Or, A Park and Portland Update.
If you’re someone who bikes in south Minneapolis, you’ve probably noticed that the bike lanes on Park and Portland have not been restriped back to include the buffer zone. This goes against all of the city’s goals, and it is completely predictable.
Let me back up a few decades and give a brief overview of these streets.
1895: Park and Portland existed, were named, and were paved with macadam and sheet asphalt, respectively. (Source: https://gettingaroundmpls.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/1895-paving-map/)
1892: Some parts began to be paved with asphalt, beginning the trend toward accommodation of cars over all other modes. (Source: August 5, 2009, Page AA2 – North Extra – NO. Star Tribune. Access the Strib archives through your Hennepin County Library login!)
1940s: City council studied making the streets one-ways, and shortly after, it came to pass. This was needed to accommodate car traffic, prior to the construction of the freeway. (Source: ibid.)
1950s: The streets were widened from 35’ to 56’. “Some date neighborhood deterioration to that decision.” (Source: ibid.)
Summer 1996: Extended bike lanes from downtown to Minnehaha parkway. It looks like there were 3 lanes of car traffic, 2 lanes of subsidized on-street storage of rolling luggage (colloquially referred to as parking lanes), and one 5’ bike lane, at that time. Classic high-stress bikeway, but typical for 1996. (Source: Whereatt, Robert. “FYI; After Taste.” Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN], 9 July 1996, p. 01B. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A62632386/ITOF?u=hennepin&sid=ITOF&xid=15a16905. Accessed 25 May 2019.)
2009: Some residents call for a return to two-way streets. (Source: Aug 5, 2009 Strib article referenced above.)
Spring 2012: There was a mill-and-overlay project in the works for this street pair. Cyclists agitated, including the org now known as Our Streets, for safety upgrades to the bikeway. (Source: https://streets.mn/2012/05/10/an-alternative-design-for-park-and-portland/)
Fall 2012: Mill-and-overlay completed. Two car travel lanes, one buffered bike lane, and at least one lane of subsidized on-street storage of rolling luggage, upgrading the bikeway to a low/moderate-stress bikeway through the southeast of the city.
Summer 2018: MNDoT restriped the streets for a car detour away from 35W. Removed painted buffers, bike lane narrowed, bus and off-peak car travel lane added (high-stress bikeway). Mostly resembles the 1996-2012 configuration. You may remember my 2018 article (https://streets.mn/2018/05/07/park-and-portland-restriping/) where I criticized the lack of outreach and the lack of commitment to reducing traffic deaths.
Let’s pick up from where I left off.
Many reached out to me right after that post to assure me that the restripe was only temporary, that we could only see this for a few months, potentially restriping as soon as fall 2018, as soon as the buses go back on the freeway, but certainly no later than spring ‘19 as soon as it thawed enough so they could get the paint to stick to the street. I received these assurances from MNDoT in-person at informational events —- the restripe of this corridor is not a project that they deign to provide updates on their website for. (Why? is an exercise I leave to the reader.)
Over the summer, I showed my closed wontfix 311 tickets of trucks parked in the bike lanes to the right people, and I started seeing changes to the patterns of which trucks would park in the lanes. I was hopeful they’d be able to restripe before the close of the year, and I devoured each 35W@94 update email passionately. Will they restripe? Will they put the buses back on the freeway and make my rides to see my friends and loved ones safer this week?
As fall turned to winter, I lost hope for the swift resolution to my woes. Well, they tried, I reasoned with myself. It’s going to be a rough winter but nothing to be done about it now. At least the trucks had stopped parking in the bike lanes (sometimes).
Over the winter, I noticed the bus-only-lane signs disappear from the left-hand lanes, even as the snow built up under the rolling-luggage-storage lane and pushed the cars into the 5’ bike lane. My choices became (1) take the whole right-hand car lane or (2) take the bus. I chose (2) often, and (1) more often than anyone should ever be expected to, but it was that or not bike at all, since I lived between the two impacted streets. I had hope, even as I rode much less in the moment, that this would all be straightened out in the spring.
Then the spring thaw kicked in for real. I started asking around if anyone knew when the un-re-stripe would happen. I looked forward to it as much as I look forward to seeing the first buds on a maple tree open, with hope and with expectation. “We’re working on it, no date yet.” Asked again a couple weeks later. “No, we’re not installing bollards. Still don’t know when we’re striping the lane back.”
As spring turns to summer, I asked again yesterday. During a brief chat with the info@35w94 rep, Kristin, who has been nothing but responsive and helpful, passed along some news which made me very upset. She let me know they had had a meeting about it with the city just that morning. The city wants to study, based on traffic counts, whether they should put the stripes back where they were a year ago, taking the corridor back to 2 lanes of car traffic, an on-street buffered bike lane, and the same amount of rolling luggage storage as usual. I asked if the buses were still using the lane, to potentially make this make sense to myself. She said no, but cars are still restricted from using some ramps to the freeway, and the concern is that the overflow cars will use more residential streets as overflow if the number of car lanes on Portland is reduced in the afternoons.
So, we’ve turned a lower-stress bikeway into a bus lane (defensible, on the surface), then from a bus lane into a car lane (by removing some signs and hoping no one would notice), in 2019.
I have some questions about this:
- Where was the study to make the original change to the bikeway?
- Where was the community outreach when we decided to add more car traffic to our city streets?
- How does this fit our complete streets policy, which says cars should come last on the priority pyramid?
- How does this fit vision zero, which calls on us to reduce the risk of traffic deaths?
- Why are these highly-populated streets not considered residential?
I hope we don’t have to conduct a traffic study on a cyclist’s dead body to find the answer to the question of ”which is more important: the protection of vulnerable road users, or car-commuter throughput for 15 hours a week?” in 2019.
Let’s reach out to our electeds and let them know that we care, that we are tired of the city’s constant prioritization of suburban commuters over the residents of the city, and that the time has come for a protected bikeway on these streets. Responsible electeds include Alondra Cano, firstname.lastname@example.org, Abdi Warsame, email@example.com, and Angela Conley firstname.lastname@example.org.