This past Saturday afternoon, a cyclist was struck and critically injured on Excelsior Blvd west of Lake Calhoun, in a section where the roadway is surrounded by the Minikahda Club. This section of Excelsior Blvd is a 4-lane undivided roadway, what some colloquially label a Four Lane Death Road. There are no bicycle facilities and only a small, 5ft wide sidewalk on the westbound side.
Sadly, this is not the first time someone has been struck and injured or killed on this stretch of roadway. In 2008, Jimmy Nisser was struck and killed while on his bicycle near the Minikahda Club overpass. However, in an extensive study of bicyclist/motorist crashes in Minneapolis conducted by the city a few years ago, this segment of roadway didn’t even rank.
But that does not mean that improvements couldn’t be made to Excelsior Blvd. MnDOT traffic volumes show an average of 17,000 vehicles per day along Excelsior Blvd between France Ave and West Lake St. Given Whole Foods, other retail development, and a number of condo developments north of West 32nd St, it’s likely the traffic volumes are higher at the east end of the corridor. However, these volumes are still within range of a potential road diet. In particular, the lack of driveways and access points between France and West 32nd make it an ideal candidate.
Above is my suggested cross-section for rebuilding Excelsior Blvd through Minikahda Club, the section where last Saturday’s crash and the 2008 fatality occurred. According to MnDOT records, significant road work hasn’t occurred on this segment in almost 20 years, and the pavement is in fairly poor condition. As such, the roadway will likely require significant rehabilitation if not outright reconstruction. This would be an excellent opportunity to implement a road diet on Excelsior and improve bicycle/pedestrian accommodations.
What I propose through Minikahda Club is to eliminate 1 lane at the endpoints (to accommodate left turn lanes) but 2 lanes through the middle. The eastbound right lane space is converted into a 2-way cycletrack, while the westbound right lane becomes open space between the sidewalk and the travel lanes. It would also have the benefit of slowing traffic on a stretch of roadway that is prone to speeding. This can all be done within the existing 66ft right-of-way through the club.
But a road diet doesn’t necessarily have to stop at West 32nd St. It could cover the whole stretch from France Ave to Lake Calhoun.
This lane diagram map shows a larger proposal that would extend the road diet to West Lake St, with a reconstruction of the south side sidewalk into a multi-use path between there and West Calhoun Pkwy. This would enable the 2-way cycletrack to connect France Ave with the Minneapolis parkway system, providing much greater connectivity. A cycletrack along the south side of Excelsior is suggested instead of one-way protected bike lanes on each side because there are fewer overall conflicts along the south side of the street. More importantly, westbound bicyclists would not have to cross Lake Street where it splits from Excelsior Blvd, resulting in a much safer facility.
Excelsior Blvd is on the city’s Bicycle Master Plan (Figure 9, pg 19). It would be preferable to wait until a resurfacing or reconstruction is underway in order to implement this proposal (especially given the pavement condition for bikes), but it doesn’t necessarily have to wait until then. Temporary curbs, paint, and bollards could be used in the short term to carve out the cycletrack, providing immediate benefits.
But whether it’s a temporary fix or a more permanent solution, it would behoove city officials to work with Hennepin County (as Excelsior Blvd is a county state aid highway) to get this implemented in a timely manner.