Ideas to Make 26th and 28th Streets Work for People

Shane Morin and I were both on this walk. We collaborated on this post.

On Monday, July 14th, the city will host the first of a series of public meetings to discuss improvements to the one-way 26th and 28th streets from Hiawatha to Hennepin Avenues in south Minneapolis.

26th and 28th Project area, image Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition

26th and 28th Project area, image Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition

Today this corridor moves cars from one end of the city to the other as fast as possible. Homes, schools, parks, and a major hospital dominate this stretch. The experience of people who aren’t in cars gets little regard, which is disappointing given the residential nature of the streets.

Last Friday, a group of area residents met to walk 26th and 28th streets in the Whittier neighborhood and to talk about the possibilities before the first public meeting. Our focus was on Whittier and the Wedge because there is more space than cars need in Phillips. That makes addressing challenges east of I35W simpler. The hard choices start where 26th narrows at Blaisdell in Whittier.

Our group identified three key goals:

  • Safe connections between neighborhoods and destinations
  • Safe access to schools and parks – in particular Whittier Park, and Jefferson and Whittier schools
  • Calm traffic to make these two streets feel like what they are – residential neighborhood streets

What We Learned:

The Trade-off Between Two Way Conversion vs. Protected Bikeways

We revisited the choice of converting these streets back to two ways vs. focusing on creating protected bikeways along with other traffic calming like curb bumpouts, adding more parking or narrowing travel lanes. While there is a lot of enthusiasm for making these streets two-ways, the hurdles are huge — at least as part of THIS project.

This project budget includes repaving, paint, and $400,000 for bike and pedestrian improvements east of I35W with planning extending to Hennepin. The eastern part is scheduled for this year. A two-way conversion across the entire corridor would demand time and budget for traffic studies, more public engagement and a budget for traffic signals — with no certainty of the outcome. This is a long-term plan, with no guarantee of change this decade. The group on the walk came agreed it was better to focus on what can happen now and hope we can lay the groundwork for something even better in the future.

On the 26th Sidewalk at Whittier Park

On the 26th Sidewalk at Whittier Park

Bikes All Over the Sidewalks

As we began our walk we were all struck by just how many people were riding bikes on the sidewalks. Even as someone who spends time on the 26th sidewalk daily, we were blown away by just how many there were. Most – but not all – were kids or casual riders. These are the people we have in mind when we talk about making it easy, practical and safe to get around the neighborhood on a bike. On 26th and Lyndale we yielded to multiple groups of kids, moving a baby from the middle of the sidewalk each time – that’s an unsafe environment for everyone.

But… the Greenway!

Often people ask about why bike riders don’t just use the Midtown Greenway. The answer was right in front of us. Most of these trips are only a few blocks. Many riders are making their way to from the Greenway. Others are headed to Uptown from their Whittier homes or to Eat Street from their apartment in the Wedge, trips where using the Greenway is impractical. In this neighborhood with lots of homes and lots of destinations, people take many short trips. They should be easy and comfortable!

Our Group’s Preferences:

26th and 28th as Two-way Streets between Hennepin and Lyndale

Several of us wanted a two-way conversion the whole way, but that is beyond the scope of this project. However, in the Wedge it’s possible. This residential stretch has the lowest traffic along the corridor. There is little reason for wide streets carrying fast cars. A two-way conversion would create a more pleasant front yard for neighbors. It would be safer environment for cars, people on bikes and people walking. Navigating the Wedge would easier, too. (Bonus:  elimination of four traffic lights!)

Two-way Protected Bikeway on 26th in Whittier

Experiencing the sidewalk riding — in both directions — over 30 minutes, we all ended up thinking a two-way protected bikeway made the most sense. With restaurants and retail lining 26th from 1st to Blaisdell Ave., churches, a destination park and a school, kids and adults need to be able to navigate this stretch safely. It gets hard between Blaisdell and Lyndale where the street narrows and the protected bikeway would mean removing about 80 parking spaces. However, there were so many kids on bikes, we felt strongly it was the best option.

Street narrowing at Blaisdell. And look! Another sidewalk biker

Street narrowing at Blaisdell. And look! Another sidewalk biker

Bike Lane and Bumpouts on 28th

Due to its high speeds and proximity to the Greenway, fewer people bike here. Their safety is important, but we thought traffic calming and walkers should be the highest priority here. The sight lines along 28th make crossing are tough for everyone. We recommend bumpouts  at intersections (temporary posts until curbs can be moved). Adding a bike lane would also help calm traffic and increase bike safety without reducing capacity or parking.

What do you think?

Taking a walk and talking through ideas helped us find shared goals for this project. That was our goal, knowing that aligned comments improve our chances of getting the changes we want. For the City, the easiest path is to repave these streets just as they are now, and we think there are many better options — but we would hate for disagreement on the best option to be an excuse for taking the easy way out.  Today the discussion is taking shape.

What in our goals resonate with you?  What else needs to be considered?

About Janne Flisrand

Janne Flisrand spends her time thinking about how people interact with the space around them. Why do they (or don't they) walk or bike or shop somewhere? How do spaces feel? Why do people sit here and not there? Why bus instead of bike, bike instead of drive? What sorts of spaces build community, and what sorts kill it? Can spaces build civic trust and engagement?

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