Time for Some East Lake Open Streets Follow Through

Sunday’s Open Streets on East Lake Street was the biggest ever. (Or so I hear; I wasn’t there, I was off doing this.)

A while back I was interviewing an East Lake business owner for a story I was working on, and a neighborhood organizer came up to the table to chat. We ended up talking about how hard it was to keep businesses running on East Lake Street.

“We really missed the boat when they did the street reconstruction,” she told me. “We should have had a 4-3 conversion.”

Amen. If you’ve lived in Minneapolis for more than five years, you probably remember the massive East Lake street reconstruction project, where Hennepin County completely tore up the road and replaced it with brand new sidewalks, nice and wide.


East Lake c. 2007

Here’s what I wrote about this stretch of East Lake back back during the reconstruction process:

One of the interesting details of this photo is the way that the new, streetscaped sidewalk comes up to the car lot… Minneapolis finally invested in some infrastructure improvements along Lake Street a few years ago, and this stretch along East Lake is the last part of the avenue to get made over. They widened and re-poured all the sidewalks along the route, added bumpouts to slightly calm the traffic, and re-did the tree plantings. I guess the idea is to improve the pedestrian experience along the route, and in the picture at right you can see where the new sidewalk replaces the old sidewalk (right in front of the E. Lake White Castle). So far, I’m not that impressed with the new sidewalk… its so bright and glare-y, and the trees have yet to attain any sort of respectable size. Time will tell, though, and in a few years I think the Lake Street pedestrian experience will be vastly improved. It might even start a renaissance along the boulevard, and maybe someday a few of these car dealers might become corner stores, bars, or shops.

Well I was a bit young and dumb. The new sidewalks were and are fantastic, accommodating to just about everyone that might possibly use them. And they were in full splendor on Sunday. But the East Lake renaissance that I hoped for remains sluggish. There are signs that things are improving (see the new Himalayan Restaurant, replacing the old Kong’s), but it’s still a very sleepy part of town

Street design as an economic driver


My ideal East Lake design = Nicollet + bike lanes + bumpouts and/or medians.

It turns out that sidewalks alone do not make a great city. Walking around East Lake Street still feels eerie, mostly because the road is far wider than it should be. At any time outside of rush hour, there is rarely much traffic. But crossing the four lanes (plus lots of wiggle room), and walking along it, feel daunting and vacuous.    

I’ve written before about all the reasons that 4-3 conversions are good ideas. They’re safer for drivers because they provide predictable turning lanes. And they allow space for bicyclists, as giving up one outer traffic lane means that there’s room for decent bike lanes on the street. As someone who rides a bike regularly down East Lake, that would be a major improvement! (Currently, many cars still buzz me as I travel down the right-hand side of the road.) 

But there’s another reason for traffic calming that has less to do with bikes or safety, and more to do with improving access. Streets with a center turn lane are simpler and safer for pedestrians to navigate, especially if a few crossing medians (or bumpouts) are thrown in for good measure. You can stand in the middle of the street, take refuge, and cross more carefully. And the center lane of traffic is inherently very slow moving and careful.

Most importantly, the design mostly solves the common “crosswalk death trap” problem, where one car stops for a crossing pedestrian only to have a car behind it speed up and pass alongside. When combined with easy bicycle access, all these changes make 3-lane road designs much more accommodating to businesses. After all, it’s not the total number of cars that make a good location for a café or store, it’s how many drivers actually park their cars and get out to shop. In other words, placing pedestrians first is a great businesses decision.


2012 traffic counts on East Lake.

Raising the bar on traffic counts


Woman biking on East Lake while walking a dog.

Looking at East Lake, it’s difficult to explain exactly why the area remains somewhat economically desolate. (See this podcast that tries.) Sure there are a few businesses that have popped up and are thriving. but for every Merlin’s Rest or Sonora Grill, there are a few places (Parka springs to mind, or the new Riverside Market) that struggle to attract steady business.

When Hennepin County was making the decision to design the road with four through lanes, they probably were using the current high threshold traffic count standards to consider 4-3 conversions. Most Twin Cities public works departments continue to insist that 4-3 conversions are impossible for any road with ADTs (average daily traffic counts) above 15,000 cars per day. But there are many examples from around the country where 4-3 conversions worked well, creating a safer road while boosting the local economy, even on roads with over 20,000 daily cars. With an extra-wide right-of-way, and just barely eclipsing 15,000 cars per day in only in a few places, East Lake seems like the perfect candidate for such an “experiment” in Minneapolis.

The current design of East Lake street is doing the neighborhood few favors. Sure it might be conducive to higher speeds, which might help you get to Saint Paul a few seconds faster. But the thriving street life during Sunday’s Open Streets suggest that Hennepin County screwed up when they reconstructed East Lake years ago. A 3-lane design would be safer for everyone, and help bring needed economic vitality to a long-struggling area.

Open Streets are more than just a fun festival. The events are supposed to lead to re-thinking our street design priorities. The logical next step for East Lake is to consider re-striping the road with center turn lanes. I believe it would ensure that every day feels a bit more like it did on Sunday.


Dancing outside Merlin’s in wintertime: the exception that proves the rule.

94 thoughts on “Time for Some East Lake Open Streets Follow Through

  1. Wayne

    I feel like this is yet another example of why we need to get Hennepin County out of the business of building inner-city roads through Minneapolis. They always prioritize car traffic over calming and treat city streets like they exist only to funnel traffic elsewhere, not to serve local residents and businesses (except for parking, they always care about retaining street parking).

    It’s one layer too many in the road design/planning process … we need to design roads for local users OR regional traffic, not try to do some half-hearted attempt at both. Highways are supposed to serve the regional end and local roads (arterial or otherwise) are what bind together or tear apart neighborhoods. Whenever a road is designed by the county it almost always falls into the latter category. If they want to throw together ADA-compliant stroads in the far off burbs let them, but Minneapolis needs to reclaim all its streets from the county and find a way to cover the costs, because letting the county do the planning is not working.

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    I agree that this section of roadway should be “low-hanging fruit”. There are examples even within Minneapolis of 2/3-lane roadways handling >15k ADT, like Lyndale near 54th, or Cedar Ave near Nokomis, which handles about 20,000 even.

    The frequency of unwarranted signals along E Lake may cause more traffic jams than the same volume would along Cedar, but I think it’s worth giving things a try. (And perhaps adjusting the signals, rather than adding four lanes).

    In addition to east-of Hiawatha being the lowest-volume, I think it’s also arguably the most needed for bike facilities, since the Greenway is far lower-quality there than to the west of Hiawatha, and since bike facilities continue into St. Paul along Marshall Avenue.

    I vote we stripe it down to three immediately east of Minnehaha Ave, and ideally adjust parking near that intersection so as to create a bike lane-to-bike lane connection from Minnehaha to E Lake.

    1. Nicole

      Yes, agreed, regarding adding bike facilities east of Hiawatha because the Greenway is of lower quality. And also because the Greenway swings just a bit north as you get closer to the river, making it less efficient if going to St Paul via Lake/Marshall bridge.

    2. Aaron Berger

      Also of note – at least some of the lights (33rd Ave, I’m looking at you) won’t cycle without a car or a beg button, which means bikers trying to cross Lake need to dismount and walk to the beg button, or illegally bike on the sidewalk, or dart across the street during an opening in traffic. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to discover which lights fall in this category!

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        That’s more a beef with Minneapolis’s signal equipment than anything else. Modern signal equipment (with video detection) should have no problem detecting bikes. I bet even the current detection could detect a bike if it’s properly aligned. (Marking the existing loop sensors would help).

  3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    I will say, one possible benefit of the undivided four-lane might have been a smooth, almost streetcar-like bus pattern. Buses proceed straight through in the right-hand lane, and barely have to change their lateral position at all to make a stop. This makes for more efficient service, and a much more comfortable ride.

    In practice, of course, that didn’t work out. Almost all the bus stops are in pull-outs/parking lane.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      I remember having this discussion on UrbanMSP a few years ago, with no “aha” moments regarding opportunities. Ideally, there would be a way to modify the striping in a way that works for all users with minimul changes to the curb.

      I actually think Lake Street aBRT represents a huge potential to fix this, if we get ahead of the planning process: A standard road diet would be nice (Lake fails at peak hours as it is, so I don’t see much harm in reducing most of it to 3 lanes and eliminating the weave around turners).

      But what about buses? It’s tough to manage on-line bus stops where there’s a lack of dedicated bus lanes or multiple general purpose lanes in each direction: I’m assuming planners would see it as unacceptable for buses to block the primary travel lane during stops. And from a service perspective, it’s ideal for buses to not have to dip in and out of the traffic lane – that’s a recipe for queasiness.

      Imagine if aBRT was so fast for boarding/alighting (all door boarding, step-free access, proof of payment) that we COULD do a road diet AND have aBRT stop in the travel lane. You could do bike lanes that bulb out around midblock aBRT stations.

      The existing Lake Street profile looks to be 48′ curb to curb at intersections, and 60′ curb to curb where there’s parking lanes (6′ parking lanes).

      This wouldn’t require any new concrete, other than the bus bulb. It could look like this: http://streetmix.net/-/260883

  4. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Great article, and while we’re talking about experiments in redesign/use (seque!), it’s interested to see how pedestrians are behaving along the closed-to-cars Nicollet Mall during construction.

    As someone who still tries to get through on a bike commute (although construction will force me to other routes), it’s a little frustrating to have people making meandering mid-block crossings, sometimes without really looking, but as someone who thinks this stretch could be much more active, it’s kind of exciting to see it without powered vehicles.

  5. Aaron Berger

    Amen. My first reaction to Open Streets East Lake was exhilaration at the freedom to bike down the middle of a street I have excluded myself from for safety (I am a daily on-street bike commuter and pretty comfortable in most circumstances, but based on an eyeball check of the Bicycle-Motorist Crash and Daily Bike Traffic maps, Lake Street looks to be among the more dangerous per cyclist in Minneapolis). My second reaction was of sadness that the next day it would again become a dangerous road that I will plan to avoid whenever possible. I have a fantasy that cities will one day have a pedestrian street (we can compromise and make it a woonerf) parallel to every arterial. Based on what I have seen at every Open Streets event I’ve been to, there are tons of people who would love this arrangement. Make them city streets and we don’t have to get county approval. I keep coming back to this site because you all are willing to think big. Thanks!

    1. Steven Prince


      We already have a pedestrian/bike street parallel to Lake Street. It’s the Greenway.

      1. Aaron Berger

        That’s right and wrong. The Greenway is unique because it’s grade separated, but that means it’s not easy as a pedestrian or cyclist to hop on and off. It’s also 0.4 miles north of Lake Street east of Hiawatha. Finally, you’ll never hear me complain about the Greenway, but we only have a few similar trails and the others (like my beloved Kenilworth trail) don’t serve local destinations.

      2. Rosa

        the Greenway is really, really far out of the way from the east end of Lake Street. It’s parallel near me (Bloomington Ave) but, for instance, I went out to eat at a place just off Marshall in St Paul yesterday, and going on the Greenway would have taken me to Franklin instead. What was I supposed to do, head south on Snelling or take the super-windy East River Road? No. Lake/Marshall.

        It is really weird how the bike lane ends just before the Marshall bridge as you go West. That hill is kind of fast and blind for cars.

      3. Joe ScottJoe Scott

        The other problem with the greenway as a street is that it has very little building frontage. And unfortunately it’s difficult to build new commercial frontage on the greenway as well.

  6. Steven Prince

    The auto part of East Lake is too wide, its interesting that political leadership at the time Lyndale was rebuilt forced the County to try something they really did not want to do, but that did happen on Lake Street (perhaps the neighborhoods lacked the political clout our organizational capacity to advocate effectively against the professional planners).

    What are the various peak traffic counts for the parts of Lyndale, Nicollet and Lake Street discussed?

    I suspect the Lake-Lyndale comparison is more relevant to this conversation, the Eat-Street part of Nicollet benefits from being a cul-de-sac since traffic is blocked at Lake Street. I sometimes wonder if removing K-Mart to reopen Nicollet is really a good idea, might it not be better to redevelop the area into a more urban node (imagine doing that around a light rail stop!) and not reopen Nicollet to through traffic.

  7. Steven Prince

    One last thought for East Lake- would it make sense to add some properly designed roundabouts?

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Wouldn’t be worth decimating the businesses, but where space allows and/or a corner building is coming down for some other reason, I think it could be a beneficial feature. I think it would be particularly useful at Minnehaha/Lake. Might also be nice to have a dumbbell interchange at Hiawatha if the SPUI is one day replaced.

      The Minnehaha Ave/Minnehaha Pkwy/Godfrey Pkwy roundabout is such a great feature, and calms traffic really nicely on Minnehaha Ave. Doing it at a major intersection on Lake could improve traffic flow and discourage speeding.

      Alternatively, you could go really far out and go to 2-lane divided, no lights, all roundabouts.

      So you’d have roundabouts at, say, Minnehaha Ave, 36th Ave S, 42nd Ave S, and E River Pkwy, with a continuous median for that whole length. There would be no left turns or crossing between those points, except for ped/bike cut-throughs of the median.

      There are some costs to this:
      1. Right-of-way impacts and loss of businesses
      2. Interruption to north-south grid (although bike/ped could still get through)
      3. Some movements would be more time-consuming in a car. Like instead of turning left from 39th Ave onto Lake St, you’d turn right and do a U-turn at 42nd.

      But there are major benefits:
      1. You can basically eliminate right-angle/T-bone crashes on the corridor.
      2. Much simpler movements for drivers entering/crossing Lake St, hopefully meaning they pay better attention to road users
      3. Smooth-moving traffic, with no dead-stops for red lights, reducing speeding to catch a green.
      4. Ped refuge point at every single intersection. Eliminate this misery
      5. Continuous green space available in both roundabout center islands and median.

      All this is much more involved than the restripe Bill suggests. But I’d wonder if long-term, that may be the way to go.

      1. Rosa

        Given theI way drivers behave at the one part of East Lake where they have a right-turn cut, at the River Road (someone mentioned it in another comment) I don’t see a roundabout being better. If drivers had smooth-moving traffic at Lake & Hi they would just never pause for pedestrians at all.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          Free rights can be a little different, since, depending on the design, a motorist may not have any other reason to slow down or stop. For the movement (turning right), they allow people to go at speed — especially that free right from SB W River Road to Lake St, which has the geometry of an exit ramp.

          Maybe cars would still be noncompliant. But the big argument I’ve heard in favor of a “roundabout corridor” is that you eliminate the desire to beat the lights. I think that’s a big factor in reluctance for motorists to stop for peds. Motorists do a great job at the current Minnehaha roundabout, probably in part because it’s just so common to see bikes and pedestrians there.

          In any case, 66th Street should be a helpful playground to watch, with a string of four roundabouts (two in place, two to be added by 2018). Frankly, if it works there, I think it will work even better on Lake St, a lower-volume and lower-speed roadway.

          1. Rosa

            the Minnehaha roundabout is special because of the park, I think.

            The tiny roundabouts littering south Minneapolis where there used to be 4-way stops are terrible, drivers take them as excuses for just not even slowing down and then they are routed out into the middle of the street instead of staying on their side, and cyclists don’t stop for pedestrians at them either. Everyone takes them as a “breeze through at speed without looking for anyone smaller than you”

              1. Rosa

                I don’t know. They just plunked them down into the middle of the intersections where there used to be regular grid w/stop signs. Along 17th Ave for sure and I ran into one somewhere else when I was out and about last week.

                  1. Rosa

                    I know several cyclists who love them, for emotional reasons – fly through no guilt, unlike the stop signs that they slow down for & feel bad about “running”.

                    But I hate them, as a person who actually lives near one and goes through them all the time on bike, foot, and in a car (the one on 17th Ave is actually very pretty and taken care of by neighborhood people – they put up a Christmas tree in winter and everything. It’s excellent landscaping). They route cars right into the middle of the street at speed. There aren’t any where they would be useful for traffic calming, like at 17th & 36th Street, the four-ways worked just fine, and if they really needed change just putting in 4-way yield & caution signs would have been a lot cheaper and just as useful.

                    Plus they didn’t put in anything at the streets where traffic calming would have helped 17th be better for bikes and pedestrians – 26th, 28th, 38th, and maybe 35th and 36th.

                    It really seems to me that the good use of roundabouts is at intersections with more than 4 sides.

                    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                      As someone who bike commutes via 17th, I love the mini traffic circles. Unfortunately the ones further north like 36th and 32nd are very small and allow motorists to fly thorugh. I live near the one at 45th, which is larger, though with a concrete apron for larger vehicles. It forces motorists, and even fast bicyclists, to slow down much more and it feels much safer. https://goo.gl/maps/CVKpH

                      But yes, we also need refuge islands for crossing at 38th, 35th, 28th, etc.

                    2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                      I’ve ridden 17th a few times, and may end up bike commuting on it more regularly soon, and agree. It’s great for passing through on a bike.

                      Of course, those aren’t the only relevant users.

                    3. Rosa

                      I think if the ones on 17th were any bigger, no schoolbuses could get through in winter. It’s iffy sometimes already.

                      I’m only on 17th from 34th street north, in general, so I only hit the 2 (why oh why did Phillips get nothing along 17th? I can’t wait for the safety island part of the 26th/28th street redo). They don’t seem any faster, on a practical level, than the old 4-way stops were, for cyclists.

      2. Peter Bajurny

        Here’s a crazy idea: let’s just close all the ramps connecting Lake & Hiawatha. It’s just a miserable experience for everyone, drivers included. I know that figuring out where to reroute access to Lake St would become a bit of a sticky situation in places, but I’m not entirely sure it’s an insurmountable challenge.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          As a general rule, doesn’t it make more sense to route traffic to streets that are designed to handle it? If we just closed Lake St, presumably, you’d have a lot of extra traffic going through the neighborhoods to get to Lake — probably 32nd St to either 22nd Ave or Minnehaha, or 28th St to 21st Ave.

          I think closing access at 28th and 32nd — or perhaps making them right-in/right-out only — would do a lot more to improve traffic on Hiawatha. 32nd is important for ped access, so you might add a HAWK signal to help peds get across.

          If we did close Lake ramps, I’d suggest closing 32nd anyway, to encourage Lake St access traffic to use 26th/28th.

          1. Rosa

            Are you kidding? The LRT/Greenway connection crossing at 26th is already AWFUL and that would just route all the cars getting to Target/Cub/east of Lake off Hiawatha around past the charter middle school and across the Greenway crossing over there too.

            1. Wayne

              Let’s just take the MOA approach and build lots of huge flyover ramps directly to the shopping center there. You can have one set for the north entrance and another for the south. Nothing says Minnesota like lots of expensive highway ramps, the fly-over-ier the better!

              1. Rosa

                I would LOVE a ramp (or as some people call them, a “pedestrian bridge”) over 26th street on the east side, east of the Sabo where you get on the LRT going north. I’ve seen two cyclists totally taken out by cars there. It’s gotten better over time but even when you’d think it would be totally safe – when there’s a red light, or when the train is coming and the crossing arms are down – half the time there’s a car blocking the way or driving through to turn right on red.

                26th AVENUE, on the other hand, has gotten massively better just because car drivers have gotten more aware of bikes. Back 5 years ago when I was taking my kid back and forth to school that way all the time, like 90% of the drivers just drove right through pretending not to see us (I know they were pretending because after a while I started flipping them off as they went by, and it turned out they WERE actually aware i was there, they just didn’t feel like slowing down or stopping.)

  8. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

    Other bonuses from doing a road diet on East Lake?

    1) The Lake Street bridge could look like the Franklin Avenue bridge.

    2) it would force / encourage Saint Paul to finally “close up” the last remaining gap westbound down the hill on Marshall Avenue, where the bike lane disappears, the exact spot where I’ve come closest to death.

    1. brad

      Amen to #2. If it’s not drivers angry at you taking the lane down the hill, it’s the drivers coming from River Road nosing out into traffic going onto the bridge (partly not their fault, as they have a horrible line-of-sight)

      1. Jeff


        Granted, there is somewhat less conflict given that cyclists can go faster down that hill, but that’s where the majority of “angry accelerations” have occured during my commute, IMHO.

    2. Rosa

      it would be so great if that bike lane ran all the way to, say, 29th Ave in Minneapolis (the one that’s closed to through car traffic to make it safer to get from the Greenway to Seward Montessori. I think it’s 29th but maybe not).

  9. Rosa

    Making Lake easier to cross with safety islands would make it so much easier to go places on the bus!

    But other than that, I think you might be giving street design too much blame. I’ve lived just off Lake since 1999, first on the West and now on the East side of Powderhorn. It’s always looked like spillover/push from Uptown drives our development. First into Lyn Lake and then (with some skips over the big institutional buildings) over here toward Bloomington, then the Midtown once it got redeveloped. That stalled out during the recession but the businesses you mentioned that are doing well have seemed like a sign it’s getting better again – plus a lot of survivors that were just hanging on seem to be doing better.

    The apartment buildings on Lake at the light rail have done a lot to keep the businesses there going, and the apartments right at the river road end support a little island too. There aren’t any natural nodes like that left on Lake as far as I can tell.

  10. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino

    I agree that East Lake is too large and could probably do with a 4-3 conversion, though I guess I disagree that it’s not doing well economically, which you say a couple times in the post. Is East Lake not doing well? There’s no Crate and Barrel, but it’s full of businesses, and there are certainly fewer vacant commercial spaces than downtown.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      Certainly a subjective take on it. Sam Newberg has actually studied this area, and could probably tell us with data. Judging by Walgreens-es, East Lake is on the rise, I suppose.

      My point was that a better street design where you could actually easily cross would only improve the local economy.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        There’s also a sparkling new McDonald’s, built in 2012, complete with double drive-thru lanes and a nice private frontage road along Lake St. If that’s not economic development, I don’t know what is.

        (Don’t worry. There’s a crosswalk across the frontage road, so it’s “urban” and “pedestrian-friendly”, too.)

    2. NiMo

      The only area with lots of empty storefronts/empty lots is across from the cemetery, between Cedar and 21st Ave.

  11. Kyle

    I see high post-apocalyptic / zombie movie set potential for E. Lake.

    This street is fascinatingly and unusually empty on weekend early mornings, say 5:30am on a Sunday for being in the middle of and connecting two major American cities. It’s not unusual for me to to go from Hiawatha to River Road and maybe see two cars, with one typically a police car.

    1. Rosa

      Yeah, the observation that there aren’t empty storefronts east of 21st Ave might be true, but the farther east parts of Lake sure feel empty compared to the farther West parts – and I’m not even talking about Uptown, I’m talking about Bloomington to Nicollet, which is more my usual stomping grounds. I’m trying to think why. Is it the lack of shade, the lower number of people walking around, that “doorways per foot” measurement, what?

  12. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Probably not, since there may not be enough traffic balance to make them work. If 95% of the traffic is on Lake St, and 5% of the traffic is coming off the N-S street, it’s hard for the N-S traffic to get a gap to get in. The roundabout becomes more like a circular obstruction to Lake St, not meaningful traffic control.

    The better approach would be to do well-spaced roundabouts along the corridor, and make those unwarranted signals (and intersections with no signal) right in/right out only, to use the roundabouts for other movements.

    However, you might also do a roundabout at an isolated point with relatively balanced traffic. Like Minnehaha or potentially W River Rd. The MInnehaha light is pretty tedious (protected left cycles on both directions), plus it already has a free right on one corner. (That is, if you’re concerned about roundabouts not being too hot for pedestrians, it’s still a net improvement over the “porkchop” in place today.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      Was this in reply to my roundabout question that I trashed a couple of minutes after posting since I should have read all of the replies including the ones farther down discussing the same point? I goofed. Sorry.

      I hadn’t thought about the 95/5 issue and that is a critical element with higher traffic roundabouts.

      I think the key for pedestrians (and bicycle riders and people with disabilities) is to make it exceptionally clear who has right-of-way with sharks teeth. A ped/bike crossing set a car length from the roundabout and causing motor traffic to yield works well as do similar arrangements where bike/ped traffic must yeild. Not so well with higher volumes of motor traffic where the motor traffic must be given ROW in order to avoid major backups which also causes bike/ped folk to never be able to cross (similar to the 95/5 issue).

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        I’m not sure that the yield line you’re describing is super helpful in an American context, since it’s not commonly used, except at roundabouts.

        One important safety feature of the roundabout is that the crosswalk is set back from the vehicular yield point. If the crosswalk were right at the edge of the roundabout, it would be easy for a driver entering the circle to completely miss a pedestrian coming from the right, as their focus is looking for a gap from the left.

        As such, those “sharks teeth” yield lines are set at the vehicular yield point, while regular crosswalk markings are used at the crossing point. See this standard MUTCD striping for a roundabout.

        I don’t believe it would be kosher right now to use a second yield line behind the crosswalk — but standards aside, I suppose it could be done. I think a more effective approach would be to raise the crosswalks on all legs, so you don’t have the option of peeling out of the roundabout at speed. (In fact, I believe the Minnehaha ones are slightly raised.)

        Also — remember that much of the year, pavement markings like yield lines don’t do much good. On minor streets, they’re covered in snowpack, and on major streets, they blend in with pavement because of the layer of white salt dust. So using signage and physical speed impediments (like raised crosswalks) is probably a more year-round-compatible approach.

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

          In Europe the sharks teeth will be present at both locations, if appropriate, so it’s possible that a driver could encounter 3 sets of sharks teeth at a roundabout; bike/ped crossing on entry, roundabout entry, bike/ped crossing on exit. What is critical about the sharks teeth in Europe is that they eliminate ambiguity about who has ROW. When I am driving or riding along a bikeway I always know if I or someone else has ROW.

          I heartily agree with you on raised crossings.

          1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

            Well I get that it’s an added marker, but I don’t know of any country or state where a marked crosswalk in a visible zebra stripe doesn’t indicate that a pedestrian has right-of-way. (Although our law that unmarked crossing at intersections have ROW is far less universal.) And looking at Norway, Norwegian standard is pretty similar to ours, with a yield line at the circle, but normal zebra markings for the crosswalk itself. I’m sure this varies between European countries, however.

            I’d worry that adding extra markings only lowers the expectations for motorists further at crosswalks lacking such markings.

        2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

          Someone from Europe (or from most places outside the U.S.?) seeing a roundabout like the MUTCD example would assume that motor traffic has clear ROW and that bicycle riders should wait for a complete break in traffic. Bicycle riders would think the same since they also have no sharks teeth or yield indicator.

          In Europe drivers would be given teeth at each crossing if bicycle riders have ROW and they would know that they need to look down the path to make sure no bicycle riders are approaching. Bicycle riders and people with disabilities need not stop or often even slow down (though most will be cautious to make sure drivers do yield). Likewise if motor traffic has ROW. With this system there is no ambiguity. It is quite clear who has ROW in every instance which is much safer.

          Here in the U.S. a car will often not stop or yield unless a bicycle rider or pedestrian is in the crossing directly in front of them.

      2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        CROW (Dutch traffic engineering guides) says that a roundabout with grade level bike/ped crossings is only appropriate for locations where no arm (of a four arm roundabout) has more than 1500 motor vehicles per hour. Dutch traffic engineers are apparently a bit more conservative than this.

  13. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Bill, great post. My only issue is that given the volume and speed of traffic I would much prefer to see protected bikeways like cycletracks (and associated safe junctions) rather than lanes.

    I think what you’ve raised in this article is more ammunition for the abolishment or complete re-jiggering of LOS (Level Of Service) criteria. LOS is fine but it needs to provide for all needs including people who are disabled, riding bicycles, walking, visiting businesses, operating businesses, and living along these streets. What I see from traffic engineers today appears way too much a myopic vision of cars only (and not really even much consideration for the people in the cars).

    Perhaps a street with close retail or residential frontage like this begins with a minimum of 1 – 9′ traffic lane, 1 – 5′ protected bikeway/disabledway, 1 – 5′ sidewalk and motor traffic limited to 25 mph. Then, only if space allows, can additional elements such as parking, additional motor traffic movement or turn lanes be added.

  14. Ian

    This was a great post, and of particular interest to me since I live just south of Lake on 36th Ave, and I walk, bike, bus, or drive that corridor daily. I love the idea of a road diet on E. Lake in theory, but as a rider of the 53 bus I worry about how it will affect transit times, especially Westbound in the afternoons. There is no question that Marshall is more pleasant for walking and biking than Lake, but it can get pretty clogged up during the afternoon rush hour. Traffic can be at a crawl until Cretin, when the extra lane really helps move things along. When I bike that route, however, I really hate the lack of a bike lane from Cretin to the bridge.

    My biggest annoyance as a cyclist is that there are no good options once you get to the west side of the bridge. I’m a pretty confident vehicular cyclist, but biking on Lake just plain sucks, having to cross two traffic lanes to make a left at River Road to go south into the neighborhood also sucks and can be dangerous/impossible depending on traffic, and the Greenway is way out of the way at that point. Even if you turn right onto the River Road connector, you can’t get directly on the river trail without hopping a curb or riding on River Road for a while until there is a curb cut, nor can you very easily connect to 29th to continue westbound.

  15. Wayne

    I know we’re mostly talking about ‘far’ east lake, but is anyone else pretty unexcited for the “transit”/access project that’s going to turn it into some kind of 7 or 8 lane highway-ramp-suburban-stroad nightmare under 35W? I guess getting MNDot involved in city road building is even worse than Hennepin County.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      I agree the project appears to be driven more about improving auto capacity and access than anything else, but I don’t wouldn’t call the design “suburban stroad”. This is the cross section.

      Looks like a lot of lanes, but remember that the two outer-most will be bus pull-outs, not full lanes (bumpouts covering on both corners) and the two middle lanes are left-turn lanes. It’s actually very similar to the layout of the 66th/35W interchange — with the roadway even a bit narrower than that because there’s apparently no center pier. (Hopefully with Lake St, they’ll come up with some better daylight lighting under the bridge. 66th St underpass looks lovely at night, but creepy and unpleasant during the day.)

      Compare that to a modern suburban diamond interchange on the east end of Richfield at Cedar Ave & 66th St. The difference between 1 LTL in each direction and 2 is pretty noticeable.

      1. Wayne

        Ok, so roads in the suburbs are still worse, but this kind of layout has no place in the heart of an urban environment. Good luck ever making this area a pleasant place to be a pedestrian with that road design. Let’s just let cars keep taking and taking and taking our public space until there’s none left and we tear down some more houses and take some more land to keep going with it. Oh wait, they *are* tearing down buildings to do this. So we’re already there. In another 10-20 years we’ll be right back where we started and someone will want to widen it even more or add some slip lanes or a new ramp. I really thought we’d be past the point where we thought expanding highway access and widening roads in the middle of a city was a good idea, but I guess not.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          Correct me if I’m wrong — but I believe the property impacts from the interchange relate to the widening of 35W (for the MnPASS lane and bus station), not the widening of Lake St under the interchange.

          In any case, I guess I’m wondering what you would do differently. Right now there’s a single left turn lane for both directions, so only enough stacking space for slightly less than half the width of 35W. The proposal is to go to add one left-turn lane so there’s a dedicated one in each direction. Buses also stop in the travel lanes today — not the end of the world most of the time, but it impedes traffic from clearing the interchange.

          More than any other interchange in Minneapolis, Lake St creates huge backups on NB 35W. It creates a needless pinchpoint on the freeway, likely pushing impatient traffic onto adjacent streets as relievers. Changes to interchanges that allow us to use our investment (of both space and money) well seem worthwhile. 35W is 10 lanes — let’s get our money’s worth out of that by making it move as efficiently as possible.

          1. Wayne

            I’m not 100% sure, but I think that commercial building at the NW corner of Lake and Stevens might be partially due to the widening of Lake. I feel like they could have made the rest of it work without needing to take that corner. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s still the principle of it that bothers me.

            And forgive me if bottlenecks on the highway don’t concern me–the city has carried enough water for suburban commuters for too long. The highways cut scars through the city that have never healed and never will as long as we keep on widening them and making the few existing crossings even less pleasant to utilize in anything other than a car. What will this project do for anyone actually living or working next to 35W here? It will make the quality of life worse. The time of people who chose to live miles and miles outside the city and whose lifestyle I’ve subsidized not only via my taxes but via impacts to my quality of life is not at all important to me. They don’t care about my life or limb with their sloppy unsafe driving, why should I care about the few minutes a day it costs them to live with a suboptimal highway interchange?

            1. Monte Castleman

              The last time I checked a lot of people in Minneapolis owned cars, and there’s a lot of traffic getting on at the 60th, Diamond Lake, and 46th street ramps. And if traffic on the mainline gets too bad then the traffic will divert to local streets.

              And subsidies aren’t a black and white thing that magically appear at the Minneapolis city limits. Maybe if you live in a high rise condo above your job in downtown. But if you live in, say, the Wedge, that person in the condo is subsidizing your lifestyle, I’m subsidizing the person that lives in Elko, etc.

              1. Wayne

                If you live that far south in Minneapolis you’re in the suburbs as far as I’m concerned. I’m talking about the urbanized ‘inner-city’ part of town.

                I don’t even understand what you’re trying to say about subsidies. I pay a lot of money in taxes that goes to highway infrastructure I do not use. I get some marginal utility from it in the form of goods being delivered to me, but not enough to justify the portion of my tax money that goes to it, therefore it’s a subsidy.

                Living with the negative externalities of highways and cars that everyone seems to forget exist is also a direct subsidy. Just because you don’t notice the exhaust your car spews or how awful the built environment around a highway in the city is doesn’t mean those of us who live and work nearby don’t.

                1. Monte Castleman

                  My point is unless you live in a high rise condo and work in the store on the ground floor or within walking distance, someone is subsidizing your lifestyle.

                  No one is subsidizing the lifestyle of the high-rise condo dweller.

                  The condo dweller is subsidizing the lifestyle of the people living in the Wedge, in Armitage, in Bloomington, and Elko.

                  The person in the Wedge is subsidizing the lifestyle of the persons in Armitage, in Bloomington, and Elko.

                  The person in Armitage is subsidizing the lifestyle of the persons in Bloomington and Elko.

                  The person in Bloomington is subsidizing the lifestyle of the person in Elko..

                  Point is it’s a lot more graduated and complex than the simplistic flippant comments that get echoed here all the time “the cities are subsidizing the suburbs”.

                  1. Wayne

                    It’s not some circle of life thing where it all goes around and works out fine in the end. There are clear winners, and clear losers. I am a loser when it comes to paying taxes and getting anything back for it. Our entire state is for that matter, but I’m speaking a local scale.

                    And yes, you basically just refuted your own argument. The subsidy flows outward to areas of less density. City to suburb to exurb. Plus the fact that I don’t drive a car doesn’t make someone in farm country’s life worse. The fact that they do drive a car and bring it into the city makes my life worse. It’s pretty easy to understand.

                    1. Monte Castleman

                      I’m not arguing that there isn’t a subsidy flowing out. I’m arguing that it doesn’t magically start at city limits like some people imply.

                      So how do we figure out how big of check the person in the Wedge should be writing out to the person in the downtown condo, or the person in the exurbs to the person in the suburbs.

                    2. Wayne

                      You don’t fix it by adding another layer on top, you dismantle the structure that is providing the subsidy and replace it with something more equitable. Of course, in context of our current built environment it basically means bankrupting all the suburbs and exurbs once they have to pay their own way.

            2. Monte Castleman

              An origin / destination study would be interesting to see how many of the motorists using the Lake Street interchange are from Minneapolis. I know a lot of suburban commuters go to the Abbot Campus, but there’s not a lot of other reason for suburban residents to use it.

            3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              Reducing congestion on the freeway has at least one possible benefit of encouraging more people to use the freeway, rather than go to, say, Park/Portland. And of course, if you drive — which certainly not all, but many residents of the area do.

              But that’s just in justifying the Lake St widening. In general the project should be a vast improvement for the area. Have you used that existing bus station? It’s atrocious — loud, polluted, exposed, and completely unusable to anyone in a wheelchair. The NB stop doesn’t even have a shelter!

              The new station and platform will be similar to a light rail stop. BRT may not be as good an experience, overall, but with freeway speed, direct N-S routing, and far fewer stops than Hiawatha Line, it will be a very fast connection — probably about 5 minutes from Lake St/35W station to the first stop on Marq2.

              1. Wayne

                Yes, let’s get more people to use the freeway and therefore more people driving cars. Let’s just keep on expanding automobile usage when we have limited space for infrastructure and it is the absolute least-efficient use of that limited space.

                Or we could spend that “transit” part of the transit/access on actual transit improvements and stop bending over backwards to make driving easier (because that’s been working so well for the last 60 years!).

                And yeah, the existing bus stops were obviously an afterthought, but spending excessive amounts of money for an express bus stop and claiming people on Lake Street are going to be all about it kind of side-steps the issue of how absolutely horrible inner-city transit service is. Great, a few block radius around lake&35W now has an easy fast ride to downtown, what about the entire rest of the city outside the tiny slivers next to the blue line? You do realize all that speed and distance between stops on 35W BRT is like 90+% for suburban commuters and not for anyone who actually lives near the highway, right?

                1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                  I feel like you’re basically saying that this transit is bad (for “inner city” Minneapolis) because it’s also good for residents living outside that area. We have many lines that have tight stop spacing if that’s what’s desired — in fact, the 18 is just a block away from this line. We also have the 6, 4, and 5. But If residents desire a quick trip to downtown — or to 46th, 66th, the 494 commercial area, Oxboro, or Burnsville’s Heart of City — they can take the Orange Line.

                  The thing about improving the Lake St interchange (for cars) is that it’s not a freeway expansion — it uses the existing investment and impact (the lanes that are on 35W today) to better results. Building more lanes is not a solution, but removing obvious, egregious inefficiencies (like the Lake St interchange and the tight spacing with the 36th St ramp) is just common sense that helps us leverage what we have today better.

                  1. Wayne

                    No, I’m saying the utility of the transit improvement is almost entirely going to the benefit of the suburban commuters coming into town. It’s of very limited benefit to anyone in the city–the same people who have to bear the outsize impacts of the project. So you deal with all the externalities and get a small token improvement while the majority of benefits go to someone else.

                    And you can argue semantics all day, but it’s taking a freeway and expanding the amount of space its using. That’s an expansion. The freeway is now bigger and more intrusive than before. I don’t care if it’s due to on-ramps or off-ramps or center-bus-stations, the basic truth of the matter is the highway is now using up more land. Period.

                    Also, if your highway interchanges are so bad, why don’t you take the extra space you need from the highway itself? Remove a lane to improve your interchange. Stop gobbling up all the land outside of the existing bounds, because it’s already taken too much. You’re not making the best use of your existing space if you have to keep taking more to make it work somehow.

  16. Holly Breymaier

    I participated in the PAC that worked with Hennepin County, City of Minneapolis, Metro Transit, etc., for the planning of the Lake Street Redevelopment project referred to in this article.
    I remember that Hennepin County determined through traffic counts that EITHER the 2and2
    OR the 3-lanes would be sufficient on East Lake, at least. This came as a surprise to most PAC members, myself included.
    The local business community strongly objected to 3 lanes. I don’t remember the input from Metro Transit on this issue though they often reminded the group about the width required for buses, including their mirrors.
    Just my 2 cents.
    Holly Breymaier

    1. Monte Castleman

      Seems like it’s a knee-jerk reaction for certain people to blame the counties every time a road doesn’t get built to their satisfaction. But this and Cleveland should make it obvious that not everyone that lives in the cities is a shares the same opinion. And that things other than a bicycle or Smart car need to fit down the road.

      1. Rosa

        It’s pretty obvious to anyone who uses Lake that buses go down it and are important to everything there. Complete with bikes on the bus racks.

        But “local businesses” when that project were planned include a LOT that are no longer there, including several car-oriented ones (there used to be a used car lot by the newish Himalayan place, for instance.) They may not have been well prepared for near-future use changes.

        1. Wayne

          Honestly I’m just as sick of ‘neighborhood business owners’ as of anything else in the planning process. It’s generally a couple noisy people always worried about parking who get to somehow represent everyone. It’s just like how a few angry old NIMBYs show up to planning meetings complaining about their property values and now represent everyone in the area. They need to take these complaints with a grain of salt unless they actually have involvement from *everyone*. There’s a well-known bias where people with something to complain about are overrepresented because people who aren’t angry don’t bother getting involved.

          1. Monte Castleman

            Question (that I have no opinion on).
            Should someone renting an apartment for a year have the same input as someone that’s invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their business, who chose to locate there based on availability of parking as well as other factors.

              1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

                good question but the answer is also yes; if not, you end up in a pretty horrific place where money talks and anyone without it doesn’t count.

            1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              I was reading through the noise packet on the Lake St/35W website, and they note that voting for the noise walls weights your vote based on being a resident, owner, or both. Owners have 4 points, residents have 2. (So if you’re a homestead homeowner, you get 6 points.)

              I’d flip the proportion to 4 for resident, 2 for owner, but I like the idea. Of course, what you’re asking is more abstract — we don’t take resident votes on parking, bike lanes, or any other details like that. That probably depends more on who has the resonating story, and who talks the loudest.

              1. Wayne

                Honestly making any differentiation to me is silly. Do people really think there’s a bunch of transient renters moving into a neighborhood to push through some bad planning decisions and sabotage its future before running off to ruin the next neighborhood? I mean, seriously?

                1. Wayne

                  On that note, fun new idea: rental carpetbagging. Let’s all move somewhere and sign year-long leases and have to actually reside in a place just to push an agenda. Surely that will be popular with us rental agitators.

                2. Rosa

                  I’m pretty sure renters drive a LOT of retail business. We homeowners tend to be older, and are often house poor.

            2. Wayne

              Absolutely. Plus many renters stay put in the neighborhood for a very long time. We might hop around to different buildings, but once you’ve developed an affinity for an area you try very hard to stay there.

              Also, said renters are part of the customer base of those businesses, so their happiness with the built environment around the business has a lot to do with whether or not they will patronize that establishment. Just because the business owner thinks they know best doesn’t mean they actually do, which we should probably realize by the number of small businesses that fail on a regular basis. Taking their word as gospel for what’s best for a neighborhood is pretty silly.

            3. Rosa

              Small business owners are mostly also tenants (and that’s super smart – real estate and business traffic in a neighborhood are pretty tightly linked, value-wise, so owning your shop is really putting all your eggs in one basket.)

          2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            It’s generally business owners who are afraid of change, even if change would be an improvement. They are welcome to their opinion, but it may very well be wrong.

      2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

        Probably a fair point, but if cities themselves had more say over road designs in their boundaries things would look mighty different.

  17. Keith Morris

    The thing that gets me is that in these cases cars aren’t merely favored: they get everything and us city residents who live like city residents (walk, bike, take mass transit) get nothing. On E Lake we don’t even get any lousy sharrows or “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs. Since I moved here about 4 years ago there are still no accommodations for bikes on that street. A continuous series of “super sharrows” and signage highlighting the fact that bikes belong don’t require any redesign of the current layout and would be quick and cheap to install. If there’s no intention to redesign the the current layout over fear of a motorist backlash then why does that mean not even the most minimal effort will be made? Back in the Clintonville neighborhood in Columbus I rode on High St regularly even with the most basic sharrows and “Share The Road” signs being the only bike infrastructure there. Much like E Lake it has two travel lanes in each direction, but also a middle turn lane and two lanes of parking, so it’s strange to me that Columbus, which didn’t even place in the top 50 list of bike-friendly cities, will slap these on hostile major streets while in the #1 biking city in the nation we can’t even do this to E Lake: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.023553,-83.013733,3a,75y,226.27h,84.04t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sMEOGlGUhrE3TL9jjTdUsIw!2e0

    1. Monte Castleman

      Maybe there aren’t bicycle lanes, but there are sidewalks and buses. Is that “nothing?”.

      As far as “living like a city resident” considering that 80% of Minneapolis residents own cars and 60% drive to work alone, maybe “living like a city resident” actually means driving around, at least here as opposed to New York or Paris.

      1. Wayne

        I’d say the high car ownership rate is more likely due to the fact that all planning has been car-centric for so long and without investment in anything else it’s the only ‘logical’ choice for most people. If there were more than the two or three neighborhoods where you could actually walk to a grocery store and get all your needs without a car more people might actually live that way. If when walking to that grocery store you were maybe slightly less likely to be killed by a driver more people might do it. If walking anywhere were a more pleasant experience and less of a gauntlet of car-related dangers more people might get rid of their cars. At this point it’s the ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ sort of thing. I’m sure plenty of people resisted car culture until they dismantled public transit and burned the streetcars.

      2. Keith Morris

        Basically. Pedestrians have long stretches where they have to cross four lanes of high speed traffic and the 21 is painfully slow with too many stops while cyclists literally have nothing. No, it just means that I’m in the minority while most city residents live like suburbanites.

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