9th Street Protected Lanes: Not Dead Yet

This week, 9th Street South was repaved and its lanes were painted, including a mildly buffered bike lane. Obviously, it was a disappointment to many bike advocates that the new lanes are not protected. I covered this extensively in a previous article, lamenting the fact that, if this project went forward without protected lanes, we would have to wait another decade before an opportunity would come to install them.

In spite of that, we should be thankful that these buffered lanes are an improvement over the substandard lanes that preceded them.

9th Street before and after

9th Street bike lanes before and after the 2015 repaving. For now…

However, there’s something else to be happy about: protected lanes may not be a decade away after all.

After my article went live a month ago, the city council received many outraged emails from the streets.mn audience in support of the protected lanes. Soon after, a group of volunteers from the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition gathered data on the corridor and brought a detailed and well-researched case to the city and surrounding businesses for putting a lane in on 9th Street. They also helped to dispel some misconceptions about the lane, like that it would remove all parking on the left side of the street.

Now, the city is seriously considering redoing the lanes next year and installing the protected bikeway 9th street needs. Though the delay is still frustrating, at least there is now more time to work with businesses to ensure their reasonable concerns are addressed and to gather feedback from bikers on how the lane will be laid out.

So, what can we take away from this kerfuffle? First, Minneapolis Public Works needs to engage the public earlier in the process. Second, thanks to you, we are no longer facing the certainty of a decade without a protected bikeway on 9th. However, that doesn’t mean we’re done. There are still powerful people who can and will block or delay important bikeways, as Saint Paul found out with Cleveland Avenue. So, we need to keep up the pressure on the city to pass their Protected Bikeways Plan and to actually follow through on it. You need to contact your city council members, volunteer with a bicycle advocacy group, attend public meetings, or even just go to an Open Streets event. There are so many ways to help make this happen. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish and what Minneapolis’s streets will look like years from now.

Tyler Schow

About Tyler Schow

Tyler Schow studies Communications at the University of Minnesota and is currently Communications Intern at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent those of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

24 thoughts on “9th Street Protected Lanes: Not Dead Yet

  1. Keith Morris

    Why no pic taken from the point of view of a cyclist in the bike lane? I’m all but certain that two-inch buffer isn’t enough when a car door is open, let alone a pickup truck or SUV. Why not just make it parking for microcars only next to the bike lane?

    1. Tyler SchowTyler Schow Post author

      I apologize for not putting in a biker POV shot. It should’ve occurred to me when I was taking these pics, but it didn’t.

      As far the parking, you’re right, there’s still not enough room to avoid the doors. This is an improvement, but not enough. That’s why we need to push the city hard to get the protected lane in next year.

  2. Matt Brillhart

    Wait, so the bike lane is still on the left? Why didn’t it move to the right side of the street?

    The worst left-side bike lane downtown is 10th Street. That one absolutely has to be moved to the right. Especially since north of Twins Way / Ramp A it IS on the right, then you transition to the left side near Ramp A, continue on the left through downtown, and then switch back to the right again east of Portland. It’s a mess.

    As for 9th Street – that should really be a two-way street. It has no freeway connections, so it just isn’t needed as one of downtown’s “super one-ways” that shuttle cars to and from freeway connections. If 9th Street must remain a one-way, then I would hope that the plan is for the protected bike lane to remove a lane of traffic, rather than a lane of parking. There is no need for three vehicle lanes on 9th Street.

    1. Keith Morris

      For the entire stretch of 9th a block east of Chicago to a block west of Hennipen, Google maps says it’s 8 minutes with traffic, while on a bike it’s a whopping seven full minutes. Just goes to show how little sense cars make in a dense urban environment and that the street clearly should be two-way.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        Also shows you have crazy it is that drivers get frustrated about being briefly behind a bike. A guy zoomed past me on Saturday, having been delayed a fraction of a second on his quarter block trip to the next stop sign. Can’t we all just chill a little?

    2. Tyler SchowTyler Schow Post author

      The group of volunteers (I was part of it, but didn’t want to self-promote in the article) looked a lot at 9th Street and we agree with the PW’s plan to leave the lane on the left. That way, there’s no conflict with bus route 9. Also, there is a patient drop-off area for the Medical Arts Building on the right side of 9th that is used by persons with disabilities. That would be a major conflict with the protected lane since it’s not so easy for them to simply get out of their car and walk across the bike lane.

  3. Jonathan

    Lisa Goodman chimes in:
    “I support the current bike lane on 9th, its being redone as we speak. I do not yet support 9th for a protected bike lane given the property and business owners have huge concerns. This plan eliminates parking, valet and drop off at the curb and this is a huge issue for several businesses that rely on it like The Chambers hotel, can you imagine hotel guests crossing a bike lane to unload luggage not at the curb? This needs a lot more thought at this point.”

    I’m guessing this doesn’t need a lot more thought and the valet parking is just a read herring with an easy design fix.

    Of course, bikers don’t pay Lisa’s bills.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Won’t someone think of the valet users?

      Really hard to see having to cross a bike lane as a thing that would make guests choose a different hotel.

    2. Tyler SchowTyler Schow Post author

      Well, at least we’ll have more time now give it more thought. Also, when is this from? She’s been told multiple times that parking won’t have to be removed in order for the protected lane to be installed. That was initially Public Work’s mistake, though, as they never presented that possibility.

    3. Ethan OstenEthan Osten

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Lisa Goodman’s ward is the same one which elected Barbara Carlson in the 80s. Progressive in name only.

    4. Doug TrummDoug Trumm

      Her red herrings need to be a little more thought out at this point. It’s just an extra ten feet. Ward 7 does seem like it needs a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly Council Member.

  4. Keith Morris

    No protected bike lane doesn’t mean a substandard DZBL is acceptable, especially when a travel lane could be given over to bikes with plenty of room for a large buffer. Google maps already confirms that the current layout only gives motorists the illusion of speed: it’s as fast or faster to do the entire stretch of 9th by bike, so by extension we can expect similar travel times on other one ways.Tthere’s no reason to keep this or any others as car-centric as they are.

  5. Marc Berg

    I went on the walk/talk tour with the MBC folks two weeks ago and what impressed me about 9th Street was its potential to become an excellent example of a protected bikeway that gives everyone what they want – at relatively low cost. The street is wide enough to include a cycle track without taking away any of the three traffic lanes, the parking on both sides of the street, or any of the sidewalk width. We need to do this one to show how cycle tracks can promote economic development without increasing traffic congestion. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to an idea corridor for this demonstration. Plus, it’s on the city plan for a protected bikeway; and the Elliot Park Neighborhood plan from 10 years ago called for “more east-west bike routes.” Let’s defeat the ignorance and get this one built!

    1. Keith Morris

      If a cycle track were going to be built we would absolutely have to remove a traffic lane if remaining a one way because the current layout encourages speeding even more than on 1st Ave: 35 MPH traffic turning into intersections full of cyclists? That doesn’t sound like a better scenario.

      There’s no getting around the fact that traffic speeds need to be lowered and a protected bikeway won’t do it just like bike lanes don’t: signals need to be retimed, lanes narrowed if possible, serious bump-outs added with raised mid-block crosswalks, etc.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          Man, I get that you like speed, but you can’t think that traffic should be moving at 35 mph through the heart of the city center, can you?

          If we can’t ask that drivers slow to at least the 30 mph speed limit for a few blocks of downtown without causing them to be “afraid,” it hard to see we can ever compromise.

          1. Monte Castleman

            I don’t condone speeding and if it’s really such a problem for motorists going 5 mph over I hope the cops start writing tickets, but all the anti-motorist suggestions in the previous post will likely cause motorists to grind to a stop in congestion, not slightly slow them down.

            1. Monte Castleman

              I’m probably should have said “anti-motorist / pro-pedestrian” suggestions. And I’m not trying to tell the city what they should or should not do. I don’t go downtown as a motorist or otherwise so I don’t care. They could barricade the street and put in a pedestrian mall with yuppie food carts and organic markets and it would be fine with me, provided they don’t get ideas for doing that to the suburban neighborhood I live in.

              Just pointing out that in the Cleveland thread the question was raised why motorists object to bicycles when it doesn’t impact them, but they see things like this (or lowering the speed limits on Park and Portland because the bicyclists apparently didn’t like the cars going so fast), that do. Whether we should do those things or not is another question, but motorists paranoia does not come from a vacuum.

            2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

              Except we know that we can’t write tickets to perfect compliance, so why is change the design of the street scary to motorists?

              And the extra speed isn’t during rush hour, it’s when the capacity far exceeds the demand. Which may be nearly all the time on 9th, which doesn’t connect to any freeways.

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