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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37 thoughts on “Ideas to Make 26th and 28th Streets Work for People

  1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Ideally, this post should be read while sitting on the patio at the Bad Waitress or Black Forest, witnessing the high speed traffic constantly plowing into a major pedestrian intersection.

    I like your plan. This has been a major problem for too long. I’m curious about exactly how the bumpout/bikelanes on 28th would look, of course.

  2. Matt Brillhart

    Thanks for posting this! It was really great to walk around the neighborhood and hear everyone’s ideas for these two streets badly in need of change. It was amazing how many people we saw biking on the sidewalks (in both directions!) in just the short amount of time we were walking around.

    I look forward to seeing everyone at the open house tonight! 6-8pm at the American Swedish Institute!

    I’m a big fan of our recommendations too. Just from putting our heads together over <1 hour, I think we came up with something much greater than simply adding a one-way buffered/painted bike lane to each street. I really hope Public Works staff and Lowry Hill East residents are on board with converting 26th & 28th to two-way streets. It could get expensive as modifications are needed to the stoplights at Lyndale (where the transition from two-way to one-way would take place) and at Hennepin (where this transition takes place today). Maybe it can't happen within the scope of this project, but protected bike lanes in Lowry Hill East probably aren't on the menu either, given the 36 foot street widths there. The key is to begin the discussion and make sure something great happens between Lyndale & Hiawatha within the scope of this project.

    1. Matt Brillhart

      RE: 2-way conversion in Lowry Hill East, at a minimum the following signals would have to be modified: 28th@Hennepin, 26th@Lyndale, 26th@Dupont (remove), 26th@Emerson(possibly remove, possibly keep for school), 28th@Dupont(remove), and 28th@Emerson(remove). Additionally, they might want to add a protected left turn signal at on NB Lyndale at 28th as they did at SB Lyndale a few years ago. Otherwise you might have to ban that left turn movement from NB Lyndale to WB 28th during rush hours, as maybe other left turns in the area are similarly prohibited today.

      1. Scott ShafferScott Shaffer

        I feel bad I couldn’t make the walk, but I’m happy you guys had a productive meeting. The consensus sounds smart and reasonable. Let’s all go to this meeting tonight and push hard for these changes, and then enjoy our hard-won safe streets forever and ever.

  3. Monte Castleman

    It’s not at all surprising to see bicycles riding on sidewalks. Some people, myself included, just don’t feel comfortable or don’t want to ride on the street for any reason, even in a painted bicycle lane, which really cuts down on the routes available for riding. If there was a segregated bicycle path along the west side of the Mississippi, then Victory Drive and the Cedar Lake trail would make a nice loop. I drive for work and chores, but I bicycle for fun, so I’m still an advocate for segregated paths and cycletracks.

    1. Janne Flisrand Post author

      Hi, Monte. Our group was for sure supportive of segregated two-way bike space on the 26th St. sections east of Lyndale — for just the reason you mentioned. This is never going to be a pleasure ride route, it just isn’t the surrounding for that. It IS an important transportation route for local residents no matter how they travel, and having protected spaces for people on bikes could be critical to keeping the sidewalks foot-friendly and let people on bikes get where they need to go, without harming space for cars.

  4. David Greene

    Any two-way conversion should add parking along both sides of 26th/28th to create a buffer zone for pedestrians. It’s a horrible experience to walk along those streets.

    The hard part about crossing 26th in the Wedge west of Bryant is that speeding traffic crests over a hill around Bryant/Colfax. Pedestrians can’t see what’s coming. I believe that’s one of the reasons the stoplights at Dupont/Emerson exist (the school being the primary driver at Emerson). It’s actually quite a bit easier to cross 28th due to better sightlines. But I think people tend to speed more along 28th because it is so wide for the smallish amount of traffic it handles.

    The power lines along 28th mutilate the trees so badly that there basically is no canopy there. I’d like to see something done about that but of course burying the lines is a long way off.

    1. Froggie

      David, because of street widths, it will be impossible to do a 2-way conversion and have both bike facilities and on-street parking on both sides west of Lyndale (and west of Blaisdell along 28th). See the map I just posted to get an idea on street widths.

      1. David Greene

        I didn’t see anything in the article about on-street bike facilities west of Lyndale. I’m assuming sharee bike/auto lanes like practically every other neighborhood street in the city.

        1. Janne Flisrand Post author

          The group’s sense was that a two-way conversion (possibly also adding parking) was a higher priority between Lyndale and Hennepin than bike facilities. We wanted to connect the two-way protected bikeway to Bryant, at least, but the street narrows further just west of Lyndale making that impossible. If it felt like Aldrich or Colfax or 25th, we felt fine with that as a two-block bike connection.

    2. John EdwardsJohn Edwards

      I agree with your comments about sight-lines. It can be tricky in many spots, whether on a bike or on foot, to see oncoming traffic. But I’m not sure how adding more parked cars doesn’t exacerbate that problem.

      1. Froggie

        Bulb-outs would solve that corner visibility problem. Another idea to consider, especially on the retail corners, would be to take the corner parking spot and convert it into bicycle parking.

  5. Froggie

    To help with the discussion and to get an idea just what will fit where, here’s a map I created showing curb-to-curb street widths along both 26th and 28th between Hennepin and Hiawatha:

    These are based on MnDOT State Aid data submitted by the city, loosely verified by a few spot checks on Google Earth. The bridges over I-35W might be a foot or two narrower than listed, but those are also locations where we won’t have to worry about on-street parking IMO.

      1. Froggie

        MnDOT’s State Aid segment reports document the right-of-way width, but based on my spot checks I’m not sure I believe all of them. That said, according to MnDOT the ROW width ranges from 66ft to 80ft.

  6. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Great post Janne. The most important statement IMO is “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.”

    To that end, would it be possible to do one-way segregated bikeways on each side on the portions converted to two-way motor traffic? My experience riding on two-way paths is that they work OK in rural areas but not urban. The closer they are to moving motor traffic and the less physical separation exists the more uncomfortable they are for bicycle riders. They may also be considerably more dangerous, particularly at intersections, since drivers are looking for traffic on the path from one direction, not two.

    1. Froggie

      See my reply to David above. There’s not enough street width for both bike lanes and on-street parking….one will have to give.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        That makes it easier, which one of these will save more lives, improve the neighborhood and improve people’s health?


        How critical is providing free parking? How many people will get rid of their car if they have good walking, bicycle, hour car, and transit alternatives? How many cars are parked on the street that could be parked in garages or driveways? What other alternatives are there for parking?

        1. David Greene

          Those parked cars serve an important safety/comfort function for pedestrians. It’s not just about free parking.

          1. Alex

            A two-way cycletrack would provide just as much safety and comfort for pedestrians. Also there is boulevard on both sides of 26th for the majority of the length. Those segments lacking boulevard (mostly between Blaisdell & Stevens) largely have enough paved width to accommodate both a parking land and a two-way cycletrack. However, based on my decade or so of observation of this segment, I doubt that there is constant enough parking demand for parking to provide a buffer during the night.

            1. David Greene

              Well, not quite “just as much.” Cars stop other cars pretty well, not so much bikes. But your overall point is valid.

              Allowing more parking on 28th would also alleviate some of the neighbors’ complaints about lack of parking. Yes, I find those complaints ridiculous but better to allow more parking on 26th/28th than to go the permit parking route.

              1. Alex

                The problem with parked cars as a pedestrian safety measure is that you can’t guarantee they’ll always be parked there. So you’re weighing perhaps more substantial protection against temporally unavailable protection. I’d add that aesthetics is an important additional consideration, as is the systemic boost to societal motorization from the provision of free parking. All these balance out to make curbside parking among the worst ways to increase pedestrian safety.

                1. neb

                  how about a two way street with a one-directional cycle tracks each way way, but alternate the removal of parking on every block? This gives you space for one directional cycle tracks (safer than bi-directional) and minimizes parking removal.

                  (there are more safety problems in two way cycle track than in removing parking, especially if you are keeping a buffer in place via the cycle track)

                  1. Alex

                    Can you explain why you find more safety problems in two-way cycletracks than in removing parking? I don’t necessarily have a problem with one-way cycletracks, but personally find two-ways more comfortable and safe-feeling.

                    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

                      They can be done safely, but that requires quite a bit of effort.

                      Topping the list of issues is that they are more dangerous at junctions since turning cars are not expecting bicycle riders coming from the ‘wrong’ direction. This is less of an issue if the cycletrack can be pushed a considerable distance from the junction so that drivers encounter the crossing perpendicular.

                      If there is limited barrier between the two-way track and traffic then you will have bicycle riders directly next to oncoming traffic which is both uncomfortable and more dangerous. Good segregation with parked cars, trees, or k-rail type barriers overcomes this.

                      If this is a street where bicycle riders may need to access destinations on both sides then having a cycletrack on only one side leaves zero access or dangerous access only on the other side. A one-way on each side provides accommodation for this. While all of these are significant issues for disabled users this one is possibly the most important.

                    2. neb

                      the copenhagenize article sums it up very nicely but the facts are there: an OECD report says as much: Bi-directional are not recommended for on-street placement. One way cycle tracks on either side are the Best Practice that should be chosen.

                      On streets like 26th and 28th, there are a lot of intersections and therefore the bi-directional will be much less safe. I would stick with the one way streets and install one way cycle tracks to go with them as a more preferable option rather than put in a bi-directional cycle track.

              2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

                A barrier to stop vehicles is actually a minor element of segregated paths. Nice to have, particularly if motor traffic is fast, but not necessary.

                However, a curb of some sort (90 degree on motor side, 45 degree on cycletrack side) between vehicle lanes and the cycletrack along with making the cycletrack a different color sends a strong message to drivers that their space ends at the curb. EG, ‘don’t go here’. Better, a curb with planting space in the middle . A row of daffodils will provide a surprising amount of protection as well as increasing the feeling of subjective safety.

  7. Jeff

    Why not just remove some of the unnecessary lanes and save some expense converting to two way? One way streets with a single lane would arguably be safer for pedestrians than two lanes, regardless of direction. I’m thinking of Fremont Ave. Traffic counts certainly allow for such a possibility between Hennepin and Lyndale, and likely as far as Nicollet or Blaisdell. For the 36′ segments, this could easily accomodate two parking lanes, one travel lane, and a bike lane.

    Beyond Nicollet a two way street seems more possible with the wider widths, although I still think crossing two lanes of one-way traffic to be safer than two lanes of two way traffic. Plus one way traffic never needs a left turn lane, so even with two lanes the crossing distance at major intersections is less. In no place would more than two travel lanes be necessary.

    The only thing left is adjusting the stop light timing to slow traffic and compensate for the removal of as many travel lanes as possible.

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  9. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

    Back in 2004 Metro Transit asked the City to install a contra-flow bus lane on 26th Street from 3rd Avenue S. to 5th Avenue S. That would permit the Route 11 bus to serve 5th Avenue and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in both directions, which would increase ridership. Currently the northbound and southbound buses run on opposite sides of I-35W. The City turned it down.

  10. Louise C

    I used to bike every day for transportation 30 in the Netherlands. In my experience important for functional riding like this is consistency. If there’s no consistency the need to think/stop/watch etc. becomes much higher and the speed and convenience decreases dramatically.
    One big reason I am afraid of riding my bike in Minneapolis is the sudden ending/beginning of bike lanes, not knowing where to go when it ends, or suddenly having to cross a busy street to get on/off it. Usually everybody rides/drives on the right, so a (two-way) bike lane on the left can be very confusing. I have several times found myself riding into oncoming traffic without realizing it (and see others do it) when a bike lane on the left was suddenly gone. Please think of smoothly getting on/off when planning it.

    1. Louise C

      Comment comes out altered after I post it and I can’t edit it seems.
      I meant to say bike for transportation if less than 30 minutes, and for recreation if more than 30 minutes.

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