Bikes and Businesses Must Unite

Like the Streets.mn Voter Guide, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has posted answers to bicycling related questions posed to city council and mayoral candidates. Question six asks “when would you vote against or overrule a BAC recommendation?” I read those responses carefully, and as expected, most candidates didn’t really take that one on or provide a concrete example. I have one. If I were running for office, my answer would be “when it removes on-street parking, particularly in commercial zones, and especially when that loss of on-street parking hurts small businesses.”

Increased cycling has many benefits to the city and local businesses, and as a cyclist I believe we must continue exploring new bike routes and on-street solutions for cyclists. But on-street parking is and may always be a valuable asset to cities, and too often we acquiesce to moving traffic and sacrifice on-street parking instead, and I think that is a mistake. Not all properties in Minneapolis and elsewhere were developed with ample off-street parking. Some have none. A great number of businesses and residents rely on it. Thus, removing it for a bike lane is can actually hurt small businesses, making the city less livable. The answer is not to build more parking lots (many planning departments agree). I don’t know about you, but one of the wonderful aspects of cycling in the city is the many small businesses as destinations. I don’t want that to change.

During a community planning meeting for the RiverLake Greenway, I spoke up with concerns that a commercial node that includes Chris & Rob’s was losing parking, cautioning that lost on-street parking would not be good for business. (Here is my post from that time) I advocated for an alternative like sharrows or some combination of narrower driving and bicycle lanes in order to preserve that valuable on-street parking. Alas, a sensible solution is elusive because of the “Standard.” According to road standards, the volume of traffic along 42nd Street requires a certain lane width which precluded sharrows. “Why not relax that regulation a little to allow for sharrows or painted lanes?” I asked. “Because we have to move traffic,” I was told. I then suggested that this portion of the route simply have signage but no alteration to the right-of-way; no bike lane, no sharrow, no lost parking. After all, just two blocks to the east the bike route to this day is just signage because it crosses Hiawatha Avenue, a state highway, and no suitable solution could be found that fit within MnDOT rules. (see image below for 42nd Street today – Chris & Rob’s at right)

IMG_20130423_185356_369

I visited Chris & Rob’s a few months after the Riverlake bike lane was in and No Parking signs up across the street (the direction of travel from which most customers arrive), and they showed me how business fell off by 15% the DAY the No Parking went in to effect. I visited them again yesterday and that loss of revenue has persisted. So bravo – it worked! Traffic is moving as smoothly as before on 42nd Street, but more if it is passing Chris & Rob’s without stopping. And Chris & Rob’s is now considering purchasing a nearby vacant lot to be used for surface parking (I don’t think this is the outcome the city, county or neighborhood would really prefer).

I was also told at the community meeting that the hoped-for outcome of the bike lane is to encourage more cycling to businesses. As someone who already cycles to Chris & Rob’s, I don’t buy this argument. Maybe some day the modal split will be so, but I don’t believe in hurting the income of a business in the meantime while hoping more customers will arrive by bike on what remains an unpleasant biking street.

On-street parking isn’t just a necessity, it is also an asset. It slows the traffic by placing parked vehicles closer to moving cars, and also provides a real and perceived buffer between moving traffic and the sidewalk, making pedestrians feel safer as well as making them safer from errant drivers.

I’m not the only one who thinks this – Jeff Speck explicitly points out in his book Walkable City that bike lanes and transit lanes should never displace on-street parking, just moving traffic lanes. I wholeheartedly agree.

Bikes aren’t to blame here, and the last thing I want to suggest is that we must choose between bikes and businesses. In fact, well-placed bicycle lanes (and parking) is good for business. I want cycling to be part of the city. What is to blame is the “Standard,” the expectation that free-flowing automobile traffic is a right rather than a choice, and traffic engineers’ ability to set of guidelines for lane widths, speeds and clear zones. Cyclists and businesses must form a stronger alliance to fight the real enemy – the “standard.” Unfortunately the standard for moving traffic is entrenched while urbanism doesn’t yet have a recognized standard, and while we allow traffic engineers to have the final say, all in the name of making roads safer by moving cars faster, when in fact the opposite is true.

20-30-40 MPH

Even if you hate bikes, you have to admit that slower-moving cars are more likely to stop at a business they are driving by. And I’m not proposing blocking traffic (although in some cases that is a very good idea!), but rather the powers that be need to relax their standard just a bit – allow narrower lane widths, slower speed limits, something. The solution is so easy and realistic it should be possible. A better, more complete street would likely have the opposite affect and increase business.

To compound things, just this past week the city put up No Parking signs two blocks west of Chris & Rob’s along 42nd Street, in front of two more small businesses, one of which (the Nokomis Pet Clinic) has no off-street parking (see image above). All because the parking lane was yet again displaced by a bicycle lane.

IMG_20130412_151656_890

To the city and county’s credit, working with input from our neighborhood association, 42nd Street striping within one block of commercial nodes at Cedar and 28th Avenues shifts to preserve critical on-street parking (effectively a sharrow situation), but businesses like Chris & Rob’s and Nokomis Pet Clinic lose theirs. This inequity must be corrected. Bikes aren’t the problem – road standards are. Sure you say, try fighting the various levels of officials and engineers who can cling to road standards, good luck with that. Well, that is precisely the fight we have to pick if we are to have a meaningful breakthrough on improving the urbanism of our cities so biking and small businesses can thrive. For now, I’m asking nicely; can we please restore on street parking on both sides of 42nd Street in front of businesses?

So that, my friends, is where I as a city council member might go against a recommendation of the BAC. But that doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is, for all the wonderful improvements the city has made with regard to biking, some are already or threatening to affect local business. Like I said, I comes to a decision between bikes and businesses, don’t make the false choice, make the right one. What good is a Complete Streets policy if there’s nothing along those streets? It’s time the lanes of moving traffic gave up something.

This is crossposted at Joe Urban.

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37 Responses to Bikes and Businesses Must Unite

  1. Andrew April 24, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Nicely put. I hate the mindset that to let bikes use the road you have to displace parking or transit. As if the lanes of car travel are some sort of sacred space that only moving cars may ever possibly use.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      At nearly 10,000 vehicles per day, the standard requires a separate lane. Jeff Speck’s book also points out that if every faction had their way (road engineers, cyclists, parking lanes, tree canopies and pedestrians) streets would need to be 175 feet wide. You see the problem here – something has to give. I’m not proposing that we stop the traffic, but merely share the road in a more sensible way.

  2. helsinki April 24, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    “What is to blame is … the expectation that free-flowing automobile traffic is a right rather than a choice.”

    A very succinct description of the root of so many problems.

    This article nicely highlights the goofiness of the assumption that the purpose of streets is to move cars quickly. If there is nothing along the street, as the author notes, it doesn’t matter all that much how quickly traffic “flows” – that street is a failure.

  3. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Right! How successful can a commercial node be if it is easier to drive past than stop? Like John Norquist says, “like cholesterol, there is both good and bad traffic congestion.” Slower moving cars can be a very healthy thing for urbanism.

  4. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary April 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    I disagree, for the most part. Minneapolis often excessively prioritizes on-street parking along major streets, at the expense of cyclists — and pedestrians, too. While I obviously agree that on-street parking is preferable to off-street lots, there is no reason why more parking can not be diverted to local streets (which have no need for specialized bike lanes, or even two full travel lanes). While parked cars do provide some buffer from traffic, so does a well-designed boulevard. Even worse, Minneapolis routinely marks parking spots that are illegally close to crosswalks and traffic signals, impairing sight lines and endangering pedestrians.

    While I agree that the “Standard” can be problematic, it’s rarely cars that suffer when the Minneapolis fudges the Standard. On S 1st Ave, 70% of the bike lane is within the door zone of parked cars, because both the bike lane and parking lane were narrowed. On N 1st Ave, the bike lane disappears altogether for about 20 feet to accommodate a bump-out at Target Center.

    As to E 42nd: I genuinely do not understand how Chris & Rob’s can be suffering that badly, when they’re located at the corner of 42nd (which still has parking on one side) and 31st Ave (which has parking on both). A sharrow approach would be fine by me, but it would make the RiverLake greenway less attractive to the users for whom it is really intended — cyclists who are intimidated by other east-west thoroughfares.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

      Sean, I can only speculate as to why Chris & Rob’s is suffering so badly, but maybe because more customers arrive from Hiawatha Avenue, and coming from that direction there is no on-street parking in front of the store. Your guess is as good as mine, but it seems as though the loss of parking impacted the revenue of the business.

    • Jeff Klein April 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      I agree. Not only do we allow cars to dominate every street, but then even self-described urbanists want to preseve two entire lanes on every street for cars that aren’t even moving! Cars should be slowly disappearing as we bulid our city for the next century. The street should be dominated by pedestrians and bikes and not have a huge portion of its use be stopped traffic. Wouldn’t a better street be created by positioning the occasional half-block surface parking behind the businesses? As much as we hate surface lots, the cars are going reduce density whether they’re on the street or behind the business – they simply take up space. Better to have them out of of sight.

  5. Brendon Slotterback
    Brendon Slotterback April 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    There are multiple levels of government that need to be pushed or pushing for changes to the standards – city, county and state. Access Minneapolis seems to say that 10.5 foot lanes are acceptable in this circumstance since space for a bike lane and a parking lane is desired.

    http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@publicworks/documents/webcontent/convert_283657.pdf (see page 5-6)

    If that’s not what we’re getting, than the City is not following it’s own plan and more advocacy needs to happen. Likewise, MNDOT theoretically has a complete streets policy, and should be open to variances.

    While the anecdote from Chris & Rob’s is valuable, especially since they are the only business in this location, new research out of New York City using sales tax data shows that most locations that had pedestrian and cycling infrastructure improvements (like protected bikeways) performed as well if not better than neighborhood comparable and the rest of their borough after the improvements. (This isn’t technically public, but I’ve seen it in like three public webinars so I’ll share it). Research out of Oregon also shows that cyclists tend to spend more than drivers when visiting businesses.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Brendon, one hitch is this is a county road, so that may overrule the city’s standard. But your question is a good one – is the county following its complete streets policy?

      As for the anecdote – this node actually has four business spaces. The other three are a kettlebells center, barber and a vacant space. And there are three other businesses between 29th and Nokomis Av that have lost some parking, so really this impacts six businesses and might make filling a seventh harder.

      Lastly, the research you point to is valuable and I believe cycletracks and other improvements, done well, can actually increase business, and we should use this data to advocate for cycling improvements in the city. For example, a cycletrack on Minnehaha Avenue would benefit businesses, I believe, as long as on-street parking isn’t impacted. But nowhere in this research did I find that bike facilities took the place of on-street parking. I’d love to see research that controls for this.

      Mathematically what is happening on 42nd Street makes some sense – removing 5 to 10 parking spaces results in 15% fewer customers, and any increase in cycling on 42nd has not replaced those lost dollars yet, and maybe never will? Had on-street parking not been affected but conditions improved some other way for biking on 42nd, yes, perhaps revenue would actually go up, but that hasn’t happened.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary April 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Except the “math” pre-supposes that if a parking spot vanishes, a customer vanishes, too. Personally, there are very few businesses I would avoid because of inconvenient access or parking — limited to truly convenience businesses, where they’re roughly all the same, like fast food or gas stations.

      And the rules are stricter for a County State Aid Highway, but not because of the county, but rather because state law sets the standards. In terms of lane width, they should be the same as a Municipal State Aid street (12′ preferred, 11′ acceptable in urban areas). It is, however, often easier to get an exception for an MSA street.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

        Sean, I agree – in fact I’ll park farther away in some situations, but perhaps we’re the exception. It appears that 15% of those customers don’t see parking in the same light.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary April 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

        I guess I’m just skeptical of their claimed cause-and-effect. Business owners have been known to cry wolf on almost any type of infrastructure project, on any scale, from routine maintenance to major design changes. (The most notorious example is the owner of a certain rare and used book store on University, who’s had his windows plastered in anti-LRT signage for over a decade.)

        That’s not to say that this business has not suffered at all, but I would like to see some experimentation by an objective third party. Since they claim that business suffered the same day, one could easily experiment with future bike lane installations by adding/removing no parking signs and asking the business to document any adverse effects. (During the experimental time, the parking lane would become a bike-only shoulder. If successful, permanent signage would be added.)

  6. hokan April 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    While I agree that we need a more flexible approach to road standards, I’d hate to see a bikelane shoehorned into the space between a narrow parking bay and a narrow general travel lane.

    There are some in the city advocating for a 10-5-7 (general travel, bike, parking) lane configuration. Thankfully the standards don’t allow such nonsense. Such close quarters would be really scary.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Indeed, but would 10-5-7 make more sense if the speed limit was 25 or 20? I know that’s crazy-talk, but it might be the most logical solution to restore business revenue.

  7. Brendon Slotterback
    Brendon Slotterback April 24, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    What has happened to receipts at the other businesses?

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg April 24, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Good question. I don’t know. One was a vintage clothing store and it closed, but they weren’t open long and I can’t say whether parking was a factor. The Kettlebells has been there for at least two, perhaps as many as four years, and I have not inquired as to whether the lost parking was detrimental. The fourth business space was an acupuncturist, and they moved a year ago for other reasons. That space is now a barber that opened after the parking was lost anyway – plus they face 31st Av and barbers have pretty low traffic so perhaps it is less of an issue for them. And for the three businesses between 29th and Nokomis, the No Parking signs just went up, so it’s too early to tell.

  8. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins April 24, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    I’m glad to see a post on streets.mn arguing against bike lanes. It’s good to see an opposing viewpoint around here, even if I don’t fully agree that parking should always be a higher priority than bike infrastructure.

    Here’s a question, though. What about sidewalks? What if the circumstances asked us whether we wanted to prioritize pedestrian space or on-street parking? Is the parking still your top priority? If not, why is dedicated space for pedestrians a priority, but not dedicated space for bikes?

    • hokan April 25, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      With the environment we have today, pedestrians need sidewalks … and so do businesses because however customers get to the area, they always walk into the store. Sidewalks separate traffic that is much slower than other traffic (and often the drivers of that faster traffic are oblivious when faced with pedestrians).

      On the other hand, providing a road with no dedicated space at all might work well in many situations. A very low speed limit, no sidewalks or bike lanes (no lanes at all). A fully shared space on roads with a high density of destinations could work really well and be fun too.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg April 25, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      I’m not arguing against bike lanes, I am arguing against driving lanes. I don’t think parking should take priority over bike infrastructure, but I do think they BOTH should take priority over moving lanes of automobile traffic. So to your question, no, I would not prioritize parking over pedestrian space, either. Part of the problem lies in what is already there – sidewalk, parking and driving lanes – and trying to add space for biking when there is no actual space to ADD. Therefore, I just think parking should not be sacrificed, but rather space in the driving lanes (or the speed limit) should.

      The problem, as I see it, is we’re up against a very inflexible road standard. That’s why the title of the post implores business and bicyclists to unite on this issue, to slay the real dragon of road and lane standards, since they are written to benefit only moving traffic and not the context around it.

  9. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg April 25, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    We’re not alone. San Francisco is dealing with this -http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2013/04/polk_street_showdown_bike_lanes_versus_parking_local_op.html , and Washington DC – http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/18592/bonds-mara-wouldnt-sacrifice-parking-for-a-bike-lane/.

    Here is a FHWA paper that deals with the issue – http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/PED_BIKE/univcourse/pdf/swless20.pdf. Note on page 5 where they discuss that removal of parking can cause mom and pop businesses to close.

  10. Ethan Fawley April 26, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Ah standards and speed limits. I strongly agree that both should be more flexible.

    MnDOT did recently change state aid standards to be more flexible for streets with on-road bicycle lanes, but it only got about 40% of where I wanted. At some point, I’ll work to get to national standards, which interestingly enough, MnDOT just–more or less–adopted for state highways last year. Details here on state aid changes: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/stateaid/BikePathRules/On-Road-BikePath.pdf

    Since it sounds like 42nd has fewer than 10k cars per day, they could now do a 11-5-7 configuration or 10-6-8. I don’t know the width here, but that could make a difference (although probably not based on the pictures).

    As for speed limits, state law says that the speed limit could be lowered to 25 mph since the street now has a bike lane. Without the bike lane, the minimum is 30 mph. So, Sam, you could start a petition drive of local businesses and residents to encourage the county to lower the speed limit to 25. I don’t know if it is in place yet, but the City was planning to do 25 on 15th Avenue SE in Dinkytown.

    I would like to give cities the option to go down to 20 mph on local residential streets and 15 mph if there is traffic calming and may pursue that next legislative session. But I would not try hitting county roads as the city option will be hard enough to get through.

    On a side note, I find perceptions of bike safety interesting. Hokan, who I know well and is a very experienced cyclist, is scared of 10-5-7, although it has proven to work well in other places (closest being Chicago). There is a 10-5-7 on 24th (when they actually get the bike lane painted back in) and I personally find it to be better than if there were no bike lane. But, whether it is 10-5-7 or 11-6-8, we know that most people are intimidated to ride in a standard bike lane on a street like 42nd, especially if it is next to on-street parking.

    Ramble complete…

  11. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    A few thoughts:

    1) Business owners also want high traffic rates, for some reason. I think the real conversation to have w/ business owners is that high (speed) traffic flows past their shops is NOT good for business. (e.g. Snelling Avenue, Broadway Avenue, N Dale Street, Lyndale Avenue S). Rather, slow speeds and walkable streets are good for business.

    2) I don’t think setting up a zero-sum game b/w bike lanes and on-street parking is your point, Sam, but that seems to be how this argument is often understood. Maybe we need to ask whether this conversation is counterproductive. (Speck’s argument has similar unintended consequences.) It’s important to repeatedly, repeatedly emphasize that the goal is to reduce traffic speeds to <30 mph. Then say it again.

    3) Like Sean, I'm skeptical about the Chris and Robs example. It reminds me of my recurring conversation with a jazz club owner in St Paul, who still says to this day that the smoking ban killed his business. (If ever there was an example of near-universal acclaim for a top-down regulation, it has to be that.) If people aren't willing to park on the opposite side of the street to get a hot dog, something is pretty wrong with the customer.

    In any case, lowering vehicle speeds is the key to a lot of inter-linked problems. I think of Selby Ave in St Paul, which IMO should be a model of a Twin Cities' commercial street. (Nicollet-East Street is my Minneapolis example.) It doesn't have bike lanes, but is good for biking, walking, parking. Drivers proceed slowly, rarely above 30 mph. Drivers defer to more vulnerable modes. Business is booming. On-street parking is easily available.

    42nd would need narrowing, bumpouts, etc. if it wanted to achieve a similar win-win-win scenario. That should be the sole focus of the conversation. Forget the bike lane.

  12. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg April 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    I’ll look in to these ideas. Thanks Ethan!

  13. minneapolisite April 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    It really boils down to street design > bike lanes. Bike lanes can be better in some scenarios, but if a street is designed for calmed traffic the legal speed limit becomes irrelevant because motorists by and large drive based on what the street “tells” them to. A street could have a 35MPH posted speed limit, but if there are highly frequent stops and narrow lanes cyclists will feel more comfortable there than on a road that has few stops and a posted 25 MPH speed limit which is easily exceeded because they don’t have to stop very often. Between the two, the latter would actually *need* bike lines more than the former.

    I don’t know of any local examples, but in Downtown Columbus Gay St used to be a one-way 35 MPH three lane one-way timed for rush hour traffic to pass through as quickly as possible. Back then it was full of vacant commercial spaces. It went two-way (accompanied by the pun of Gay going both ways) and had one travel lane removed for a raised median, maintained on-street parking, had some serious bump-outs installed on each intersection, signals re-timed for stop go traffic. There is no posted speed limit and no bike lanes or sharrows, yet is one of the most biked/bike-friendly commercial streets in the city. Occupancy of retail storefronts along the two-block commercial stretch is now 100% last time I checked. Unfortunately, the Ohio/Midwest syndrome has meant that even 6 years later after this has proven to be a huge success it has not been replicated elsewhere in the city nor are there plans to do so. If you go down south a few blocks to Main Street which parallels Gay St it’s still a one-way thoroughfare and businesses are either struggling or have closed: the disparity couldn’t be clearer for which is more business-friendly.

    The main point to get across for urban businesses is that in an urban setting a bike-friendly street is also a business-friendly street. Otherwise your street may be a decent option for suburban commuters to use as an alternative to bypass the city, but is that the kind of traffic a business wants to attract?

  14. minneapolisite April 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Oh, I also forgot to mention something I haven’t seen here, but have seen at a few destination spots in Columbus, including a bar-restaurant on Gay St. Cyclists get special discounts: $2 PBR or a $1 tap beers, etc. You have to have to bring in your helmet or messenger bag (it’s not a perfect system) and voila. The city of Mpls does subsidize the cost to install bike parking too, if that’s an issue. If Chris & Rob’s is still averaging a 15% loss of revenue it might not hurt to attract cyclists instead of complain about the bike lanes already, especially since they’ve yet to see what changes the weather is bringing let alone the long-term effects.

  15. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg May 3, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I’m happy to announce the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association (SENA) Business, Development and Transportation (BDT) committee has recommended a solution for 42nd Street between approximately Hiawatha and 28th Avenues that restores on-street parking on both sides in a 10-5-7 striping scheme coupled with a 25MPH speed limit.

    Thank you Ethan Fawley for insight as to what various levels of government allow and for precedents for this approach. Now for the hard part – convincing elected officials and transportation engineers to implement this – we’re interested in starting this conversation.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg May 10, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      Hennepin County has agreed to remove the No Parking sign directly across 42nd Street from Chris & Rob’s. The good news is the County is listening to our concerns. But this is just a first step in what we at SENA hope is a 10-5-7 solution.

      • Alex May 10, 2013 at 9:50 am #

        Are they removing the bike lane or just the no parking sign? It amounts to the same thing, of course, assuming the legislative prohibition on parking in bike lanes fails.

        • hokan May 10, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

          Under current law, if there’s a bike lane then parking in that lane is not permitted. A bike lane is a subset of travel lanes called “preferential lanes”. Different from a general-purpose lane only in the nature of the traffic that is to use the lane. In this way a bike lanes is like a bus lane or HOV lane.

          Parking is already not permitted in travel lanes.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary May 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

          Hokan, this is a principle that is not widely agreed upon, and one which I reject personally. State statute doesn’t really say one way or the other what a bike lane is. It says:

          Subd. 5.Bicycle lane. “Bicycle lane” means a portion of a roadway or shoulder designed for exclusive or preferential use by persons using bicycles. Bicycle lanes are to be distinguished from the portion of the roadway or shoulder used for motor vehicle traffic by physical barrier, striping, marking, or other similar device.

          If we were to consider bike lanes to be travel lanes, then bicyclists would presumably be required to ride in them, if “practicable”. Considering them to be shoulders, specifically designed to accommodate bicycles, makes more sense for everyone.

          • hokan May 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

            Yes, it’s not widely agreed upon, yet in the Minnesota Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, chapter 2G, it says,

            “Preferential lanes are lanes designated for special traffic uses such as high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs), light rail, buses, taxis, or bicycles. Preferential lane treatments might be as simple as restricting a turning lane to a certain class of vehicles during peak periods, or as sophisticated as providing a separate roadway system within a highway corridor for certain vehicles.”

            Bicyclists are required to ride as far to the right as practicable, so it does seem like we are required to use bike lanes, if safe to do so.

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary May 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

            hokan wrote: “Bicyclists are required to ride as far to the right as practicable, so it does seem like we are required to use bike lanes, if safe to do so.”

            That’s why I find the dispute about whether a bike lane is part of the shoulder or the roadway to be quite important. Bicyclists are required to ride as far right as practicable on the roadway, but not necessarily as far right as practicable on the paved surface. Roadway is defined as “that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk or shoulder.” (169.011, subd. 68)

            Many jurisdictions, including the City of Minneapolis, note that cyclists are not required to ride in bike lanes. Minneapolis says: “There is no law that requires a bicyclist to ride in a bike lane.” Note that other states, including California, explicitly require cyclists to use bike lanes.

            Obviously, neither the cities nor the MnMUTCD are exactly an authority on the law. There is certainly room to see it either way — but it seems that vehicular cycling is better off seeing the bike lanes as shoulders.

            • hokan May 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

              Good points.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary May 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

          Now all that said, if in fact they are intending to permit parking in this bike lane, I find that to be a totally unacceptable solution. The 10-5-7 roadway design is bad, but this is even worse. One of the most dangerous things we do when riding a bike is merging into traffic. Inexperienced road cyclists (whom this facility targets!) will be likely to weave in and out of parked cars, creating a new merging hazard before each car.

          A better solution, if the bike lane must be sacrificed in the name of automotive convenience, would be to install a green lane, or enhanced sharrows, in the travel lane. But even that won’t be perfect solution, since the bike lane is integrated into the gutter pan in this location, and you can’t simply “erase” it.

          Incidentally, the only Metro area city that I know to use “shared” bike and parking lanes is Bloomington. Clearly Minneapolis is moving up in the world of bike friendliness…

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary May 10, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Meaning they will be allowing parking inside the bike lane? The bike lane is a concrete surface curb-side, right?

  16. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg May 13, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    We are meeting with county and city officials today to look at the options. I cannot speculate as to what will be decided, but I will continue to advocate for a 10-5-7 solution coupled with a new 25 MPH speed limit, as I believe it is the best compromise between business parking, cycling and vehicle traffic. Moving traffic should not be the only thing that doesn’t have to make a sacrifice here. I am advocating for a safer, more livable street for all.

    Yes, taking down a No Parking sign would mean cars could park in the westbound bike lane – this is not something I want to see happen. No Parking signs should come down only if the street is re-striped.

    We did consider a sharrow, but were told at the time of planning the Riverlake Greenway that traffic counts are too high for that, as they are just under 10,000 per day.

    The roadway is all asphalt, with a 1 foot or 18 inch concrete curb and gutter. The only place the bike lane is concrete is the westbound bike lane for the block or so west of Minnehaha.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary May 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      I still maintain that 10-5-7 is not a safe bicycle facility, especially where there is a high volume of on-street parking. When you skimp on a parking lane and and a bike lane, right next to each other, it’s bicyclists that suffer. Most vehicles will fit in a 7′ lane, but certainly not all, and a great number will not be all the way against the curb — again, especially if volumes are high.

      The usual rule of thumb for how close to safely ride next to parked cars is 5′. That is to say, even if a car is completely contained in the narrow parking lane, the closest you would otherwise want to ride to the car is in the edge of the travel lane. While the bike lane is striped to be ridden in, it more clearly marks the most unsafe place to ride.

      Since E 42nd is a County-State Aid Highway, MnDOT would have to approve this exception anyway, right?

      I would ask them to reconsider a green lane (similar to a sharrow), especially if they’re up for a 25 mph speed limit. A green lane was used Valley View Rd in Edina, which has 7900 ADT. It was also of course used on Hennepin downtown — but MnDOT does not have a traffic count for that since the 2-way conversion. Obviously, it is busier than E 42nd, though.

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