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.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.