36th and Bryant are Finally Connected

Cross section of the 36th St Bikeway

The cross section of the 36th Street bikeway from Richfield Rd/E Calhoun Pkwy to Dupont.

It was Spring 2015. Winter was done and my bike was ready to go.

I’d heard that a two-way protected bikeway had been installed on 36th St W during the previous fall and was excited to get out and try it. I’m obsessed with bicycle infrastructure and had never ridden a two-way protected bikeway before, so this would be a first for me. I looked on the city’s page for the bikeway and saw that, although the protected bikeway only went to Dupont, bike lanes would be painted for two blocks to connect to Bryant, a major bike route.

Map showing the bikeway from 36th to dupont and a bike lane connection from dupont to bryant

Map of the bikeway from the City of Minneapolis. The TBD portion became a bike lane.

 

So, I pedaled my way south on Bryant all the way to 36th Street. I turned right, and…

No bike lane at Bryant.

There’s supposed to be a bike lane here!

… nothing. Not even a sharrow. What a nasty surprise.

If I wasn’t an enthusiastic and confident cyclist (most people aren’t), I would’ve turned back. But, I figured I’d risk life and limb to bike the two blocks to the protected bikeway. I figured there’d at least be a clear way for bicyclists to to transition from westbound 36th to the bikeway, which is on the opposite side of the street.

An unhelpful sign telling you where the bike lane is

But how do I get there?

Nope. That doesn’t count. It’s helpful to know that I should transition to the south side of the street, but the sign really needs to tell me how to do that safely. And no, there were no helpful markings in the intersection.

 

It’s the connectivity, stupid

This case is indicative of the importance of connecting bikeways to each other right away. In the Hennepin County Bicycle Plan, 81 percent of the people interviewed identified physical barriers, including gaps in the bikeway system, as a primary reason they don’t bike more.

In this case, because of the missing connection, most people living west of Dupont could only get to Bryant by taking 36th to Calhoun to the Midtown Greenway. Not very convenient.

Some may say, “Hey, they got the connection made in less than a year! That’s pretty quick!” Not quick enough. It’s likely those interested-but-concerned bikers tried 36th Street when it first opened and discovered there was no connection to Bryant Avenue. Some may have decided, “Well, maybe biking for transportation isn’t safe for me” and haven’t tried since. They might not ever try again. Also, because of this late connection, 36th Street probably left the bad impression that this type of bikeway is short and doesn’t get you anywhere.

 

Minding the gap

Thankfully, the importance of connections and of filling in gaps is starting to be noticed. The Hennepin County Bike Plan puts a large focus on filling in gaps in the County’s bikeway system. In the City of Minneapolis’ Protected Bikeways Master Plan, filling the gap in the Hiawatha Trail is designated as a “Tier 2” bikeway to be completed by 2020.

However, even though there’s so much focus on filling big gaps, small gaps like the one at 36th still fall through the cracks. Minneapolis might run out of time to paint before construction season ends. There might be a delay in a utility project. Or there may be a completely different reason.

In a perfect world, there would be an effective temporary measure put in place. However, I realize that’s not always feasible, and that sometimes the best they can muster is a sign with a diagonal arrow.

 

Today in 36th Street bicycling

Now, fast forward to last week: the bike lanes were painted. I biked down Bryant again and turned right into a bike lane.

36th and bryant with bike lanes

Not the best bike lanes ever, but they’re there!

Much better! Then, I got to 36th and Dupont. Gone was the useless sign, and in its place was a bright green two-stage turn!

two-stage turn at dupont

It’s clear for bikers and motorists.

turn crossing 36th street

The second stage of the two-stage turn: crossing 36th.

It may not be a protected bikeway all the way to Bryant, but there’s paint that makes it very clear where everyone should be on the road and how to transition onto the protected bikeway.

I predict that ridership on 36th Street will skyrocket with this new connection. With a connection to Bryant, which had ridership of 730 daily in the area last year, 36th Street is now a vital connection to Uptown, Downtown, the Greenway, and the rest of South Minneapolis.

This just goes to show that a bike network is only as good as it’s weakest (or nonexistent) link. I’m excited to see what’ll happen as Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis create and strengthen those links over the next twenty-five years.


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16 Responses to 36th and Bryant are Finally Connected

  1. Matt Clark July 16, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    I noticed the new connection and really appreciated it on my Saturday morning doughnut run. I don’t know if improved doughnut access is something I really need, but at least I’m less likely to get flattened on my way home.

  2. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele July 16, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    One concern: A two-stage turn may be new to some people, and I don’t want that paint implying that they have the right-of-way to cross 36th (common sense would say no, but…). What about a stop bar in the bike lane at the point of the turn, marked with “Wait” or something.

    Also, I’d like to see bicycle lanes east of Bryant along 36th. Why can’t that happen? They could even eliminate parking on one half of the street on some of the blocks, since there’s low demand for parking in places. This would be an arrangement similar to 40th St. in Kingfield.

    • Jeff July 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      Ideally 36th Should go all the way to Blaisdell. That would provide a vital link to downtown.

  3. g bernard hughes July 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    whew! thats a relief! i wonder when the city of minneapolis will take care of the 10 most dangerous intersections in minneapolis described here:

    http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@publicworks/documents/images/wcms1p-102346.pdf

  4. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary July 16, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    I usually try to be sympathetic to incremental designs and compromise, but this bikeway is terribly designed and dangerous.

    1. Obvious: the conventional bike lanes between Kings Hwy and Bryant are in the door zone.

    2. The “protected” bike lanes have shared zones as narrow as 7′, including the entrance at King’s Highway. This is both narrower than even a substandard 8′ MUP and has far more unforgiving sides (post on one, curb on other).

    3. The “protected” bike lanes provide no access to the marked and Bike Plan-designated bike lanes on SB Richfield Road — only to Lake Calhoun. To comply with posted signage, a bicyclist going west on 36th to south on Richfield would have to cross the intersection of 36th & Richfield Road three times.

    4. The two-stage left turn seems unrealistic, both due to the (long) timing of the light at 36th & King’s Hwy, and due to the fact that there isn’t much traffic on 36th. Even though that section has conventional bike lanes — and we teach people in conventional bike lanes to move to the left-center of the travel lane and signal to make a left turn — the intersection is pretending that there is a protected bike lane here.

    This facility provides the worst of all worlds: shoehorned-in door zone bike lanes for two blocks; a “protected” facility that encourages bicyclists to ride the wrong way and that provides them no more space than a sidewalk; and awkward, slow intersections.

    If this is what the implementation of the protected bikeway plan looks like, Minneapolis will become a harrowing place to ride a bike. (Fortunately, I don’t think it will… the quality of the facility planned on Washington, and the bridge projects on Franklin and Plymouth are dramatically better. Even 1st Ave N is leaps and bounds better.)

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman July 16, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      I’m not trying to say “It’s not worthwhile because I won’t use it”, but to me flimsy plastic bollards do not make a “protected” bikeway even if they call it that. Obviously other people are using it so it is worthwile, but I won’t ride unless there’s a concrete curb between me and cars.

      • Rosa July 17, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

        The bollards make it possible for bikes to change lanes to do things like turn left, though.

        And, really, the worst spots for safety are at cross streets, where there aren’t going to be barriers anyway.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig July 16, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

      In light of Sean’s #2, there’s also one of those uber-narrow zones between Irving and Humboldt, ostensibly to support a bus stop. Given that this is right across the street from both a driveway and alley entrance, they could’ve done a better job with this one.

      Agree with the poor transition at Richfield Rd.

      • Aaron Isaacs
        Aaron Isaacs July 17, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

        The narrow zones make the previously non-accessible bus stops accessible for wheelchairs. The one between Humboldt and Irving combined two closely-spaced stops into one. They in fact did a very good job.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary July 17, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

          How does narrowing to a paltry sidewalk width improve accessibility? It seems that the only beneficiary of the pullout is the motorist waiting behind the bus. (A situation that only occurs every half-hour or so at this point.)

          If the concern was a transit rider having to cross a designated bus space to board, they could have kept the width the same, but still marked it as a “mixing space” with the tan color and no designated markings. This would have afforded an awareness of other users without physically crunching them between two vertical hazards.

        • Adam Froehlig
          Adam Froehlig July 18, 2015 at 9:15 am #

          I’m with Sean on this one. You may have improved accessibility for those in wheelchairs desiring to go on the bus, but the current layout hampers accessibility for everyone else aside those in cars. There were much better ways to handle these bus stops (and the corners at Hennepin and Dupont) without drastically narrowing what is effectively a combined cycletrack/sidewalk.

          For example, given the relative non-use of the parking lane, and given that there is a driveway and alley access directly across from the Irving/Humboldt bus stop, the city could have easily shifted the traffic lanes north, kept the bus stop lane, and did something like this. True, this would require pedestrians crossing the bike lanes twice, but IMO that is much safer than constricting bikes and peds together to a 7ft-wide space.

          Something similar could also be done at the intersections at Hennepin and Dupont.

          As for the westbound connection to the bike lane at Dupont, what would’ve been better is for the city to put in a bike box.

    • John Holton July 19, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      I just rode it this weekend with two 7-year olds. I’m with Sean (and Monte!) on this one. This design needs to be improved significantly – as currently designed this is only for the ‘strong and fearless’ crowd.

      Those temporary plastic doohickies are clearly not sufficient when you are going Westbound with cars going 35-40 mph a few feet from you. There should be permanent planters or curb separations given you are going the opposite way of traffic. The multiple crossings of Kings, 36th, 36th again and Calhoun Parkway are very stressful and motivate the time-constrained to bypass the bike paths entirely.

      There is this oddly designed safety box of plastic bollards again at 36th and Calhoun where we waited dangerously for 2 cycles with cars flying by us in every direction turning on reds and so-on. I eventually just waited to cross Calhoun Pkwy illegally once the coast was clear – kids in tow. Ugh.

      My solution would be to raise the biking/walking area to curb height and incorporate the narrow/fake sidewalk into something more welcoming for both peds/bikes alike. Technically, they should extend this cycle track solution all the way West to Richfield Road – for bikes at a minimum.

      This path is a very important connection to all sorts of routes as there is no way to go West through the lakes other than a long recreationally-oriented pathway all around Lake Harriet.

      I wonder if there was a policy of those who designed these bike paths to bike them when there is at least a little traffic. Maybe this can’t be fixed immediately, but surely some on-the-road experience would inform them for future design work. As it is, folks will point to low seasonal counts and judge this a failure.

      One last comment – what can be done to open Lakewood to cyclists? It should really have access points on the South and East sides, particularly if the city is not generating property tax revenue.

  5. Rosa July 17, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    Here’s a question I can answer myself, when I have time, but is there a sign at 40th St & Bryant suggesting cutting north to 36th? Since 40th has the bridge over 35 and is a bike boulevard east of there?

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig July 18, 2015 at 7:04 am #

      There’s a bicycle-themed destination sign mounted to the stop sign pole, but I can’t make it out on GMSV.

  6. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini July 19, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    Not responding in-thread, but Sean’s depiction of the shared zones is incorrect. It’s 10 feet from curb to post. I definitely had gripes with the design of the bikeway (I even wrote a post on it), and certainly floating bus stops instead of pull-out zones would have been preferable to mixing zones. But to say 4 whole mixing zones – 10′ wide, on the side of the street where pedestrians mainly consist of recreational users and bus patrons – makes this barely-to-not an improvement for cyclists is crazy.

    Again, agreed the connection at the west end really stinks. Even waiting for 2 lights (and often a while just to enter the bike box) when headed west-bound isn’t great. I rarely see anyone using the westbound bike lane on Richfield Rd (like, maybe I’ve seen it once?), so I don’t really feel that connection is a huge miss.

    As to posts (Monte’s comment), I guess agree to disagree. How easy is it for a car to jump a curb at 30 mph? I’d say a MUP on a suburban road with no trees in the boulevard next to a 40mph travel lane is barely different than reflective posts. There’s not a ton of literature, but the safety benefits seem similar from what I’ve seen. Anecdotally, my wife will ride in a pole-protected lane but feels very iffy in door-zone painted lanes for more than a few blocks.

    In any case, I consider it a win. I’ve said it before, but I’ve seen kids, families, etc biking on this thing since implementation. Last summer and early fall, it was almost entirely 20-30 something males, and far fewer.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary July 19, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

      You’re right, Alex, it seems I exaggerated the number. I got that from the width of the pedestrian space, and when actually riding, you get the sense that the entire area merges into the area of the 7′ pedestrian space. Apparently 3′ remain.

      As you can see from this picture, however, 10 feet is not 10 feet. With a traditional MUP, 10 feet is usually pretty adequate for space. In this case, 2′ of the 10′ is literally a gutter. And there are harsh, unforgiving elements on either side of the total width — while a MUP would probably have a 6′ boulevard and a 1-2′ reaction distance on the property side.

      I agree with you about posts vs curbs — neither is likely to stop a determined car. But both create more of a physical sense of separation and enforcement.

      > “I rarely see anyone using the westbound bike lane on Richfield Rd (like, maybe I’ve seen it once?), so I don’t really feel that connection is a huge miss.”

      Richfield Road is the only place between Lake Street and 50th Street to get to Linden Hills — a 20-block gap. Not connecting to that bikeway seems like a huge miss, in my opinion. I’ve used it when riding from Uptown to Southdale area.

      > “In any case, I consider it a win. I’ve said it before, but I’ve seen kids, families, etc biking on this thing since implementation. Last summer and early fall, it was almost entirely 20-30 something males, and far fewer.”

      I would find this encouraging if the facility weren’t so obviously defective. Previously, bicyclists going uphill were able to use the full right-hand lane with faster vehicles having another full lane to pass them in. Going downhill, there was a wide shareable lane — although most kept up with traffic due to the grade. Successfully luring more timid bicyclists into using something that creates significantly more dangers than the previous condition is not a victory in my book.

      Lastly, I stopped and observed folks here for a while on Friday. All simply made the left turn from the travel lane at King’s Highway, with varying degrees of signaling/proper lane positioning. I’d be curious to know what proportion would bother with the two-stage turn.