Protected Bikeways Are Happening, and Many Are On Board: A Recap of the East Lake Open Streets Event

Sunday, July 24th, 2016 was East Lake’s energizing and action-packed Open Streets event. A day filled with fun activities dedicated to the community’s unity without the presence of motorizeimagesd traffic. Numerous aligned streets are blocked off by barricades for roughly six hours to enjoy the rarity of motorized absence. Naturally, Open Streets also brings up the community’s street safety with the absence of vehicles from the picture. It’s a glimpse into what the streets could look and feel like with more bicyclists on the road and smarter bikeway infrastructure. I gladly signed up to be a volunteer for the host of the event, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition for their Bikeways for Everyone installation.

As a strong bicycle enthusiast, I jumped at the chance to volunteer for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s “Bikeways for Everyone” installation. This street installation displays what a protected bike lane on Minneapolis’s city streets would look and feel like for bicyclists to ride on. The protected bike lane is realistically placed on the blocked-off street for Open Street attendees to try out on their bicycles (below photo). The installation is about a fourth of a city block long and dressed-up with objects like colorful flower pots to physically protect bicyclists from the traffic lanes. The protected lanes are roughly the same width as realistic bike lanes seen already on Minneapolis’s streets. Volunteers are seen throughout the installation encouraging bikers to enter, cheering bicyclists on as they ride through, and greeting bicyclists at the end to high-five and have bicyclists sign a postcard to support more protected bike lanes in Minneapolis.

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As I work outside for most of the week, I’m used to being outside for long periods of time. I am also a huge fan of the East Lake neighborhood, it’s a neighborhood I pass through frequently and went to high school in. I gladly signed up for two consecutive shifts, 1-3:30pm and 3:15-5:30pm. Having volunteered at the installation for a little over four hours, I noticed an overarching theme. Most everyone I observed and spoke with from the community and beyond was a fan of the temporary protected bikeway. I don’t think this was the fact that we were across the way from the most mouthwatering authentic taco stand on the block, either.

Bicyclist’s positive reactions throughout the lane and especially at the end were eye-opening. Bicyclists were very joyful and excited to have experienced such a different and new kind of bike lane. One they said felt comfortable riding with their kids, friends, and family through. Most bicyclists said they could see this in their community and wanted to know more information about how it works. There was almost no hesitation to fill out a postcard to their city council memf6706c20dd4dc56777_ulm6ivwthbers to encourage more. Bicyclists even wrote small side notes to the council members with strong emphasis to get protected bike lanes into their communities, and fast. I even got two folks to sign while walking out of a small business near by, they loved how the bike lane looked on their street. As I do some canvassing professionally, I seldom see this level of engagement.

Opposition to the Bikeways for Everyone installation was not high. Out of hundreds of people I saw or spoke with, only a small count had negative words to share. I specifically remember a man yelling on his bicycle going past, “you’re ruining the roads with these!”. But he was on a bicycle himself. I could only wonder if he longed for safer bikeways when he was bicycling and safer street design when driving a vehicle. Out of most opposition were questions. Like, how is this going to work? What streets would even be fit for this? Good Questions.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, the bicyclist leaders in charge of putting on all Open Streets events, created the Bikeways for Everyone camm-haha-cycletrack_mainpaign in 2013 to raise awareness for protected bikeways in Minneapolis. This campaign supports building 30+ new miles of well-designed protected bikeways by the end of the year 2020 to create an expanded citywide bicycle system (below photo). The idea of the protected bikeways is to provide a dedicated space for bicyclists to bike on that is physically protected from moving motorized traffic. This separation gives bicyclists the sense of comfort, safety, and space needed to enjoy a commute or recreational ride. The end result would be a system that improves public health, reduces pollution and car usage, attracts people to the city, strengthens small and large businesses, and adds advanced green spaces to Minneapolis communities.

So far, the Bikeways for Everyone campaign has got a lot completed. With the goal to install 30+ miles of protected bikeways in Minneapolis by the end of the year 2020, 26th and 28th Street East were repaved in 2015 and decked out with bollard-protected bikebikeways-map-june-2015 lanes from the cross-streets Portland to Hiawatha Ave. What this means for bicyclists is now there is a one-way protected bikeway on each street going East to West Minneapolis. If a bicyclist wants to head East they would take the 28th Street one-way bikeway and West on the 26th Street bikeway. Putting these two one-way bikeways together creates a one-way pair that complement each other. Simple and easy. And safe! These same bikeways are looking to be extended even further to Hennepin Avenue by the end of 2020. For more of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition’s future bikeway projects visit: http://www.bikewaysforeveryone.org/future_projects.

I am proud of where Minneapolis is going with bicycle infrastructure. With the positive reactions and enthusiasm of bicyclists test-riding protected bikeways and the success of already-installed bollard-protected bikeways, I can say I’m genuinely excited for Minneapolis’s bicycling future. Volunteering at the East Lake Open Streets made me realize that I’m not the only one who wants change for our street safety. That many others want to see every street lined with protected bikeways so bicyclists have safety. It’s not a matter of who gets most of the road anymore or if one lane is making it slower for others. It’s how we share it and divide it to make it safer for everyone. 30+ miles of new protected bikeways by the end of the year 2020 is a great goal. But notice there’s a plus-sign on the end of that 30, meaning we can always do more.

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Thanking the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition for setting up such a fun, engaging event for each community. Open Streets is growing every year, and I will continue to be apart of it. Thank you to Bikeways for Everyone as well for having such a awesome, enlightening pop-up installation.

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6 Responses to Protected Bikeways Are Happening, and Many Are On Board: A Recap of the East Lake Open Streets Event

  1. GlowBoy August 17, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    I attended East Lake Open Streets, and enjoyed it a lot. Much better attended than the Lyndale event I went to last year. I like that Minneapolis does these events on busy commercial streets; as a Portland expat, I find that a better approach than Portland’s Sunday Parkways events, which tends to wind around through residential areas. Both have their merits, but having it on East Lake gets a lot more involvement with the businesses on the street.

    I rode the demo protected bike lane at Open Streets. Loved it, of course, and thanks for volunteering. What’s nice in Minneapolis is that we can actually ride real protected bike lanes every day in quite a few places; in Portland, which has an excellent network of conventional bike lanes in the central city, there are still very few protected lanes, though they’re finally starting to get going on more.

    In Minneapolis, I especially look forward to the extension of the 26th/28th protected bike lane couplet west of Portland Ave – which would be possibly more useful to me than the segment that exists so far, giving me a better route from my Diamond Lake home to Uptown/Wedge destinations that aren’t convenient from the Greenway. And downtown is still a dicey area to ride, with too many construction bike-lane closures and too many of the existing bike lanes on the left side and/or substandard width (not to mention the outrageous 30mph speed limit for cars), so protected lanes will be welcome there too.

  2. Nicole August 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    I like the 28th/26th lanes but without extending over the freeway I don’t find them that useful. There is no protected bike lane between the Greenway and 40th St. to get across 35W, not to mention further north. It’s so frustrating!

    • Rosa August 21, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

      Yes, that is really really frustrating! The overall lack of north-south lanes is a problem, both directions from the Greenway – the lack of infrastructure on the 17th Ave “Bike Boulevard” north through Phillips is pretty bad, too.

      But I thought the plan was to extend the 26th-28th protected lanes west when the next sections of the street are repaved?

      I wasn’t for the protected lanes before they were put in – I thought (and in many ways still think) what we really need is more stops along 26th-28th to allow people to go north/south across them, pedestrians and cyclists both. But using them really is a joy and has gotten me back off the Greenway when I don’t have the kid with me – especially when I’ve worked late and the speed/lighting/lower chance of crime are factors. Several times this summer I’ve worked late on weekend nights and, coming home, seen more cyclists than cars along Portland/28th.

  3. Louis August 20, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    Love the protected lanes but the plastic poles are ugly ugly ugly…I notice the sample bike lanes use nice planters. Bait and switch! This is becoming a blight on the city as we’re inundated with dirty broken poles.

  4. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell August 21, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Great post Alice. I wish I could have been there.

    The guy on his bike that didn’t like the protected bikeway may well have been a vehicular cyclist or bicycle driver. They are against infrastructure like this because they fear that where it exists they will be forced to use it and be prevented from riding in the main traffic lanes with cars. Likewise they prefer painted door zone bike lanes rather than parking protected bikeways because a DZBL allows them to use the main traffic lane when desired.

    I understand where they are coming from where it pertains to poorly designed protected bikeways. I don’t like riding on these either. But protected bikeways can be built in a way that allows faster cyclists to use them. These are those built to Dutch CROW standards. Dutch bikeways are so well designed that when they’ve tried to encourage faster and racing cyclists to use some roads instead to reduce bikeway congestion they’ve not been able to get them to do so. Mopeds and scooters also prefer the bikeways.

    I’d much rather see the vehicular cyclists and bicycle drivers join us and fight for well designed protected bikeways that benefit everyone rather than fight against them to selfishly protect their right to the road. Fortunately an increasing number seem to be doing so. We’ve a ways to go though.

  5. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman August 21, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    Or else he only rides his bike during open streets events or on say the parkway trails on weekends, and drives a car the rest of the time. There’s people in Bloomington, not the majority but some, that are complaining that the road diets here are “ruining the roads” which is why the city is treading carefully and not signing the shoulders for bicycle use and instead promoting it as “traffic calming” rather than “bicycle infrastructure”.