Getting Lost Going Straight

Tonight I rode my great new winter bike home from the bike shop. I’m not too familiar with most anything south of the Greenway and west of the River, but I got directions to the Hiawatha LRT Trail, and figured I was set from there. “Just head north on the trail ’till I know where I am,” said I to myself.

Me smiling with my new bike outside

Inaugural ride time!

Well, I headed north on the trail, and I got lost.

I biked north, and north, and north, and really appreciated the great job public works was doing keeping the trail clear. It’s beautiful. I had to seek out spots at corners to put my new studded tires to work.

Then, my path split off from the train. “Oh no. I’m supposed to stay next to the train?” I rolled down the incline to the hi-lake intersection. The trail petered out into a sidewalk. There were no signs. Did I miss a turn somewhere?

I didn’t like my options. Head back up and look for signage, or pull off my gloves and ask the internet. I chose the latter. “It wants me to go straight, but also to walk my bicycle for awhile and I guess meet up with the path later? I must have missed a turn and this is what I’m stuck with now.”

a stick figure of me and my bike superimposed on the intersection described

An artist’s rendition of the problem.

Putting my gloves back on, I waited for the light to change. And waited. And waited. And then I realized that 10 feet behind me was a beg button. Got my feet pretty cold for not a lot of a good reason.

For the life of me, I will never understand why someone thought it was okay to make this intersection beg-button based, and not have pedestrians(/cyclists?) be part of the cycle automatically.

I went north from here after hitting the button and waiting another interminable light cycle, decided to pick up the greenway instead of hunting for the continuation point on the Hiawatha trail, and made it home mostly without incident from there. It feels so great to have a bike you’re happy with!!

Back at home, I’ve looked up the maps, and I was going the right way the whole time. The trail just… does that. Without any indication of the gap in trail coverage or anything to tell you that you’re going the right way.

I know we’re working on fixing the whole intersection and path connection, but could we at least put up a sign in the meantime? “Hiawatha LRT Trail Continues Ahead” on that beg-button-and-traffic-light post would go a long way.

Pine Salica

About Pine Salica

Pine lives in Minneapolis and works in Saint Paul. Pine hasn't owned a car for over a dozen years, and can count on one hand the number of times they've operated one in the last 12 months. Housing is a human right, car storage is not. Member of the Climate Committee.

15 thoughts on “Getting Lost Going Straight

  1. Dana DeMasterDanaD

    I agree that intersection is very confusing for bicyclists heading north/south. I have just cut over to Target many times before figuring it out.

  2. Kevin Gallatin

    I had the same experience the first time I rode that trail! It’s really discouraging and encourages people to take unsafe routes to get out of that predicament.

    1. Rosa

      yeah, and even though there are segments for the east-west crossing, with safety islands, it doesn’t say walk until it’s OK to walk ALL OF THEM at once, and then it’s so short you can’t really walk in the amount of time allotted anyway. Plus when the walk signs are lit cars are turning right anyway so it’s never actually safe.

      Everything about that interesection is terrible on foot or on a bike.

      But the complete lack of trail signage/continuity is just egregious. At least pedestrians know where they are and where the sidewalk goes.

    2. Pine SalicaPine Salica Post author

      Some intersections seem like they’re able to fit you in where it next makes sense in the traffic cycle, but others don’t flip the ped light till a whole cycle has come around and then the ped part of it. This one … is the latter, I’m fairly sure. Urgh.

  3. Lou Miranda

    Wayfinding signage is one of the cheapest ways to make bike & pedestrian routes easy & comfortable. I find myself getting lost all the time on Three Rivers Parks trails because signage is so subtle.

    I suppose there’s an argument that you don’t want to take away from scenic aspects, but that’s never stopped street or highway signage for automobiles. Signage for motorists is loud & consistent, with national standards. And is always there, unlike this instance for you.

    1. Rosa

      this particular area could really use some signs. Even just signs actually on the LRT that say “This is the LRT! You are on a trail!” I’ve led a number of people to the Greenway and LRT from around the Hi Lake shopping center over the years, because even knowing it’s close by they couldn’t find it.

  4. Joshua Houdek

    I have used that very same beg button at Hi-Lake . . . and waited, and waited, and waited . .
    . through multiple traffic signal cycles, without any luck. I reported to 311. Hopefully City and County engineers get the report and read this great article about how simple a signal fix anda little wayfinding signage could help in the short term as the multitudes of government agencies incrementally work to Humanize Hi-Lake in the long term.

    1. Pine SalicaPine Salica Post author

      I can report that it worked that night, at least. Wow would this have been a different article if it didn’t work!! Would have, I guess, taken the car lane off Hiawatha…? Terrifying thought.

      1. Joshua Houdek

        I was traveling southbound along the Hiawatha off ramp trail/sidewalk, attempting to cross Lake. This was about a month or two ago.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          I’ve definitely waited multiple cycles there too. Often, others on bikes will just wait for a gap and risk it, but the traffic patterns are so complicated there, I wait.

  5. Matt Brillhart

    Looks like there is a plan to fix this confusing “gap” in the Hiawatha Trail: The website says work began in 2018 and will be finished up in early 2019.

    Maybe I’m confused though – the “gap” project described on the city website is on the east side of Hiawatha between 32nd and 28th. But isn’t the Hiawatha Trail (including the confusing section described in this post) on the west side of Hiawatha Ave (wedged between the roadway and LRT tracks)? So maybe they are not fixing the exact thing Nicole described in this post but adding a better trail connection on the east side of Hiawatha between 32nd and the Greenway/28th.

    Not exactly a fix for the problem described here, but still appears to be a useful improvement. Particularly for those living south of Lake & west of Hiawatha, who could then bike up the Hiawatha Trail, cross to the east side of Hiawatha at 32nd, and have easier access to Target, the greenway, etc. via this “gap” connection. Not a huge change, but might encourage more bikes/peds to cross Hiawatha at 32nd instead of crossing Hiawatha at 28th or the dangerous Hi-Lake interchange.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Currently, the “trail” (on this stretch, just a wide sidewalk) crosses Hiawatha at 28th St (or over the Sabo Bridge if you want), where it continues north/west into downtown as a asphalt trail.

      I’m unclear as to whether the new crossing at Lake will be an improvement, but it seems to be moving the crossing of Hiawatha to 32nd, which seems kind of worse than 28th to me.

    2. Pine SalicaPine Salica Post author

      Hey, this does look like a fix to my problem, if I can read the pdfs right! I guess I’ll have to ride this trip in a year or so and see if it is fixed! Yay!

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