Southside Greenway Inches Closer to Reality

Rending of a full street to park conversion.

Rendering of a full street to park conversion.

Minneapolis has a number of great trails and on-street bikeways, but it currently lacks a direct and safe north-south route through the city for bikes and pedestrians. For the past few months, a local group of community members, nonprofits, and neighborhood associations have been discussing the possibility of building that north-south connection in the form of the Southside Greenway. With help from a Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) grant, the group formed as the Southside Greenway Exploratory Committee in the summer of 2015 and recently released their preliminary report analyzing initial neighborhood reactions to the concept, a potential route, and possible greenway designs.

The Design

Proposed route of the Southside Greenway

The Greenway has the potential to connect 12 parks and trails from Downtown to South Minneapolis, including Gold Medal Park, Powderhorn Park, and the Midtown Greenway. The Southside Greenway would be a gateway for safe bike and pedestrian travel, and connect communities along the route.

The proposed route would begin as far north as Gold Medal Park in downtown Minneapolis and travel south all the way to Highway 62. While there is no single planned design for the entire length of the Greenway, all sections will include some sort of traffic calming and greening, dependent on community preferences. Some sections could also include protected bike lanes or undergo complete street-to-park conversion.

The design would reflect each area’s allowances and restrictions. For instance, on streets that currently have heavier traffic, bike and pedestrian space would be created with protected bike lanes, using either planters or bollards. In more heavily residential areas, a street-to-park conversion may be considered, which, in addition to sidewalks and a bike lane, would maximize the amount of green space on a block.

Neighborhood Reaction

While there were options for “I don’t like it” or “I hate it!”, no respondents selected either.

While there were options for “I don’t like it” or “I hate it!”, no respondents selected either.

In the summer of 2015 surveys were created to gauge neighborhood interest for the potential project, distributed and collected by local cultural organizations, and analyzed by members of the Southside Greenway Exploratory Committee.

Greenway Use


A total of 162 surveys in English or Spanish were completed and returned. The results were representative of different neighborhoods and cultural organizations, and the overall survey response was overwhelmingly in favor of the project.

Next Steps

At this point, this project is not being pursued by the City of Minneapolis and has no funding allocated to it. According to the report, “This process is about discerning together whether this is something that would have enough community support to advocate for planning and construction funding.” The Exploratory Committee has suggested three follow-up actions to the survey:

  • Establish a Southside Greenway Council
  • Review the route with public agency staff and key stakeholders
  • Install a one-year pilot program on 4-5 blocks of the proposed route, location dictated by the community

The surveys are a good indication that the project would have strong support in the neighborhood, and they help set the tone as the project continues to move forward.

If you would like to get involved in the Southside Greenway Exploratory Committee, attend the first of four quarterly meetings on January 20th. If you cannot attend this meeting, the next one will be on April 20th.

Alex Tsatsoulis

About Alex Tsatsoulis

Alex is a Minneapolis resident, dad to two kids, and multi-modal advocate with a passion for making bicycling, transit, and walking fun and accessible for all. Alex's favorite bus line is the 21.

34 thoughts on “Southside Greenway Inches Closer to Reality

  1. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

    Interesting. Has a “street to park” conversion happened anywhere in the city yet? Other than Milwaukee Avenue?

    I’m equal parts interested in any and all possibilities to improve biking and slow traffic on residential streets.

    1. Janne

      The Northside demonstration project was to be installed this past fall, but has been delayed to spring. I *think* there is a one block installation in North that was spurred by stormwater issues — I haven’t heard much,.

    2. Matthew HendricksMatthew Hendricks

      Sam, good question! There is a segment of 37th Ave North (which runs east-west) between Folwell Park and Penn Ave North that was converted from street to green space a few years ago, primarily to handle flooding problems. Being an east-west street, some of the challenges inherent in converting a north-south street didn’t exist. My understanding is that the new green space has been well-received.

      Also, a one-block segment of street just north of the Cedar Riverside Blue Line LRT Station was converted from street to pedestrian/bike plaza last year, which eliminated some parking spaces in favor of green space and prioritizing pedestrians & bike access to transit.

  2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    We’ll hopefully know within a month or two if we’ll be getting a full refuge island at 46th/Oakland. It’s likely, since it would significantly help with traffic flows in addition to facilitating crossings. That would be a big benefit for this potential greenway if it’s routed via Oakland.

  3. Julia

    That looks wonderful and I’m excited to see it, but as a pedestrian (not a cyclist), many of the best/safest areas to walk are far from pedestrian friendly and appear designed for casual/recreational walking, not for those who actually walk for transit. I think it’s a great step towards being a more walkable city, but pedestrians need walkable commercial corridors, not just pleasure routes through residential areas. What works for commuting by bike is very different than what works for those on foot, as much as we tend to conflate the two.

    I’d love to see streets more streets like Nicollet downtown, where pedestrians have priority access to and connections between actual destinations. If we did this with, say, Hennepin form downtown to Uptown, not only would it be an amazing opportunity for local businesses and those traveling by foot/bike alike, but we’d improve air quality by reducing car traffic for the many thousands more people who live and work along these urban corridors. I wish our policies and transit choices were fundamentally driven by considerations of public health and accessibility and I’m excited to see even slow movement in that direction.

    1. Rosa

      it feels like the best pedestrian places are the least politically feasible, because they’re the densest and most expensive.

    2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      Julia, this is an important point you’ve raised. Too many engineers, planners, and politicians think of walking and bicycling as recreation and not transportation. They think that only cars and buses are for transportation (and interestingly they don’t think that getting to/from a bus or train requires walking transportation).

      They need to hear that people do walk and ride for transportation and need constructive criticism of plans that do not meet the needs of people who walk and ride for transportation. It’s a mind-share thing.

    3. Matthew HendricksMatthew Hendricks

      I like what you’re suggesting for Hennepin Avenue, it’s such an opportunity to better connect Downtown and Uptown.

      For the proposed greenway, the connections to parks could encourage more recreational walking, and my hope is that walking for transportation is spurred by the greenway as well. There are significant destinations on the route, including the Allina Health Care complex, Midtown Global Market, and additional retail & employment along the major streets that the proposed greenway route crosses.

  4. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    I would love to see this come to fruition, especially if we are able to do some full greenway conversions.

    But I do worry about possible routing on Portland Avenue south of Minnehaha Parkway. Portland/Park is a critical high-speed route for cyclists to get from downtown to Richfield and Bloomington. I absolutely love that from my house in roughly the middle of Richfield, I can get downtown in 30 minutes on bike. That is only possible due to the consistent, smooth surface and favorable traffic control on Portland. (It takes nearly 45 going via Bryant.)

    The route is also important to Quality Bicycle Product commuters headed for the QBP warehouse in West Bloomington.

    That said, I would love to see integration with existing and possible future routes in Richfield. We already have the Lake Nokomis-MN River Trail. There is also an anticipated future route along the rail line along Pleasant Ave. Currently that rail corridor ends at 60th St in Windom, but with a few blocks of sensible greenway conversion, we could connect it to the Minnehaha Trail — creating a spectacular, high-quality separated bicycling experience all the way from Minnehaha Creek to Old Shakopee Road. Coordinating those efforts with this vision for a route to downtown could create a great bicycling experience from South Bloomington to downtown.

  5. Questions

    Can we make a 35W greenway? Subtract a car lane. Put in a new wall (preferably a glass wall so cars can see me passing them). It’d be a trench north-south greenway.

  6. Tony HuntTony Hunt

    I’m not entirely sure how we can say there is no “direct and safe north-south route through the city for bikes and pedestrians” when Park and Portland exist.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      I agree with the author that there are portions of Park/Portland that are unsafe — particularly the crunched door zone area around Lake Street. But in general, yeah, it’s a safe and efficient route.

      And one of Minneapolis’s best features is its intricate network of sidewalks. There isn’t just one direct north-south route that’s safe for pedestrians — there are hundreds of options. Park and Portland are great options, at least north of Minnehaha Parkway, where they’re wide, straight, and set behind ample boulevards. (South of Minnehaha, the sidewalk is quite tight, and disappears for a couple short stretches.)

      1. Janne

        I’d add that all of Portland and Park north of Franklin is horrible.

        I also think there’s a question of “safe for whom?” My test for “safe” isn’t so much statistically safe as are those not used to riding on streets comfortable?

        I wouldn’t ride Portland with my niece, and I’d be loathe to ride it with my (frequent bike-riding) Mom. So, nothing “safe” for them. That’s why I like this idea.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          I find the downtown section less stressful (or I did, pre-construction), since there are fewer parked cars and less turnover. Park Ave at Lake is particularly hazardous because you’re forced into the door zone right where concentration of parked cars is highest, and in a business area with lots of doors flying open. And, to make matters worse, you’re put to the right of large volumes of right-turning cars at Lake and 28th.

          But neither the downtown nor Lake crossing sections are acceptable. I love the rest, though, with the wide buffers and no obstructions. Wouldn’t change a thing, except for perhaps some improved crossing locations for peds.

        2. Rosa

          Park and Portland north of Franklin are SO MUCH better than they used to be, on a bike (I haven’t walked them in years, so I don’t know how the stretch north of Peavey Park is to walk, anymore). But the whole stretch has gotten so much slower and nicer and in better repair than they used to be. I have taken my 10 year old into downtown on them a few times – the speed of Park/Portland vs. the south-of-Franklin windiness of 11th/24th/17th are kind of a tossup, to me.

  7. GlowBoy

    As a Diamond Lake resident who uses the Portland/Park couplet a *LOT* to get to and from downtown, I’d agree that much of it is awesome. From 31st to 46th it has bike lanes that Portland, OR could only dream of.

    I’d also agree that the areas around Lake are sucky. And while downtown could be good, in the entire year I’ve lived in Minneapolis it has been downright awful. If you actually try to ride Portland Avenue across downtown from the Stone Arch Bridge, you will encounter *FOUR* separate closures of the bike lane for construction. Didn’t we recently discuss some law that requires construction projects to keep bike lanes and sidewalks open if feasible? It’s not happening. And Park Ave downtown is not any better.

    The bike lanes are at least half decent from 46th to 60th, except for where the safety of cyclists is sacrificed a few times a year for the convenience of parking at Pearl Park sporting events. This would actually be tolerable to me if there were a sidewalk along the west side of Portland next to Pearl Park, which there isn’t.

    Let’s keep going: for the last two blocks of Minneapolis (60th to MN62), the bike lanes disappear and the speed limit inexplicably goes up from 30 to 35mph. I ride the sidewalk here, deal with the beg buttons and on/off ramp traffic at 62, then get the heck off Portland until 67th because it becomes a 4-lane death road here.

    Richfield is building a spectacular new semi-protected (looks like it will be slightly raised, and concrete as opposed to the asphalt roadway) bike lane along Portland south from 67th. So far it appears to be complete as far as 70th, but I don’t think the Richfield maintenance crews got the message from the construction crews, so it’s not being plowed. I need to call the city and see if this is just a communication oversight.

    If we could get Minneapolis to put bike lanes in south of 60th, and Richfield to step up and calm Portland (and add bike lanes) from 62 to 67th, we’d really have something spectacular.

    Not that I wouldn’t also love to see the Pleasant Ave rail corridor turn into a bike trail. A safe crossing of 62 would be a dream come true. It is still an active rail line, though, and appears to carry daily micro-train traffic. Has the railroad announced any formal plans to vacate the line?

    1. Monte Castleman

      The concrete gutter pans on Portland Ave in Richfield are not “semi-protected”; I don’t think they’ve put the final layer of asphalt on yet to bring the road up to the level of the gutter pans. Bicyclists that want more than a millimeter high piece of paint protecting them from cars can use the new multi-use path on one side.

      Bloomington’s investing a lot of money in upgrading the railroad crossings along the route and it’s run by a short line railroad where it’s their primary line of business, so I don’t see the railroad going anywhere any time soon.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        Is it Bloomington’s cash on those railway crossings? Richfield had upgraded a few, too, but I believe it was just because of grants that were available. In fact, there is room to colocate rail and trail (hey, that sounds familiar). But the rail company would have to have the interest — and be willing to give up the double track over 494.

    2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      A couple background pieces to issues you raised in far-south Minneapolis and Richfield (which I agree with).

      First, Portland is “supposed” to be a 35 zone — that is, speed studies determine that 35 is the safest speed. And it was the limit until 2012 (north of 46th St) and 2015 (46th-60th). However, Minneapolis took advantage of a law that allows local government to pick a lower speed limit (as low as 25) where bike lanes are present, regardless of what the engineering says. So as far as I know, it can’t be 30 between 60th and 67th, because there are no bike lanes to justify using that law. In my opinion, the 30 zone on the one-ways is just a cruel joke, when 85th percentile speed is in the 40s.

      Regarding the new section on Richfield — glad you like it :). And if you like that, I think you’ll be blown away by the new 66th Street, where the Richfield Bike Advocates (which includes myself) invested more lobbying effort into creating a landmark bikeway to connect the city east-west. Monte’s comment is correct about the concrete bikeways — they will not remain above street level when all is said and done. That is also why it isn’t plowed right now; with the disparity in height, they wanted to keep plow blades away to avoid damaging the exposed concrete edge. I was not happy about abandoning the bike lane all winter, but I am promised that this will not be the case in future years. (Including the section to be done this summer, 70th-77th).

      The Crosstown bridge crossing is a major hurdle yet to be determined. I am told that the Hennepin BAC and staff are working with a consultant who is coming up with options for the bridge — probably a short-term and long-term option. The bridge was recently redecked, so we will need something with the existing space to hold us for several decades. After the bridge question is dealt with, I am confident Richfield and Minneapolis can get their collective act together to fill the gap.

      With coordination from Bloomington (which is studying a 4-to-3 conversion of their section of Portland later this year), I think we could see a terrific Mississippi River-to-Minnesota River connection in the near future.

      1. GlowBoy

        Too bad about the Portland bike lanes not being raised in the end (I did get a few rides in on them in their temporary raised state before the snow fell), but I’ll still ride them.. And yes, I’ve been looking at the 66th project and it should be really great when it’s all done (at least as far as Penn).

        Good to know Bloomington’s looking at their segment of Portland too: I’ve driven Portland as far as 98th quite a few times, and there’s hardly ever any traffic on it (though still just enough to make me uncomfortable biking it), so it seems a perfect 4-3 conversion opportunity.

      2. Wayne

        Having cars buzzing by at 40mph next to a bike lane is a cruel joke. If you want to drive 40 get on 35W and off urban surface streets.

        Sounds like it’s in desperate need of a speed trap to help fund some traffic calming measures.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          I agree. My point is simply that, when going above the old posted speed (35) was a problem, lowering the speed limit and making zero other changes is not really a solution. Engineers often tell us that speed limit signs do little to control speeds — and unfortunately, the Park/Portland one-ways seem to be a prime exhibit of that.

          On a related note, for what it’s worth, I think that desire to zip through on surface streets (especially ones a stone’s throw from the freeway) is vastly increased when the freeway is congested. Part of why I am OK with sensible solutions to address bottlenecks like the Lake St interchange.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          I’m not. In general, I think 30 is a more appropriate speed for collectors and minor arterials, and would like to see 20 or so on neighborhood streets. But that’s if we can design for it — like we did, to at least some success, on Lyndale.

          What I am saying it is unrealistic to expect motorists to go 30 under current conditions — dead straight, no stopping points for 4 blocks at a time, no possible conflict with driveways, 12′ lanes, and one-way movement. And the most recent speed studies seem to prove that.

          1. Monte Castleman

            I’m a big fan of the fact the outer suburbs have more separation of function. Local streets have dead-ends and curves that slow down and discourage through traffic, while there’s higher speed, high volume roads with few or no driveways to handle traffic from the neighborhoods to the stores or the freeways; these generally have multi-use trials on at least one side and most crossing points are at traffic signals. Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington has a jillion private driveways but there’s no more appropriate street for higher speed, non-local travel.

            1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              But you basically have to do duplicative infrastructure, with no private arm to help maintain the public street. If you think of a street like Park Ave, the roadway is paid for by the county, but the sidewalks are paid for by assessment to homeowners — and shoveled by homeowners. The grass in the boulevard is mowed and the trees are (sometimes) watered by the homeowner.

              And in return for all that, you end up with faceless main streets, and you still have high speeds close to kids and families (it’s just adjoining the back yard rather the front yard).

              Old Shakopee in Bloomington and Portland in Richfield both suffer from way excessive driveways. But of course, simply including consistent alleys could have avoided this. If we really wanted to buffer homeowners more, I like the format of things like Park Presidio Boulevard in San Francisco (although intersections get messy).

          2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

            Real question: Is 30 mph necessary even on minor arterials and collectors? Given almost no parts of Minneapolis are further than a mile from a highway or interstate, why do Lyndale, Hennepin, Park, Portland, etc require 30 mph streets? Even if you assume a 1.5 mile drive without ever slowing down or stopping to get to a freeway entrance, the difference between 30 and 20 mph is 1.5 minutes.

            The current “win” of Lyndale Ave is a street where cars never stop for pedestrians waiting to cross legally at unsignalized intersections. I think a combination of speed and volume is to blame. These streets, and their intersections, are also hotspots for pedestrian and cycle crashes (and deaths) because 30 mph is still too fast to reasonably slow to make safe turning movements, yield properly, and prevent severe injury when something does happen.

            There’s also the issue that a 30mph design speed street will still have 15% (~ 1 in 7) of users going above that.

            1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              I think going to 20 even on residential streets would require a significant rethinking of how we design a street — it would probably have to look more like an alley, where people already go 20 or less. Right now, most of our streets are designed so that somebody could, physically, go 70 mph without crashing. I’m just not sure I can see how we’d get there on major streets — how could we create something that would support the volume we need while still calming traffic to that extent?

              Also, even though much of the city is within a mile of a freeway doesn’t mean that destinations can reasonably be accessed that way. If you’re going from Linden Hills to, say, 38th and Minnehaha Ave, you’re probably not going to Crosstown or 94 to make the trip.

              I think we could do better with crossing on Lyndale, but I’m not sure we’ve really tried. If it were up to me, I’d like to see many of the unnecessary, super-low-volume lights removed (33rd? WTH?), and more regular RRFBs and refuge islands for peds.

              1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

                Agreed not all trips make sense to hit a freeway, even with 30mph allowed (often exceeded) on local streets. I guess my question is: should travel time on streets themselves be the primary reason for owning a car and making such a local (even distant within the city itself) trip? Cars have many advantages; carrying capacity, climate control, flexibility in when you begin your trip, etc.

                For decades, we’ve been fine with a transit trip (single transfer) from LH to 38th & Minnehaha taking nearly 40 minutes (per Google). Google estimates driving at 20 minutes, using an A-minor Augmentor and Major Collector along the way. A 20 mph speed limit would add, what, 5 minutes to that travel time given how often a car actually slows down or stops? We may never get surface transit as fast as this (just as grade-separated transit won’t approach freeway trip times), but we could close the gap. Biking, with a reasonable top speed of 15 mph, would become more time-competitive.

                For those reasons, we don’t need to “support the volume we need” – there’s a huge number of people making trips in cars today that could easily shift modes within our current right of way, at least in the core cities and first-ring burbs with decent transit and proximity of destinations.

                How could we get there design-wise? I don’t know for sure, and maybe 20 on collectors isn’t a reasonable goal, perhaps 25 is. I think eliminating 2′ curb reaction zones with a 10.5′ wide lane would certainly help. Getting serious about bulb-outs would, too. It wouldn’t be insane to suggest a 2-lane collector chicane every block or two (I’d be interested to see how this would affect plowing operations).

                1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                  Well, but we haven’t really been fine with a 40-minute transit trip — because almost everybody who has a choice in the matter chooses to drive. (At least between two destinations that are relatively low density.)

                  I agree the gap must be closed, but making everybody slower (because it would make buses slightly slower, too) seems like the wrong direction. At least with bikes, there would be no loss in top speed (for most cyclists).

  8. Matty LangMatty Lang

    The survey measuring neighborhood reaction would have scored much higher on the negativity scale if it was done in Saint Paul. I’m surprised and impressed that there were no negative responses.

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