The Pedestrian Treatment

With Minneapolis getting its first Woonerf, we can start to think about reallocating road space more seriously. Over the years, many writers on have suggested a number of potential ideas in the Twin Cities for pedestrian treatment. While the radicals among us may want to ban cars altogether (at least in cities), the realistic among us recognize that will not happen tomorrow (or anytime soon). That doesn’t mean progress towards fewer cars where they are not necessary cannot be achieved.

Pedestrian and Bicycle zone in Houten.

Pedestrian and Bicycle zone in Houten.

My cursory look at the network and discussions with others identifies these locations which could become pedestrian/transit plazas or streets, with private cars generally prohibited. Some of these proposals have been discussed before on these very pages. I believe the loss to LOS would be low if done right.

Some of these (Washington Avenue) have transit, some are planned for fixed guideway transit (Nicollet, Hennepin S and NE), which would operate better without the cross-traffic, some just don’t need to have cars (4th St SE, Lake Street, Girard, 13th and 14th Aves).

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses, and suggest more in the comments.

13 thoughts on “The Pedestrian Treatment

  1. Monte Castleman

    Although I generally don’t like Lexus Lanes or dynamic shoulders, I like the idea of converting the shoulder of I-394 between Penn and downtown to a Lexus Dynamic Shoulder during peak hours, and opening the current reversible lanes to general traffic.

    1) This would solve the problem of the lane drop where the Lexus Lane disappears in the reverse direction at peak hours.

    2) This would be a carrot and stick to get traffic from MN 7 and the southwest cutting through uptown to avoid congestion on the freeways off neighborhood streets and onto a more appropriate facility

    3) With this traffic dealt with MN 7 could simply end at MN 100, with a trumpet interchange. County 25 east of here could be redeveloped, Hennepin and Lake closed, etc.

    1. Monte Castleman

      Or else convert the inside lane of the existing 6 lane section to a full time Lexus Lane, and open up the reversible lanes to general traffic. You’d then have 4 general lanes and one Lexus Lane in peak directions, equivalent to I-35W, and still have full safety shoulders. The only potential problem is reverse peak general traffic would only have two lanes.

    2. Matt Brillhart

      I love idea #3 of course. I’m guessing you borrowed that one from me on the forum:

      St. Louis Park and Hennepin County really need a come-to-Jesus moment on the future of MN-7/CR-25 east of Hwy. 100, especially with Southwest LRT entering the picture in roughly 5 years.

      Making a trumpet interchange at MN-7/MN-100 and CR-25 (east of 100) should just disappear and be redeveloped. Freeway traffic would stay on the freeway instead of cutting through Uptown, and local traffic would use Excelsior and Minnetonka Blvd to reach their destinations.

      I’m not much a fan of the “close Hennepin” nonsense, but removing a lot of that “cut through” traffic from the west would really open up possibilities for traffic calming and bus-only lanes on Hennepin between the bottleneck and Lake Street.

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Yes to the first three, maybe to Lake/Lagoon, after that it gets dicey as some of these are important routes through car-oriented places (for now).

    Personally I think priority #1 should be making the existing Nicollet Mall motor-vehicle free, but for some reason no one wants to do that.

  3. Nora Riemenschneider

    What about streets in St. Paul? Any opportunities there? Perhaps portions of Grand Avenue. Maybe around the Farmers Market site in Lowertown.

  4. Dana DeMasterDanaD

    Saint Paul has lots of little streets that are actually little – more like overgrown alleys. Most often they are one ways out of necessity. They are often not more than a block or two and are slightly misaligned in the grid system. There are a number that bisect Grand Avenue near Prior Ave. They are useful links between Marshall Avenue (bike lane) and Grand Ave (shops). These would be great Woonerfs.

    Although I fear it is pie on the sky thinking in Saint Paul, the work that TC Greenways has done in North Mpls is a great model for turning traditional residential roads into modified linear parks. Some downtown St. Paul streets might be Temperance St., sections of Main St. near Dorothy Day, or Prince St (depending on how that is redone with the new Saints Stadium).

  5. wayne

    Shut down all streets in downtown except the through streets like 3rd, Washington or Hennepin and then funnel all highway exits into parking ramps around the periphery of downtown. Close the rest of the streets to car traffic. Live in a better city.

    Not that it will happen, but let’s be bold and visionary and settle for something in between.

  6. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

    Very interesting post. I caution us, however to not confuse pedestrian-only streets with woonerfs. The definition of a woonerf includes vehicles, albeit reduced to walking pace. They are designed in a very specific manner to so as to reduce the need for signage or speed limits, and are simply shared space.

    Many of the streets mentioned in this post and comments could certainly become woonerfs, or be closed to vehicles entirely, but they aren’t quite the same thing.

  7. Alex

    I’m dubious that the Mill City Quarter facility will operate as anything different from a parking lot. Parking is by far the predominant use of the facility, taking up a good two-thirds of the real estate. Worse yet, the parking stalls will be perpendicular to the roadway, which is the most dangerous configuration for people on bicycles or on foot. I would say the Girard Meander is closer to a woonerf than the Mill City Quarter parking lot.

    1. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

      What is the Girard Meander? Between the greenway and Lagoon? Because that is basically a pedestrian passage (and a pretty nice one) with a parking ramp entrance, not a woonerf. But it works pretty well, particularly with the pedestrian bridge over the greenway.

      But Alex, you might be right – we’ll see.

      4th Street in North Prospect could be an excellent woonerf, based on planned uses and existing train station nearby.

      1. Matt Brillhart


        At present, the Girard Meander runs from the Greenway down to 31st Street and takes on a few different forms through its 3 block length. As you noted, from the Greenway to Lagoon is the Moziac plaza, which does have a parking ramp entrance at the south end, though it is completely separated by bollards. The meander continues from Lagoon to Lake as the ultra-wide sidewalk next to the Walkway development. The city vacated a portion of the street to make that possible, leaving only two narrow traffic lanes on Girard. From Lake to 31st, it continues as the pedestrian plaza on the east side of Calhoun Square, which also has a parking ramp entrance separated with bollards. All in all, it’s not bad considering that it was done by 3 different developers over several years’ time. I’m not sure how heavy of a hand the city had in making it all come together. I don’t know if there are plans to extend it further north either, but theoretically it would be really easy to extend up to 28th if you could make the parking go away.

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