An alternative design for Park and Portland

The Minneapolis Bike Coalition has put forward their preferred design for a redesigned Park & Portland (for background on these streets, see here and here).  Full disclosure: I helped with the street rendering. From the Bike Coalition blog:

Key features:

  • Remove a traffic lane that isn’t needed. The core of this proposal is transforming one of the car lanes into space that adds to the neighborhood, pedestrian, and bicycling environments. Park and Portland are both currently three lanes in each direction; yet, they carry no more than 13,000 cars a day at any point (and much less at most points). Basically, that means that there is one wasted car lane. It’s not needed to move cars. Have you noticed that there is never any congestion on these roads except periodically where cars are turning? It’s not your imagination! These roads were built before there was an Interstate 35W, and there simply isn’t the traffic demand to warrant 3 lanes each. With a 11 feet of extra space to play with (the width of one of the traffic lanes), there is plenty of space for transformation!
  • Move the bike lane to the right side and use the parked cars as a protective buffer. The existing 5-foot left-side bike lanes are not a very comfortable place for most cyclists, and there are common safety problems where drivers turn left. We propose moving the bike lane to the right–where drivers have come to expect cyclists to be. And we propose moving the bike lane between the curb and the parked cars. This is similar to the bike lanes on 1st Avenue North, although this would be much better. There is more space (when we take the lane), so there can be a wide bike lane and an adjacent buffer zone to prevent worries about dooring from the parked cars. Well-designed parking protected bike lanes in other cities have drastically increased biking and improved safety. To greatly reduce the likelihood of drivers parking in the bike lane, we’d strongly recommend using flexible posts to clearly separate the bicycling area. Note that we recognize that intersection treatments will be important to successfully implementing such a design safely–intersections have been done well elsewhere and they certainly can be on Park and Portland.
  • Provide planters on the right side of the street to extend pedestrian realm. One of the challenges with providing parking protected bike lanes on Park and Portland is that there is an existing 6.5-foot wide concrete edge on either side of the road that isn’t in great condition and would mean a rough bike ride if there were bike lanes there. While the road is being repaved this year, repavings do not include concrete area, so it will stay rough. We propose getting around that while greatly enhancing the attractiveness of these roads by using the right-side concrete area as a place for planters. A lot could be done with them–they could become community garden space, or just have flowers. They could also be removable if the County prefers to take them out in the winter to ease snow maintenance.

Benefits:

  • Greatly improved bicycle environment that would attract more cyclists
  • Traffic calming
  • More green space and potential community garden space
  • Reduced pedestrian crossing distances because of the planters

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9 Responses to An alternative design for Park and Portland

  1. Robert Lilligren May 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    I love these ideas. My one suggestion would be shifting the bike lane to the left side of Park Ave. Additional bike safety would be provided by the reduction in car lanes, the painted buffer and the car parking. If the bike lane is on the right side of Park, bikers will still have to cross two lanes of car traffic to access the Midtown Greenway entrance ramp, much like today's unsafe conditions southbound on Portland Ave.

  2. mulad May 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    One idea I've had is to have bike lanes on one of the streets and exclusive bus lanes on the other. In each case, there would be bi-directional lanes (well, one lane in the one-way direction of flow and a contraflow lane on the opposite side). I suspect that whichever street got the bus lanes wouldn't be able to have parking on both sides (though hopefully there'd be enough room on one side).

    • Matt May 11, 2012 at 2:55 am #

      I like the idea, but I'm not sure we need buses on Park and Portland. Local routes are on Fourth and Chicago, and crosstown/ltd stop routes are going to connect to 35W BRT in the future to connect downtown.

    • Ian Bicking May 14, 2012 at 6:13 am #

      There's very few destinations directly on Park and Portland, so there's not a strong need for a bus line there. Chicago Avenue is nearby, and while that bus is very slow it's not because of congestion from what I can tell.

  3. hokan May 11, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    For this cycletrack option to work the signals would have to provide for separate phases for motorists and for cyclists on Park and Portland. Given those separate phases, the question of left or right side doesn't matter so much.

  4. Andrew May 11, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    I like it. Scaling down Park & Portland from the asphalt moats there are now to something more human-sized is really needed.

    Maybe in the long-term they could even revert them back from one-way to two-way streets. As an earlier article pointed out these pre-freeway one-ways aren't really necessary anymore since we have interstates.

  5. Dave May 11, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    Will the parking lanes be turn lanes at intersections? It seems like the congestion would be much worse if there are only two traffic lanes and no separated turn infrastructure.

    I like the physical separation for the bike lane, it would make that a much more enjoyable bike route. However, there is too much space allocated between the sidewalk and the bike lane. This is not a heavy commercial area, it's mostly residential. I would anticipate this space being underutilized.

  6. Phil May 11, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Excellent. Now, what are the odds that we see this?

  7. Ian Bicking May 14, 2012 at 6:23 am #

    I'm not sure how the planters would be maintained. Planters need to be watered during dry or hot times of the year for instance. Who would do that? We don't typically ask residents to go quite that far with boulevard maintenance, and even if we do ask them many won't do so, and then we'll just have a bunch of dead plants in planters. I do like the general concept though – it also gives a place for detritus to collect, as it tends to go to the edges of the road and if you place the bike lane at the edge you're then biking through leaves and sticks and the remains of snow piles, etc. But you'd still need street cleaning at some point, and the planters would get in the way of that.

    I'm glad this plan sticks to one-way roads. This gives the most room, with no need for turn lanes, and in my opinion makes the roads easier to navigate for pedestrians and bikes – the timing of lights and turns can make it quite hard to cross a two-way road. While there are quite a few accidents currently on these streets, the ones I've heard about seem mostly to be from turning into the bike lane? That in turn might be the fault of left-side lanes, and that arrangement was made possible by the roads being one-way, but the actual chain of causation from one-way streets to those accidents can be broken at any point.

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