Reclaiming Grand Avenue

In considering how to make Cathedral/Summit/Crocus Hill a safe place for everyone to walk and ride bicycles we need to rebuild Grand Ave.

Grand Ave has an 80’ right-of-way (building face to building face) and in most sections a 12’ sidewalk on each side resulting in 56’ curb-to-curb.

There are a few critical elements that drove these designs. First is having physically segregated cycletracks and intersections designed to a Dutch standard.

Second is a one-way cycletrack on each side. A two-way track on a single side creates two very critical problems; they are much more dangerous at junctions (and elsewhere) since most cars and people walking will not look for bicycle riders coming from the right, and this would serve only half of the businesses along Grand Ave both for customer bicycle access and the cycletrack acting as a comfort buffer between people on the sidewalk and motor traffic.

Slower motor vehicle speeds (25-30 mph perhaps) and safer crossing distances for pedestrians is also critical. While these designs will help with slower speeds they will not be a panacea. If speeds continue to be a problem then limiting overall travel distance so that Grand is not a through street might be necessary.

Some might ask about the option of bike lanes which in this case would be door zone bike lanes. These have proven dangerous for bicycle riders and people exiting parked cars and they are also not popular, with vehicular cyclists viewing them as dangerous and preferring to ride in the traffic lane and most average people (95% of the population) knowing that they are dangerous and preferring not to ride at all.

Lane Widths

The proposed lane widths are much narrower than typical in the U.S. These or even narrower are fairly normal in Europe and have proven to work and be quite safe (drivers are forced to pay attention).

For a bit of local comparison, I think Selby is about 34’ (curb to curb) in front of The Happy Gnome. This includes about two 8’ parking lanes and two 9’ driving lanes.

One issue is that some semi trucks that deliver during the middle of the day and who park in the center lane might be a problem. US Foods and Sysco the primary offenders. Fedex, UPS, and similar trucks should not be a problem. It may be necessary to limit truck widths during parts of the day on some layouts below.


The existing layout of Grand Avenue wastes considerable space, encourages speeding, and is dangerous and somewhat uninviting for people walking and riding bicycles. Crossing requires a minimum of 40’ (mid block) or 48’ to 56’ at crossings. All without any pedestrian refuges. Are 15’ driving lanes really necessary?

Grand Avenue can be much more inviting for everyone.



This is the simplest and should only require repainting (though a new bitumious layer on the cycletrack would be nice). Narrow the lanes down and stick cycletracks on either side. This will be much better for bicycling and make the sidewalks more comfortable for people walking. It will narrow mid block crossing to 24’ and make crossing at intersections somewhat better.

Bicycle riders will still need to be cautious of opening doors but since this is passenger side it is less likely and they will only be in the door zone when passing other bicycle riders. (Note: we should also teach people to always open doors with their opposite hand which somewhat forces people to turn their head and look before opening).



This is a fun one though I’m not sure how practical it is. The cycletrack on the left is now fully clear of the door zone. The shared lane on the right is intentionally limited to 10’ to reduce the problem of drivers thinking that they can squeeze by bicycle riders. Crossing distances are 18’ mid block and 26’ at intersections (shifting the median over to the sharrow lane to allow for a right turn lane).

This is not as good as ‘One’ for bicycle riders, particularly at intersections or during winter, but isn’t terrible. We’ve also lost parking on one side which I believe would be an overall 3% reduction in parking.

This should provide considerable benefits during winter with more options for snow storage. There are a few options for deliveries such as trucks being allowed to block a travel lane from 2am to 5am, or parking bays designated as 15 minutes from 3am to 9am.



This is something you might see in The Netherlands.


Note: In all of these the cycletrack should go behind bus stops.



This is my ideal. It is more visually appealing than other options, provides the greatest safety for all users, and is the more comfortable and inviting. On the down side we’ve lost parking on both sides for an estimated 7% overall reduction in total parking along the retail area. (If at least 15% of customers along here are from within 2 or 3 miles and we make it safe enough to for them to ride then hopefully half, or about 7%, will switch to bicycles. Ideally though a higher number of Grand Avenue patrons will begin riding.)

We’ve gained 4’ on each sidewalk which will be especially welcomed for eating outside but will be appreciated by all. Bicycle riders have a clear path with no dangerous obstructions. This is a place that parents will be comfortable with their 10-year-old riding to Cafe Latte to meet friends.

There is considerable room for snow removal and storage. This should make snow clearing faster and easier and lessen how much must be hauled off site in heavy snow years.

Deliveries will require some changes from delivery companies and businesses such as limited to overnight only or during the day limited to vehicles that can safely use the cycletrack such as trikes or carts. For more see Matty’s post on ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

So there you have it. I am not a traffic engineer nor more than a back alley urban planner so there may be huge problems with these designs. If not one of these, I am sure there is a design for Grand Avenue that will make it safer and more comfortable for people walking and riding bicycles.

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN