Writers’ Round-up: Advisory Bike Lanes

[From time to time we have a great email conversation open up on the streets.mn-writers list serv. Here’s the round-up of the discussion.] 

Today’s topic? Advisory bike lanes!

IMO Advisory bike lanes are really interesting because, if they work, they would offer a design solution half-way between shared space and our line’d regime, and offer bike infrastructure possibilities for a host of narrower roads on which other options are unavailable. Of course, that’s a big “if.”

mpls advisory bike lane 2

An advisory bike lane in Minneapolis’ Eliot Park neighborhood.


First, some context from Adam Freohlig:

Some background behind the concept would be useful.  You should include that it’s a mix of two concepts that are in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Namely, the advisory lines plus no need to have a centerline when traffic is below a certain threshold, anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 vehicles per day depending on the situation.

It all started with this question, from Jeremy Mendelson:

I think there is a street somewhere in Minneapolis that is painted like in this photo (see link below). Can anyone remind me where it is?

advisory bike lanes NH

Advisory bike lane in New Hampshire.

The first to weigh in was Janne Flisrand:

It’s 15th, through Elliot Park, and it’s fantastic.  I did a post on how much I love it on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blog a couple years ago.

Here’s my (very short) post from the coalition’s blog, done in 2011. I still ride them.  They are still very comfortable, cars or no. It feels much easier and more intuitive to take the lane than where there are sharrows (even on Bryant north of Lake).  Cars also drive much less aggressively than they do on Bryant, come tot think of it.


If you look carefully at the picture, you’ll see that the cars aren’t driving on the lines, they’re instinctively going down the middle of the street.  They slow and yield to one another.

Now — I don’t think that would happen in all settings.  Rather, this discussion makes me want someone to write a post about what conditions are necessary for advisory bike lanes to work, and what makes them totally dysfunctional.

I’ll posit that they need at least these factors:

-narrow street

-fairly low traffic volumes

-either on-street parking that is mostly full all the time, or to be so narrow there’s no parking lane (like in the initial picture that started this thread)

-narrow lane remaining between the dotted lines

-[your condition here]

mpls advisory bike lane 3


Then Aaron Mona chimed in:

Edina tried something like it on Wooddale Ave. It confused everyone and they replaced it with something more conventional.

Adding suburban context, Sean Hayford O’Leary:

That particular one is interesting in that it doesn’t have sidewalks, and specifically anticipates pedestrians in that space.

There are several in Minneapolis. The newest I know of are 54th St east of Portland, and 46th from Kings Highway to Lyndale. I believe there is an older installation downtown on 14th or 15th.

75th St in Richfield has them between Sheridan and Xerxes.

One of the busier streets on which it was attempted was Wooddale Avenue in Edina, from 50th to Valley View. This was removed after an uprising from elderly motorists who refused to negotiate with oncoming cars. Richfield had planned to do more advisory lanes on Bloomington Ave from 62nd to 66th, but after the fallout in Edina, instead shoe-horned in traditional lanes into the door zone, in a 10-5-7 configuration.

The ever thoughtful Brendon Slotterback:

46th streets in SW Mpls also has these.  After one year, they are almost invisible due to the fact that they are painted right where car wheels go and plowing probably.  I much prefer the sharrow (a la Bryant) which actually tells cyclists and drivers that its OK to ride in the lane.  To me, the advisory lane tells drivers that bikes will be in the door zone.  They also have to drive straddling a line, which goes against most established driving rules.

Amendment to my comments: these lanes may work fine in places without on-street parking and low traffic volumes. In areas with on-street parking, I don’t like ’em.

No conversation is complete without Matt Steele:

I love the advisory bike lanes – traffic seems to slow down without a yellow line in the middle.

I’m eager to get these on Bloomington Ave south of 38th Street, and possibly 28th Ave S. They seem to be especially effective on streets with low on-street parking utilization, because the solid + dashed white lines reduce the perceived lane width significantly. A yellow centerline with ~22′ of empty asphalt on each side (when parking is not demanded) results in 40+ MPH traffic speeds. Which is about the least friendly thing I can think of when I’m biking.

It effectively reduces the design speed on such segments. I like that idea.

The always pithy Joseph Totten:

They are essentially green lanes… but without having to  make the pavement green

temp10Sam Newberg came with references:

Indeed it does – this study says removal of the centerline can reduce speeds by 7MPH. Notable!

Link  (courtesy of a Jeff Speck tweet).

I suggested to Ward 12 Councilmember Andrew Johnson that these suggested bike lanes be added and centerline removed on 28th Avenue between 38th Street and 50th Street this past summer when it was repaved and thus restriped. Johnson indicated because 28th Avenue is not a designated bicycle route in the city’s plan that this was not possible. I say BS – the city needs to be more flexible when opportunities come up like this.

And with the last word, Alex Cechini:

“because 28th Avenue is not a designated bicycle route in the city’s plan that this was not possible”

What streets are “dedicated car routes”? All of them? Why should we not take the opportunity to make every single street (neighborhood or not) more calm and bike-friendly, even if they’re not major corridors identified for dedicated bicycle space for making longer journeys safer/more comfortable?

Feel free to chime in yourself in the comments thread.


This just in from Julia Silvis:

I’d add that to me these advisory lanes seem like a parallel to road diets, where a four lane road is reconfigured to a bike lane-driving lane-turn lane-driving lane-bike lane configuration. To me, road diets look similar to bike advisory lanes because it *seems* that cars are losing space in both configurations (and are therefore opposed by stubborn, benighted drivers). In the case of road diets, however, it is usually found that car traffic moves as fast, if not faster, than in the two travel lanes in each direction model, since all the chaos of left turns is isolated in the center turn lane and there are fewer lane changes. I wonder if the advisory lanes would have a similar beneficial effect on car travel. Obviously, since roads where advisory lanes make sense would have a much lower car traffic volume than ones where road diets would be implemented, there might not be much room for improvement — that is, car traffic would be so low that adding advisory lanes has no impact on car travel times.

20 thoughts on “Writers’ Round-up: Advisory Bike Lanes

  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Are we sure that being stubborn, refusing to yield and not wanting to negotiate shared space with other drivers correlates with age? If not, maybe we don’t want to just blame the olds.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      In The Netherlands there is no age limit to problems with shared space. Shared space is no longer a recommended practice and many cities are removing the shared spaces that they had (most of which were designed by Monderman).

  2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Janne’s list seems pretty accurate for what I’ve seen in northern Europe except that I’ve never seen an advisory bike lane next to any car parking. The Netherlands is apparently moving away from any painted lanes with recommendations now for either 18 mph very low volume bicycle streets (different from shared space) or physically segregated facilities (cycletracks, side paths, etc.). This is apparently due to a large portion of the population saying that they don’t feel safe with painted lanes and so use a car for trips that require riding on painted facilities.

  3. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

    The bumpouts that were installed along 46th Street also help to avoid encroachment on the bike lanes during turning movements. Keep vehicles turning from taking faster turns across the lane.

      1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

        No, they stop before the lane, but it still encourages merging into the lane and slowing down before the corner. Makes a smaller turning radius required. I haven’t done any large scale studies since I got off the job there last November, but it personally feels better, slower, and calmer.

    1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

      Also on 46th, this was a compromise, there wasn’t enough space for adding in full bike lanes, but bicycling lobbying got it designated as a bike route (despite 42nd 4 blocks north, full bike lanes, and direct access to the lake). Unfortunately there’s not enough space, especially with the 46 bus running on the eastern two blocks (Lyndale to Bryant).

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        This “bike route” designation is a double edged sword. Alex is correct – does it then imply that other streets- such as 28th and Bloomington Aves – should not accommodate bikes? Yet at the same time, even presence in the city’s bike master plan can’t guarantee bike compatibility – Hennepin County was planning a mill/overlay of 46th St with existing lane configuration, despite it being a designated bike route, until residents and electeds got wind of it and forced some planning.

      2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        Are there places on 46th that bicycle riders will want to go? Bicycle facilities on any other street, 4 blocks north or 1 block north, make little difference then.

        We can’t have everything and it will take a long time before we’ll have good facilities everywhere we want to go but we also need to change the thinking from a few spread out routes for commuters to a complete network that serves everyone and in particular folks making local trips with kids that might only be a few blocks.

        1. Joe

          46th & 35W offers access to many bus routes (including the express into/out of downtown), and 46th & Bloomington, 46th & Nicollet, 46th & Grand, 46th & Bryant are all streetcar nodes as well.

  4. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

    Regarding 28th Ave S, the prospect of seeing advisory bike lanes is unlikely. The MUTCD recommends a centerline for urban streets that have average daily traffic at/above 4,000, and requires a centerline if traffic is at/above 6,000 vpd (section 3B.01 for those interested). All of 28th south of 38th St meets the former (over 4,000 vpd), while two segments, at Minnehaha Pkwy and south of 54th St, meet the latter. The City Councilmember was incorrect in his reasoning, but MUTCD requirements will quash it on at least two segments.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      I wouldn’t think it would take much traffic to make advisory lanes uncomfortable (for most people) and not much more to make them unworkable. At some point cars and trucks will stop treating them as advisory and just drive in them. No idea what volume that would be though. So the MUTCD limits might not really be much of a problem.

    2. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

      I’m not criticizing Councilmember Andrew Johnson for his reasoning. After all, he’s committed to working with the neighborhood group where 28th Avenue runs (Standish-Ericsson, where I live) and 28th Avenue has been identified as a street where speed is a concern.

      Most of 28th Avenue was resurfaced last year and this, but the striping includes a dashed centerline and solid parking lane delineator, leaving no space for bikes, just an overly wide traffic lane. Keep in mind 28th passes Roosevelt High School, Roosevelt Library, a commercial node, Lake Hiawatha Park and includes an at-grade Minnehaha Creek Trail crossing.

      Neighbors often cite excessive speed on 28th, and I do find it a little too easy to top 35MPH. Thus, a solution that has been shown to reduce speeds by 7MPH is quite compelling as a possible solution. Since a centerline is only recommended and not required in this stretch I see a seasonal test as a real possibility and our neighborhood group will continue to lobby CM Johnson to make our streets safer.

  5. Pingback: Map of the Day: Centerline Striping Requirements in Minneapolis | streets.mn

  6. Chris Carrigan

    My initial reaction when I saw the advisory bike lanes being used on a narrow street with no sidewalks was excitement. Could this be used to retrofit suburban residential roads that lack sidewalks? If it were used in this context, would vehicles actually speed up in the neighborhood since it gives drivers that false sense of security that a center lane line gives them – in essence keeping bikes and pedestrians to the side? Or do the lines provide enough edge friction that it will slow vehicles down further?

    1. Sean Hayford Oleary

      Except almost all residential streets lacking sidewalks also allow parking. If it’s a street busy enough to restrict parking / warrant advisory lanes, it seems that indisputably worth putting a real sidewalk in.

      Aitkin did a marked walking trail a few years ago, as a low-cost extension of their city park. It sorta works right where that Streetview is, but in other locations, it’s adjacent to a sidewalk and in an area where cars park. Very confusing there.

      1. Chris Carrigan

        The costs of a real sidewalk being put in are too much, plus there would need to be lots of neighbor buy-in since they would think you are removing their property – even though we are not.
        I agree about the parking, but street parking is very scarce in the suburbs. What if one side of the suburban street has a painted sidewalk/bike lane and the other side is left for on-street parking. In a 30 ft. street, 6′ could be sidewalk, 16′ vehicular center [no lane markings], and 8′ for parking when needed. Would you mark the parking lane with a dashed line or would you just leave it without it?

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