The Hennepin County 2040 Bike Plan: Cassie’s Notes

Late this fall Hennepin County put out a draft of its new 2040 Bicycle Plan for public review and comment.  This long-range vision and planning document piqued my interest but, oof, the thing is 116 pages long! Not the easiest to tackle in terms of length, especially for bike-loving-yet-busy folks who might not have time to comb through it. In true librarian form, I decided to read the plan through and compile a sort of Cassie’s Notes version (who’s that Cliff guy, anyway?) to hopefully provide easier access to the information for more folks.  This post gives a (relatively) short overview of the vision, goals, strategies, and actions of the Hennepin County 2040 Bike Plan.

If you're looking for pictures of happy bikers in the summer, this plan's got you covered!

If you’re looking for pictures of happy bikers in the summer, this plan’s got you covered!

Keep in mind that the following is simply my own condensed version of what I found most useful and meaningful from the plan. I’ve tried to say the committee-speak stuff in more normal language whenever possible, and in some cases left more of the committee-speak when it seemed more descriptive; hopefully this Frankenstein mishmash will be interesting in its own right!

For each of the chapters (1: Vision, Goals, Context, Purpose; 2: 2040 Bikeway System; 3: Programs; 4: Policy; and 5: Implementation) the chapter numbers and the strategy numbers (e.g. 2.1, 2.2, 2.3) have been preserved, so you can look at the full content by finding that number in the official draft plan. Chapters 2-5 list strategies to accomplish the vision and each strategy has more detailed information about the actions that will be undertaken within those strategies.  You can either read this post through for more context and more insight into the details of the plan or, for the super-short version, you can skim through and read the bolded strategies to get an overall idea of the plan.

The current draft Hennepin County 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan is open for public comment through December 5th; check out this page for more information on the plan, access to the document and appendices, and for information on how to comment. I hope that, if something in this post catches your eye, you’ll check out associated information in the plan and send in your comments. Without further ado, on to the plan!

Chapter 1: Vision, Goals, Context, and Purpose

Vision: Riding a bicycle for transportation, recreation, and health is a comfortable, fun, routine part of daily life throughout the county for people of all ages and abilities.

Context: Hennepin County envisions a future where residents are healthy and successful, living in safe and vibrant communities. A robust on- and off-street bikeway system serving all ages and abilities that complements other transportation modes and land use will play a significant role in achieving this vision, promoting economic strength, quality of life, and community vitality. The Hennepin County Bicycle Transportation Plan updates the 1997 Bicycle Plan to guide how, where and when the county and Three Rivers Park District build bikeways and support facilities. It sets the expectation that all people should be comfortable and safe while biking. A good bikeway system creates benefits related to safety, community livability, mobility for all ages, economic sustainability, health, clean air, recreation, parking and congestion alleviation, and regional economic competitiveness.

To help achieve the county’s vision, the plan explores attitudes and perceptions about bicycling across the entire population, as opposed to focusing solely on the needs and desires of existing bicyclists. Implementation of the plan will create a safe, comfortable and efficient bicycling system that will encourage a broad range of current and future bicyclists. Based on public surveys, over half of the Hennepin County population (53%) is interested in biking for recreation and transportation; however, this population is concerned about multiple factors that create barriers to biking, including comfort, safety, and access to support facilities. They may also lack knowledge of how and where to safely operate a bicycle, how to bike commute, how to bike with children, how to securely park a bike, rules of the road when biking and driving, and basic bike repair. A good bikeway network will empower some to become enthusiastic and confident bikers, while a poor network will cause them to become uninterested or feel unable to bike.

Four general attitudes about biking (Bike Plan p. 6)

Four general attitudes about biking (Bike Plan p. 6). That strong and fearless guy doesn’t even need handlebars.

Purpose: The plan will guide how, where and when the county and park district build bikeways and support facilities. It sets the expectation that all people should be comfortable and safe biking. The plan will be used to prioritize investments, guide design and set county and park district policy for the provision of bikeways and support facilities.

Goals: The county and park district take great pride in the current bikeway system and will continue to improve it by pursuing the following goals:

Ridership Goal: Promote the bicycle as a mode of transportation that is practical, convenient, and pleasant for commuting, health and exercise, and outdoor recreation.

Targets: Quadruple the number of bicycle commuters from 2010’s 12,000 people to 48,000 people by 2040; double the Hennepin County mode share of bicycling to work from 1.8 percent in 2012 to 3.6 percent by 2040; double the percentage of Hennepin County employees commuting by bicycle three or more days a week.

Indicator: Bicycling among women, children, older adults, low-income and ethnic groups increases to a level proportionate to their population.

Bikeway System Goal: Collaboratively build an integrated county bicycle system that allows bicyclists of varying skills to safely, efficiently and comfortably connect to and between all destinations within the county.

Targets: Complete an average of 20 miles of the bikeway system each year; close an average of five bikeway gaps each year; achieve an access level where 90 percent of homes in Hennepin County are within ½ mile of a bikeway or within a mile of the enhanced bikeway network.

Indicators: The Twin Cities region, including Hennepin County, continues to be recognized as a world-class bicycling region; the region leads the nation in bicycle-friendliness and rates of bicycling.

Safety and Comfort Goal: Create a safe and comfortable county bikeway system.

Targets: Move toward zero bicycle deaths; halve bicycle crashes per capita from 2010 levels by 2040; complete 90 percent of the enhanced bikeway system by 2040; bring the ratio of bike commuters who are women to half.

Indicators: Resident satisfaction with bicycling conditions improves (fewer reported issues, more positive feedback through surveys, 311 systems, media, etc.).


Sustainability Goal: Implement bikeways and support facilities as an essential tool in realizing environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Targets: Reduce per capita vehicle miles of travel (VMT) 20 percent from 2000 levels by 2040; contribute to greenhouse gas emission reductions from 2007 levels by 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

Indicators: Increase in number, quality and prominence of bicycle support facilities offered by employers, housing developments, retail establishments and others in the private sector; seamless integration of bicycles in to the transportation system.

Maintenance Goal: Protect the county’s and the park district’s investments in the bikeway system and reduce seasonal hazards through partnerships.

Targets: Maintain 50 percent of ridership through the winter (this will be implemented once year round counters are installed as part of the overall county bicycle counting program.); ensure 67 percent of on-street and off -street bikeways meet the transportation system plan’s present serviceability rating of good or better.

Indicators: Provide detour notifications that are timely and effective; ensure detour routes are efficient, safe and on a comparable facility type; create tracking system for reported maintenance issues and documenting response time for fixing problems; formation of a regional trail authority to care for the existing and future trail system.

Chapters two, three, four, and five provide information on strategies and actions necessary for Hennepin County and Three Rivers Park District to realize the plan vision and achieve the plan goals.

Chapter 2: The 2040 Bikeway System

Summary: Complete 20 miles of the bikeway system each year and bring bikeways within ½ mile of 90 percent of homes.

Current bikeway system (Bike Plan p. 16)

Current bikeway system (Bike Plan p. 16). For the next several maps, reference the draft itself for a closer look.

The primary factors used to identify proposed routes for the 2040 bikeway system include continuity, access to destinations, network density, concurrence with regional plans, and county or park agency rights-of-way.  The 2040 system includes 536 miles of new planned bikeways.  Full implementation of this plan will increase county bikeway system mileage by 81 percent, with almost half of the added system off-street.

2040 bikeway system (Bike Plan p. 36)

2040 bikeway system (Bike Plan p. 36)

2.1 Provide elements that increase safety along corridors and at intersections. This includes improvement of traffic signal design and intersection improvements like bicycle detection systems not requiring detection of a car or use of a push button, improvement of trail and route lighting, researching options for sustainably powered lighting (solar) or artfully designed lighting, consider addition of mileage markers along corridors, and developing a methodology to identify problem intersections based on crash history, user input and intersection geometry.

Planned bikeway system corridors (Bike Plan p. 40)

Planned bikeway system corridors (Bike Plan p. 40)

2.2 Address network gaps and barriers. The plan makes a distinction between bikeway corridors and bikeway gaps.  Corridors are longer (½ mile or more) and provide key connections to local networks; gaps are short connections (½ mile or less) needed to ensure continuity in the system. Gaps can be particularly challenging to address as they are often caused by physical barriers (highways, waterways, rail, etc.), but the county has a specific fund designated to addressing them. Gap closures should be integrated into larger reconstruction projects strategically whenever possible.

Bikeway system gaps to be addressed (Bike Plan p. 41)

Bikeway system gaps to be addressed (Bike Plan p. 41)

2.3 Designate an “enhanced bicycle network” of high comfort bikeways with physical separation from vehicles (e.g., protected bike lanes, cycle tracks, off-street trails, etc.). Some bikeways are more significant from a regional standpoint and should provide a higher quality of service; these will make up the “enhanced bicycle network” within the overall system.

2.4 Work with partners to develop support facilities to make biking a transportation mode of choice. Support facilities include bike parking (short- and long-term), rest areas, bathrooms, drinking fountains, benches, repair stations, showers, and changing rooms. Maps including bikeway system and facilities should be developed and updated regularly. The county will also work with partners to develop a downtown Minneapolis bike transportation center.

2.5 Work with transit partners early in the planning phase of corridor and station area planning to incorporate bicycle supportive facilities at key transit locations. Communicate with transit organizations to identify projects that would be good candidates for including bike improvements. Provide guidance to transit providers for bike facilities like parking and repair stations at transit hubs.

2.6 Work with major transit providers and communities to provide direct bicycle connections to transit stops and stations, and increase secure bicycle parking and storage to meet demand. These can be accomplished by building high-quality bikeways that connect to transit, improving support facilities at stations, and making it easy for people to bring bikes on transit. Bikeway improvements will be prioritized if they increase access to transit, especially for low-income residents.

2.7 Support local bike sharing program(s). Support expansion of Nice Ride near county buildings, public rights-of-way, along regional trails, and into suburban areas.

2.8 Collaborate with partners on planning, design, and funding for bicycle infrastructure that helps to complete or complement the county system. Infrastructure that will compliment the system includes transit systems, city bikeways, bikeway systems adjacent to the county, regional trail systems, corridors designated by the Met Council as priorities in the bikeway network, the Minnesota state bikeway system (Mississippi River Trail), and the US bicycle route system (Mississippi River Trail); consistent bikeway types will be chosen when creating connections to these networks. Develop and promote use of a full complete streets design manual for the county.

2.9 Secure right-of-way for future expansions of the bike system. Work with local governments during road retrofitting projects to add or improve bikeways. Research new traffic analysis methods for use in planning bikeway locations and types.

2.10 Continue refining this plan and implement the system of interconnected on- and off-street bikeways that link all significant destinations within the county. The 2040 plan is a living document that should be updated regularly as the project is implemented and as development and land use densities change throughout the county.  Underserved and underrepresented communities will be engaged in bike system planning to better understand barriers, needs, and desires to ensure that all populations benefit from bicycle investments.


Chapter 3: Programs

Summary: Promote the bicycle as a mode of transportation that is practical, convenient, and pleasant for commuting, recreation, health and physical activity.

Realizing the vision and expanding the audience for biking requires programs that promote biking as a fun and healthy way to explore the community and to promote it as a mainstream component of the transportation system. It’s important to target non-bikers to understand barriers, desires, and cultural perceptions about biking; this will allow the county to better achieve its goals across audiences of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

3.1 Promote the county’s bicycle-friendly nature. Seek League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Business designation for Hennepin County and support communities in seeking Bicycle Friendly Community designations. Actively participate in Pedal MN campaign. Promote the county’s bike-friendliness with advertising and PSAs.

3.2 Educate the public about bicycling as a sustainable mode of transportation that saves money, promotes healthy lifestyles, and reduces pollution. Expand partnerships with health practitioners, communities, businesses, and governments, and create materials to promote biking as a transportation choice.

3.3 Support efforts to make biking a more attractive option to typically underrepresented populations. Use surveys, focus groups, listening sessions, etc. to reach out to populations don’t ride to find out why and what would encourage more riding; if appropriate, implement programs to address these findings. Review best practices for promotion of bicycling to underrepresented minorities. Monitor emerging technologies that could extend the reach of bike trips and expand access to biking for differently abled residents.

Hennepin County bike commuting gender gap 2005-2012 (Bike Plan p. 14)

Hennepin County bike commuting gender gap 2005-2012 (Bike Plan p. 14)

3.4 Work with partners to develop activities and events for potential bicyclists on topics like bicycling in professional clothes, bicycle maintenance, hauling cargo, and other barriers that could be overcome by rider knowledge. Develop educational materials for bike events (e.g. Open Streets). Provide education for county employees about bike commuting and development of employee bike community.

3.5 Expand Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs and secure additional funding. Address gaps between bikeway system/regional trails and schools.  Make connections with schools and youth-targeted community education organizations to gather feedback on infrastructure and create programming. Consider child-friendly routes and destinations during implementation of the bike plan.

3.6 Encourage employers to promote biking as a viable commuting option. Partner with local organizations such as Nice Ride, ZAP, and Commuter Connection to promote biking for transportation and recreation. Support bike commuting for Hennepin County employees by offering biking incentives, education, creation of a county bike community, online forums, etc. Partner with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and educate the ambassadors on the location of bikeways and support facilities downtown. Support bike to work events.

Bicycle commute to work mode share 2012 (Bike Plan p. 14)

Bicycle commute to work mode share 2012 (Bike Plan p. 14)

3.7 Establish safety evaluation programs and processes to address user conflicts. Track bike crash information by bikeway type and crossing type, and develop methodology to calculate bike-related crash rates. Perform routine safety reviews at spots with high rates of crashes and close calls.

3.8 Provide a system for residents and visitors to identify areas of concern or report issues (i.e., bike crash close calls). Research ways for users to report areas of concern (e.g., Minneapolis 311, SeeClickFix, Bike Crash App) and develop a system to address conflicts in a prioritized and timely way. Work with local law enforcement and other partners to inventory conflict points.

3.9 Participate in bike education programs through partnerships with community organizations and businesses. Document current education efforts by the county and with community partners and identify what to improve or expand. Create educational materials for events. Launch a cohesive bicycle and driver educational marketing campaign. Work with partners to expand driver’s education programs and coursework for motorists, bicyclists and youth about the rights and responsibilities of all road users. Incorporate bike safety information in the county’s defensive driving and large vehicle education programs. Educate county employee drivers about habits that lead to distracted driving and enforce prohibitions of these actions.

3.11 Work with public safety officials, cities, and school districts to promote safe bicycling, driving, and walking and encourage proper enforcement. Continue to evaluate current enforcement practices relative to bicycle safety. Establish regular meetings with Hennepin County Sheriff ’s Office and other local public safety partners to discuss road and bikeway safety, improve reporting of bicycle crashes, and educate officers.

3.12 Review existing wayfinding throughout county, including various systems implemented by local communities. Collaborate with local agencies and other partners to address wayfinding in a comprehensive, coordinated way.

3.13 Provide trip planning resources in multiple formats, including print and digital. Investigate opportunities to expand wayfinding signage, integration of multiple transit modes into trip planning resources (e.g. Cyclopath, Google and Metro Transit Trip Planner), and incorporation of universal symbols for non-English speakers. Continue to regularly update and publish bicycle system maps in print; develop an online map and investigate development of GIS applications.


Chapter 4: Policy Framework

Summary: Collaboratively build an integrated county bicycling system that allows people of varying skills to safely, efficiently, and comfortably connect to and between all destinations in the county.

This chapter discusses the policy framework within which the plan was developed and recommends strategies and actions to improve coordination and complement other ongoing initiatives of Hennepin County, Three Rivers Park District, and other partners engaged in bicycle programs and projects in the region. The following strategies are aimed at supporting and encouraging partnerships necessary to implement this plan.

Policy framework including related plans and organizations. Clear as a bell, right?

Policy framework including related plans and organizations. Clear as a bell, right?

4.1 Support interdepartmental coordination and work to complement other county initiatives and planning efforts. Enhance coordination between all departments of Public Works and increase collaboration between the health and public works lines of business.

4.2 Increase internal and external support so that bikeways are eligible expenses for the lifecycle of transportation funding, including planning, design, development, operations, and maintenance. Ensure the complete streets checklist process is used for new transportation construction and create a new complete streets checklist for preservation projects (mill and overlay paving projects). Evaluate current capital improvement projects funding for the potential to add bicycle facility criteria, points and funding. Advocate for bikeway planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, and programming to be eligible grant/funding projects for external funding (i.e. Metropolitan Council, MnDOT, MnDNR, State of Minnesota, Federal Transportation Bill, etc.).

4.3 Encourage coordination among Hennepin County and partner agencies and municipalities. Strive to complement efforts at the state, region, or municipal level. Encourage local land use guidance that maximizes support for bicycling. Coordinate bicycle planning and implementation with state and regional efforts early in the planning processes. Consider developing a program to recognize local cities that make exceptional progress in improving bicycling conditions and explore the possibility of establishing an annual ‘bike summit’ meeting in which awards could be presented and participating agencies can share upcoming biking-related plans/projects and discuss coordination opportunities, share expertise, etc.


Chapter 5: Implementation

Summary: Protect the county’s and the park district’s investments in the bikeway system and reduce seasonal hazards through partnerships.

The value and impact of the plan hinges on how it is implemented over time, which will require cooperation with cities and agencies and ongoing political and public support. The five steps in the plan implementation process include project prioritization, project design, funding, maintenance, and evaluation and data management.

5.1 Prioritize projects to implement. In order to efficiently and strategically invest in the bikeway system, the county must develop a process to identify a list of priority projects for implementation. Re-evaluate the prioritization process every five years; annually update the list of priority projects for implementation.

Top 25 planned bikeway system corridors (Bike Plan p. 88)

Top 25 planned bikeway system corridors (Bike Plan p. 88)

Top 25 bikeway system gaps (Bike Plan p. 89)

Top 25 bikeway system gaps (Bike Plan p. 89)

5.2 Develop and maintain a bikeway design toolkit including a matrix of bikeway options, technical design sheets and typical sections for both new construction and retrofit projects, based on local and national research and best practices. Consider the development of guidelines in conjunction with other modal guidelines, forming the basis for a future complete streets design manual.

5.3 Provide continuing education for county and park district staff about new bikeway types, planning, design and bike issues as they arise. Encourage employee involvement in county, park district, MnDOT, FHWA, and other partner workshops, webinars on bicycling planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, and laws, and attendance at relevant conferences/seminars (e.g., Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike, Transportation Research Board, Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Professional Development Seminars).

5.4 Monitor emerging transportation planning, design, and implementation practices. Consider emerging traffic analysis practices that better incorporate multimodal demand in countywide analysis. Select innovative analysis tools that assess streets’ ability to move people rather than just vehicles. Work with other agencies to improve travel demand modeling to include bicycle users. Investigate methods of markings removal and develop recommendations to allow for Hennepin County to pilot innovative striping plans and tweak them when needed.

5.5 The county and park district should budget for ongoing, consistent sources of revenue to complete planned network routes and close gaps. Refine the county bicycle funding programs. Consider developing a park district land acquisition fund and comprehensive investment approach for funding infrastructure and programs. Support efforts to reserve federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

Average annual estimated budgeting needs to build out 2040 bikeway system (Bike Plan p. 96)

Average annual estimated budgeting needs to build out 2040 bikeway system (Bike Plan p. 96)

5.6 Leverage other projects to include bikeways or take advantage of partnership opportunities outside of the normal solicitation schedule, and consider budgeting for unplanned opportunities. Continue to fund the community enhancement program for purposes of taking advantage of partnering opportunities to improve the regional trail system. Create a county opportunity fund for unplanned, yet strategically important projects.

5.7 Obtain funding for bicycle education and enforcement programs. Continue applying for statewide health improvement program (SHIP) and other funding and working with partners to fund educational programs.

5.8 Explore the creation of a regional trail authority (similar to a watershed district) for a consistent funding stream for longer term maintenance and operations.

5.9 Continue routine maintenance and pavement management of the on-street bicycle system as part of overall roadway maintenance plans. Evaluate current maintenance practices for opportunities to better address bike needs. As new bikeway types are added to the system, the county and park district will maintain, or partner with the appropriate organizations to maintain, elements such as physical barriers, striping, and bicycle signal timing; report and track the condition of markings and signage. Research best practices of bikeway snow removal.

5.10 Explore partnerships with cities to improve routine maintenance and pavement management practices for off-street bikeways. Conduct a feasibility study increasing the county’s involvement in routine maintenance pavement management practices of off-street bikeways. Create an electronic map and database of all maintenance agreements and identify maintenance responsibility gaps.

5.11 Establish and implement a policy for the closure and detour of on- and off-street bikeways that provide safe and direct alternatives. Develop work zone bicycle traffic maintenance guidelines, guidance for restoring bikeways when affected by nearby non-road construction, and signage for use during construction. Maintain adequate information about closures and detours via information line and website.


5.12 Enhance current programs and partnerships that provide routine maintenance (e.g., park district Adopt-a-Trail Program). Continue to partner with MN Conservation Corp, Sentence to Serve, etc. to provide seasonal, storm response, and special project maintenance. Oversee special events along the system to minimize negative impact. Research alternative funding and partnership opportunities for long-term maintenance and operations. Review and update regional trail maintenance guidelines biannually.

5.13 Continue the park district’s pavement management program for regional trail maintenance. Research alternative funding sources and potential partnerships for long-term pavement maintenance.

5.14 Consider a prioritized, phased snow removal policy for on- and off-street bikeways. Work with cities to designate bicycle snow emergency routes and identify locations and types of bikeways that should be prioritized as part of snow removal. Study the best methods for snow removal and expand the pilot programs to determine best management practices, costs, and potential partners to providing winter maintenance.

5.15 Regularly evaluate the performance of new and existing bikeways to determine the effectiveness of designs and treatments. Develop before and after studies when implementing innovative designs and experimental treatments, including a framework for routine evaluation of these treatments to improve understanding of how existing and/or traditional bikeways are performing and ensure treatments meet with intended use and safety performance. Maintain and annually update a bike plan dashboard that reports on the performance and progress of the plan’s implementation. Produce annual progress report on the combined implementation of the bicycle plan, pedestrian plan, and complete streets policy.

5.16 Implement a system for collecting bicycle counts and measuring the share of trips that are taken by bicycle within the county. Assess the data currently collected and develop a recommendation for a county bicycle counting program, potentially an automated system for both on- and off-street facilities. Integrate bicycle counts as part of the routine vehicular traffic count program where possible. Analyze and evaluate the change in ridership on a seasonal and yearly basis; report on these changes annually.

Key findings from the Minneapolis pedestrian and bicycling 2013 count report (Bike Plan p. 15)

Key findings from the Minneapolis pedestrian and bicycling 2013 count report (Bike Plan p. 15)

5.17 Continue to gather feedback from users and the general population on a regular basis. Use event outreach, online or intercept surveys, and other online tools (311, website, social media) to get feedback about the overall bicycle system, specific projects/improvements, and user demographic composition, preferences, and behaviors. Continue the Three Rivers Park District’s 5-Year Regional Trail Survey.

5.18 Create a working group of advisors to monitor the implementation of the bike plan. Identify and invite the appropriate people to become advisory group members. Develop a working group action plan that includes the group goals, composition, and anticipated outcomes.

5.19 Enhance strategies to house, maintain, and communicate important information and data on the bikeway system. Develop and routinely maintain an inventory and map of existing and planned bikeways as part of this plan. Maintain and routinely update GIS database with status of gaps and barriers, existing and planned bikeways and facilities to track progress, ensure local and county bikeways connect geographically with consistent bikeway types, and to track upcoming projects. Develop and maintain an electronic library of pdfs and Microstation files of all bikeways as-builts. Set up a county complete streets project website with an inventory of current and past bike, pedestrian, and complete streets projects.


Whew, there you have it! Now go check out sections you had questions on or want to read more about over at the draft plan itself, and send the county an email at or call them at 612-543-1963 with your comments and edits.

Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus

About Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus

Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus is a renegade librarian by day and general Minneapolis riff raff the rest of the time. She is an avid biker, gardener, Somali student, and fiber artist and serves on the board of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. She's interested in information access, service to underserved populations, community empowerment, and capacity building. And in getting rad on bikes, of course.