Why I’m Annoyed by this Banner

It’s rare that I bike more than a few blocks on Lake St. without having some variation on “Get the fuck out of the fucking road!” shouted at me from a passing car. Given the overall vibe on Lake, this isn’t remotely surprising.

The other day, I was biking down the Greenway near Nicollet when I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the phrases “Lake Street” and “Bike Friendly” on the same banner. If you’ve ever seen Lake St., you’ll be able to imagine my incredulity. I grabbed my camera and went back, and sure enough, there it was:


The banner was put up by the Lake Street Council. It says “GROWING green & BIKE friendly,” so I guess depending on how generously you parse the syntax, bike friendly could be interpreted as an aspiration rather than a stated fact.

Most of Lake St. was rebuilt between 2005 and 2009. I wasn’t living here then, and I wasn’t able to find much information about the Lake Street Council’s contributions or attitude toward the plan at the time, other than this copy of the Lake Line, the Lake Street Council’s newsletter, from Spring 2005, which effuses, “At last — the big day is finally set! Monday, May 16 is the date set for the start of the long-awaited, much-needed Lake Street Reconstruction and Streetscaping Project.”

Here’s a picture of Lake and Bryant before the reconstruction (2005):


Here’s a picture of Lake and Bryant after the reconstruction (2011, Google):


Here’s a picture near Lake and Pillsbury (2006):

like it goes on forever

Here’s the Google streetview from 2011:


Notice any difference? Me neither, because pretty much all they did was repave the street with the same four car lanes. I’m sure the Lake Street Council is staffed by good people with good intentions, but you don’t get to be in favor of a complete reconstruction project that maintains the car-centric style of the street for another 40 years, and then put up a banner that says you’re going green and bike friendly a couple years later. It might seem trivial, and it is, but this type of public relations mendacity is a pet peeve of mine, so I care a lot.

25 thoughts on “Why I’m Annoyed by this Banner

  1. Froggie

    As I recall, most of the changes that were really changes happened east of Portland, and especially east of Hiawatha.

      1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

        Changes like lane configurations and bump outs that I recall were to the east. Otherwise through the entire corridor it was simply repositioning signs, better curb cuts, ADA ramps.

        1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

          Not saying no bump outs happened west, but few in number compared to the east side.

        2. Nathanael

          They didn’t even do the ADA ramps or tactile strips correctly. Gaaah. I know something about how those are supposed to be designed, and they’re supposed to POINT AT THE CROSSWALK, not diagonally into the middle of the street. Also, the one at Lake and Bryant leads you directly into a pole as you get off the street, not to mention the sign blocking the pathway on the much-too-narrow sidewalk.


          1. Nathanael

            Maybe there are better improvements elsewhere along the street; I’d be interested to see photos.

      2. Froggie

        Eric got it. What I meant is that most of the more visible changes (bump-outs being the first that came to mind) were on the eastern part of the project. My point its that there were changes that the article writer apparently missed, though you did a much better job of pointing that out below.

    1. D Maki

      That may be true but biking on Lake Street east of Hiawatha is a life-threatening proposition. Zero bicycle infrastructure and high-velocity traffic that is very aggressive and hostile to any bicyclist to attempt to “take a lane”. Most bicyclists take to the sidewalk.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        I just have trouble reconciling this with my own experience. I agree cars are traveling faster here, but again, I have experienced no aggression in response to taking the lane on E Lake. What are motorists doing? How often does it happen?

        1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

          I’m quite comfortable on a bicycle. Perhaps even to the point of a vehicular cyclist if I need to be (or at off-peak times). But my wife would never, ever ride on Lake St (W or E). She’d never ride on most of Lyndale, or any other street with 2 lanes and parking with no separation (imagined by paint or physical barrier’d). We have a 3 month old and I can guarantee she’ll never let him ride on those streets. And when my friends who don’t bike so often did some Nice Ride bar crawling on E Lake, they chose to ride on the sidewalk quite often.

          The reality is that 10.5′ wide lanes is the maximum we should see, and when there are 4 together you still get speeds of 30 mph, sometimes more. This is uncomfortable for most people, even if it is a step in the right direction, design-wise and politically. The numbers bear this out – my post on commute mode shares shows we’re way under the potential for biking to work despite short distances for many. Why? I can’t imagine it’s only parents with kids struggling to drop off at daycare. I have several unmarried friends in Minneapolis who work <3 miles from home and choose to drive. Streets like Lake Street are uncomfortable and unwelcoming to the vast majority.

          And, I have had people yell things at me when riding on W Lake St.

          1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

            Very well said Alex. I’m quite comfortable riding on the road as a vehicular cyclist (though I still much prefer a segregated path). Most people I know are not and many, such as my wife and her parents, will never be. Others will not be allowed to be by their parents. Still others due to disabilities.

            These make up the vast majority of the population and these are who we need to design for.

          2. Rosa

            what makes it sad is coming to it from the Marshall Ave side and seeing/feeling the difference.

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    The examples you chose show the street in a pretty unflattering light. Although the street did not include a designated bicycle facility, it did a lot, including:

    -Hennepin County’s first CSAH with 10.5′ lanes
    -Bumpouts at most intersections and wider sidewalks throughout
    -Significantly more street trees
    -Better street furniture and fixtures, like bus stops, public bike racks, and much improved lighting
    -Attractive paving patterns and district branding (like Lyn-Lake)

    Although some areas have some wiggle room (parking lots and setbacks), many many areas have older, distinctive buildings built right up to the right-of-way. This means, something has to give:
    1. Travel lanes (not changed, but narrowed quite a bit)
    2. Turn lanes (in fact, there are very few left-turn lanes on Lake St)
    3. Bike lanes (cut)
    4. Parking (preserved, even at the expense of left-turn lanes)
    5. Sidewalks (preserved, widened)
    6. Buildings (clear cutting a row of buildings — largely avoided)

    I spoke with a Hennepin County engineer about the project, complaining about the lack of designated bike space on the street. He said, simply, with the greenway a block away, it was not worth sacrificing other users for a through bike space; in his opinion, it was acceptable for confident cyclists to take the lane and novice cyclists to walk their bikes briefly. I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with that prioritization, but this project was basically successful. Since the reconstruction, Lake Street has seen enormous amounts of redevelopment — including areas from Chicago-Lake eastward that were previously considered blighted and/or post-war auto wastelands.

    As a vehicular cyclist, I find the narrowed lanes actually make cycling much easier than the previous, ambiguously wide lanes. It is very obvious that the lane is not sharable, and there is little temptation to ride in the door zone.

    A 4-to-3 conversion might be an option in some of the sections, but that would actually push cyclists out more into the door zone than they could be today.

    1. Rosa

      as a pedestrian (who used to live/bike/walk right near Lake & Portland, plus walk back and forth from there to Uptown all the time – but rarely on Lake) the trees are a HUGE positive change. Shade makes that walk so much better.

      The problem with having the Greenway as an alternative isn’t a big deal near the intersections in these photos, but once you get east of Highway 55 and the Greenway cuts north, it’s not a good alternative to East Lake locations – the East Lake library is an OK destination headed east on the Greenway, though I usually just suck it up and take 32nd even with the kid. But anything East of the Walgreens or Merlin’s Rest, it’s really not close to the Greenway at all anymore.

  3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    For what it’s worth, having ridden on Lake Street relatively often (once a week or so) in the last two years, I have only ever experienced aggression in the Calhoun Village area. I have never experienced either being buzzed or shouting/honking from a motorist while riding in the reconstructed portion.

        1. Reilly

          I read it as more likely to have a sense of road-ownership privilege (especially given the relatively high-income demographics as one moves toward Calhoun).

  4. Cedar

    I am not (yet) a biker, mostly because I am nervous about riding on city streets, but while I can certainly see that Lake is not bike-friendly, it seems like a very positive sign that someone thought this banner worth printing. It suggests that aspiring to being bike-friendly (or at least attracting bikers as a market) is a worthy goal. Minneapolis residents and visitors should absolutely ask for evidence of just HOW Lake Street is bike-friendly (and there are plenty of things I assume the businesses can still do without reconstruction — adding more bike parking, perhaps) and push Lake to go beyond just a good sound bite, but really, this is a good sign for the future.

  5. Wes

    I saw the sign as well and my first thought was “What!?!? Since when?” And of course “bullshit”.

    While it might be a truth that making lake itself safer and more accessible to bike on isn’t practical given the greenways proximity, than neither is me venturing south of the greenway to spend my dollars.

    Having biked, driven, and bussed on lake street all I can say is that lake is a zoo. It’s unpredictable and ill governed.

    Given the option to be on or around it or not I will choose not until there is a much greater draw to do so.

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  7. citychickie

    Lake Street was rebuilt as a Hennepin County project in conjunction with the City of Minneapolis. The Lake Street Council was one of many interested stakeholders but, having been with the West Broadway Business and Area Council in 2005 when planning for West Broadway reconstruction –I know that those planning processes were dominated by the engineers……by the time the County adopted “complete streets” as a policy (2009) Lake Street, as well as Bottineau Boulevard and West Broadway, Lowry and Franklin had all been reconstructed – with no regard for bike riders. Except for – bike racks!

    I do not fault the Lake Street Council for encouraging bikers to come and patronize their businesses — and the lack of bike infrastructure on the street is certainly not the fault of the council.

    After reconstruction Lake Street between Dupont Avenue on the west and the Mississippi River on the east has an entirely new roadway, sidewalks and streetscape. Soils were remediated, gas lines replaced and water and sewer lines improved where necessary.
    Here’s a link to the guiding document:http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@council/documents/webcontent/convert_262462.pdf

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Lowry Ave does include bike lanes in both directions from I-94 to Broadway/Bottineau. They’re not the most breathtaking lanes in the world, but can’t say that cyclists have been completely ignored.

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