles, is for MUPs and other on-corridor side-paths, segregated and protected cycle tracks, and better intersection design.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell November 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      I agree with you though, I think, that with limited funds, on-corridor facilities may provide considerably more bang for the buck than off-corridor facilities.

      • Scott Shaffer
        Scott November 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

        Huh. Maybe this /is/ all a foofaraw resulting from semantic confusion. I would really like to know if the author would categorize a protected bike lane on Minnehaha Avenue (which would have added 0-2% to the cost of reconstruction) as an on-street or off-street facility.

  9. spencerrecneps November 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    The reference to Metcalfe’s law fails to point out that there are also positive network effects that kick in while the network is still small.

    As an example, consider a phone network. My phone is of limited use if only one other person I know has a phone. As more people get phones, my phone becomes more useful (because I can talk with more people). Is there a point at which the increased benefit of a new connection to the network is less than the previous connection? Of course, but there’s a lot of network buildout that has to occur before that point is reached.

  10. Dan November 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    At the very least, we need to complete the Grand Rounds. That would include the missing link in Northeast and new paths along both sides of the Mississippi from downtown to Minneapolis’ northern border.

    Somehow, city leaders of a century ago had the foresight to reserve the right away along lakes, the creek, and much of the river. They thought it was worth the investment to build this world-class network of paths, and it continues to pay dividends.

    Onstreet facilities are cheaper of course. Most of the time it simply requires the political will to stripe a bike lane when the street is undergoing routine mill and overlay work. Hennepin County said the cost to include a cycle path was negligible if it’s done when a street is being reconstructed.

    If we want a bikable city, we need to do both. I’m not sure it’s useful to attempt to use cost/benefit to chose one or the other to focus on.

  11. Evan Roberts
    Evan November 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Thanks Bill Lindeke for highlighting my comment on the facebook site! I think the useful discussion the author wanted to provoke has been a bit lost in some poor phrasing and provocations around the wrong points. The question is still a useful one.

    We’ve had lots of money in Minneapolis for bike paths with the federal grant. Money may well be tighter in future, and it’s a really good question how we should spend it. These are valuable things to argue about, if you believe discussion leads towards truth. Diminishing marginal returns are not on their own a reason to stop doing something. If they were you’d stop after the first project, presuming you did the most valuable project first.

    The right question about spending money is, where are the net benefits highest? For example, I find it hard to believe that we get the most benefits out of protected bike lanes on 26th and 28th, when the Greenway is right there a few blocks away. Same money would be better spent on protected bike lanes on 4th and University, and 15th Ave SE, for example.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      “if you believe discussion leads towards truth. ”

      typically on the tinternets, it does not… let Streets.mn be the exception!

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      PS i’d like to see 26th and 28th turned back into more usable two-way streets

    • Marcus November 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      “The right question about spending money is, where are the net benefits highest? For example, I find it hard to believe that we get the most benefits out of protected bike lanes on 26th and 28th, when the Greenway is right there a few blocks away. Same money would be better spent on protected bike lanes on 4th and University, and 15th Ave SE, for example.”

      I feel the same. I remember when I first moved here over 15 years ago when there was no Greenway there were bike lanes on 26th/28th. Once the Greenway was built the city let the lanes fade/painted over them. I’m really curious why Minneapolis seems to love the bike lanes on fast moving, 2-3 lane one-ways (Portland/Park, 4th/University, Downtown streets). Especially on University there is a HUGE bus-bike conflict.

      If we went by need, University and or 4th (and maybe 15th) would have cycletracks. They have the highest bike ridership by far in the city. Unfortunately a lot of these are inexperienced bikers. There also has been multiple bike-car accidents in this area too.

  12. Steve Harper November 16, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    It doesn’t matter which way you go with on street or separate facilities, you’ll be wrong. I know people that drive less than a mile to get to the bike path with the drive being a quiet residential street, because riding on the street is to dangerous. I also know people that loath paths because they feel the pedestrians and novice cyclists make them to dangerous.

    • Marcus November 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Huh? Just because there are different types of bikers doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build infrastructure for all types.What you see as wrong-wrong, I see as right-right.