Bike Lane Ex Machina

A few weeks ago I was biking on 24th st. near Bloomington when out of a passing car a voice yelled, “There’s a sidewalk right over there!”

Literally the next day, a bike lane appeared on 24th st. I imagined the gentleman who yelled at me driving down the street, dumbstruck – was I friends with the mayor? Had he yelled at the wrong yuppie? Had I complained to the city, which immediately striped a bike lane in obeisance to my young, white gentrifying power?

But my initial delight at seeing the bike lane gave way when I realized it was actually a pretty crappy bike lane.


Really, half in the gutter? This, in the #1 Bike City in America, to borrow that loathsome booster platitude? Is this even still up to code? It looks like some perfunctory bike lane out in the suburbs no one expected to actually get used (and those circa-2004 vinyl townhouses aren’t helping). Plus, on the other side of the street it’s square in the doorzone.


Oh well, I guess I’ll take it. We’re #1… (wait for it…) IN AMERICA!

14 thoughts on “Bike Lane Ex Machina

  1. Sean Hayford Oleary

    > ” It looks like some perfunctory bike lane out in the suburbs no one expected to actually get used”

    Actually I suspect Minneapolis has probably the greater problem with inadequate bike lanes. Although many suburbs have a similar problem of “no bike lanes”, the Minneapolis ones face particular pressure due to a community need/desire for on-street parking. Since the City is rarely willing to sacrifice parking, most new bike lanes get wedged in the “extra space” on the edges of the roadway.

    > “Is this even still up to code?”

    The Minnesota Bikeway Facility Design Manual is the basis for bike lane standards. Bike lanes do have design standards for width, but unlike shared travel lanes, bike lane width may include the gutter. (Travel lanes have a “curb reaction distance” of 2-4 feet.) The standard minimum is 5′ total (which this probably is), as narrow as 4′ if there’s a need for design exception. The preferred width is 6′, and when it’s adjacent to a gutter, it’s preferable to have an extended gutter pan (see newer section of Como Ave, or 76th St east Lyndale), so there is no gutter seam in the bike lane itself.

    The question is: what do we do here? Come up with the money to reconstruct the curb and get that extended gutter pan? Or come up with the money to widen the street? Or just scrap the bike lane and put up shared-lane markings? They all have real trade-offs.

      1. Sean Hayford Oleary

        I don’t think any of those standards apply to shared-use paths, which the Greenway qualifies as. Shared-use paths are also in the manual, but I believe only total width (8′ min + some reaction distance on sides) is regulated. Even in that tight section, the Greenway is wider than that.

      2. Sean Hayford Oleary

        There are, however, definitely bike lanes in Minneapolis that do not follow the official standards. Like the 1st Ave N bike lane, southbound at 7th St, where the bike lane goes down to about 12″, entirely in the gutter pan. (Richfield has a similar error at 73rd St and 11th Ave S; despite being a much less used bikeway, I’m told the curb will be relocated this year.)

        I would also be very surprised if the northbound bike lane on Portland Avenue between 2nd St and W River Pkwy meets the minimum width requirements.

  2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    With that type of crunch, I’d rather see advisory bike lanes and sharrows (although maintaining the centerline as to avoid problems encountered in Elliot Park and Edina).

    1. Sean Hayford Oleary

      In general, I believe agencies are not allowed to stripe a center line if the resulting lane width is less than 11′ (or 10′ with design exception). Advisory bike lanes are generally used when the total shared width is 14′-18′ (7-9′ “lanes”). You’re allowed to have a shared space, but not too-narrow delineated spaces.

      The Edina problem was laughable. Motorists negotiate on narrow streets with no center line all the time — it’s called “almost every residential street in Minneapolis”, and even many of the old residential streets in Edina. The problem was the expectation that they should be able to do it all at 30+ mph.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        If that’s the case, maybe it’s better to have sharrows and a solid double yellow, but no advisory bike lane markings.

      2. Sean Hayford Oleary

        I think the main argument for advisory lanes versus sharrows is that advisory lanes allow bicyclists to feel like primary “owners” of that space of roadway, and motor vehicles are treated like guests in that space. On the other hand, many cyclists perceive the travel lane as being “owned” by the cars, and they don’t feel comfortable as guests in that space. That discomfort is generally expressed by riding too far to the right, riding in the door zone, or sometimes even weaving in and out of parked cars.

        1. Janne

          What problems in Elliot Park? I rode those all the time a few years ago, and they were GREAT. They were great because of the lack of a center stripe, too. Way, way better than sharrows.

  3. Ben

    This is a great example of why vehicular cyclists don’t like (crappy) bicycle facilities.

    When I am a vehicle, I don’t have to have yield to this substandard BS. I just use a travel lane. Its usually free of debris, wide enough, and won’t suddenly end.

    Do I like being a vehicle? Of course not.

  4. Xan

    I think Mpls is getting off too easy as a bike friendly place, because bike lanes are measured in miles. There needs to be a system that also accounts for the quality of lane, not just the length. From this, a proper score for bike-ability can be calculated. A white stripe next to the gutter gets a ‘0’ as far as I’m concerned. Let’s just call it what it is, a delivery, or a waiting lane, not a bike lane. It is used to pad the statistics. Therefore it is time to change how they are quantified.

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