Plymouth Road Bike Lane

Plymouth Road: a New Piece of Local Bike Infrastructure

[This post originally appeared on the blog American Fiester.]

**Fair Warning**

This post is about a new separated bi-directional bike path put in locally in the city of Minnetonka, in the Minneapolis metro area. Being a region specific post, it may not be particularly interesting to most people unless you are truly curious to see what was done here or if you live in the area. If my normal Dutch Cycling/Netherlands stuff is your thing, this may be a post to skip. If you want to see this small write-up about the infrastructure, read on. It will be more visuals than words.

The new separated bi-directional bike path along Plymouth Road opened in Fall of 2019

It’s a rather short segment, only running 2.3 km along primarily residential settings. Looking closer, you will see that it does tie in to a handful of other trails. Primarily, the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail if you want to consider main routes.

Plymouth Road Map

Once crossing over Minnetonka Blvd, you will find the path being elevated and separated. Looking back, in the second photo, you will see the intersection between the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail and the Plymouth Road Trail. This busy intersection can be quite dangerous and is in need of serious safety improvements.

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Riding north on the path.

 

Here at the bridge crossing, they have not only added flex posts, but a small concrete barrier for added protection between motor traffic and the trail.

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The first stop light crossing is at Cedar Lake Rd. I did encounter cars here encroaching over the pedestrian/bike crossing as well as making fast paced Right on Reds. Some safety/traffic calming improvements could be made here. Most of this path is not flat with lots of up and down hill grades. They did an excellent job at keeping the path “table top” across resident driveways rather than making it dip for the convenience of cars. This is good design that needs to be copied elsewhere.

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More video riding north

 

And already, this is where the new path ends at Hilloway Rd.

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Video of where the new path terminates at Hilloway Rd.

 

It is possible to continue on from here, but with a smaller width and degraded sidewalk/path. This will get you closer to Ridgedale Center, which can be seen once rounding the corner. The official “trail” as them deem it, ends here at Sherwood Pl. Continuing north would mean riding in the road with traffic or on the small sidewalk.

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Video of the termination point. I believe if you cross west here, you can go off onto some gravel trail that is purely recreational and not useful for transportation or utilitarian cycling.

 

Riding back now towards the south end of the trail. Again, notice the flat crossings across private driveways. We are headed uphill here towards Cedar Lake Rd.

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More video. Smooth transitions across private driveways and a protected crossing at the bridge.

 

The speed limit on Plymouth Road is 35 mph. I feel much safer cycling on infrastructure like this rather than on road painted bike lanes. I think this is common sense to anyone. This design is much more equitable for most types of pedestrians and people on bikes. Separated paths really do their best work on corners where motorists tend to hug curves and would normally encroach on a painted bike lane.

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Both sides of the path are buffered with grass and trees. This will look good as growth develops. For a school zone crossing, I think this is sub par. Cars are zooming around here pretty fast and any children walking or biking in from adjacent neighborhoods need better protection. Hopefully they will address this in the near future.

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Back at the beginning where Plymouth Rd meets Minnetonka Blvd.

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Video of the intersection of Plymouth Rd and Minnetonka Blvd. The Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail is just across the road. Major improvements to this intersection need to be made. It gets heavy traffic and needs substantial calming.

 

This new path is a nice addition. Although it doesn’t give direct access to any business for people on foot or bike to utilize, it does give safe access to a decent stretch of residential neighborhoods that can now safely bike out of where they live to other parts of the area. Lets hope this protected network continues to expand and connect to other areas.

About Brandon Lust

Brandon is a transplant to Minnesota. Originally from Illinois and having lived in Brazil, he and his wife reside in the Minnetonka area. His return to the bicycle was and is currently inspired by the Netherlands and the Dutch people, where he was able to see how biking, walking, transit, and density helped make for a better quality of life for all people when removing &/or limiting cars. Twitter: @Brandon_Lust

9 thoughts on “Plymouth Road: a New Piece of Local Bike Infrastructure

  1. Chris Nelson

    I have a couple comments to add based on riding this part of Plymouth Rd since childhood (1970’s). Plus, for 10+ years I bike-commuted on a similar sidepath in Eden Prairie on the east side of Baker Rd.

    All of the driveways and side street create danger for fast moving people on bikes, with Plymouth Rd being very hilly, it’s easy to get up to 30+ mph. Nobody pulling out of a cross street will expect to look for 30 mph traffic on this trail.

    This leads to the second issue, the county removed broad shoulders to create this sidepath. The southern section has basically lost the shoulder, meaning that a person that is comfortable riding at faster speeds is now required to ride in the traffic lane or ride a balance beam wide shoulder. I don’t see the benefit of removing a good shoulder (bike route) to for a sidepath.

    I will repeat the comment that the trail ends at the north end without gaining access to Ridgedale or any of the businesses in the area. Ridgedale Mall area is still 100% car-focused (I bike in/out of this area a few times a month for many years, it can be done but it’s very stressful)

    For the record, I have not biked Plymouth Rd since complete of the trail, but I do frequently drive it. I’m not sure the changes are an improvement for bikeablity.

    1. Monte Castleman

      You’re obviously one of the “Strong and Fearless” or “Enthused and Confident” types of bicyclists, the 8% of the population, if you were willing to ride on Plymouth Road with nothing but a thin stripe of paint between yourself and cars. No way would I ever even think about doing that. I’m definately the 60% “Interested But Concerned” type- I’d gladly ride down that multi-use trail now, and I would have as a kid too.

      Taking away space from one type of bicyclist to give them to another is one of those zero some games we play when the right-of-way isn’t wide enough to accommodate everyone. Portland Ave in Richfield they have both kinds of facilities (unprotected on-street and a MUP with a boulevard) for both kinds of bicyclists, but they were able to do that because the city was willing to acquire more right of way.

      1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

        I’m firmly in the “Interested but concerned” too. If I ever have to bike along the shoulders of a road like Plymouth Rd in Minnetonka, I’d never bike there again.

        It’s unfortunate the trail didn’t get connected to Ridgedale yet. It seems pretty clear that this is an incremental step so far and a safe connection will come someday. Hopefully sooner than later.

    2. Eric Ecklund

      Agreed about crossing side streets and driveways. While I’m not going 30 mph, I am going around 15 mph on my bike and if a car gets to the crossing at the wrong time I’ll have to brake hard. That’s happened to me several times.

      Several solutions are needed for this. First is better driver education that puts more emphasis on respecting bikers and walkers. When you come up to a crosswalk you stop before it and check for any bikers or walkers approaching. When the sidewalk/trail is clear and if you can’t see approaching traffic then slowly move up. The status quo has been drive fast and make a quick stop on top of the crosswalk. Second is speed humps for side streets so people are, in theory, prevented from approaching a crosswalk too fast. Lastly is signage clearly indicating the crosswalk, and in the case of this trail that motorists are approaching a trail crossing and should watch out for bikers and walkers.

    3. Andrew

      Agree, they should have copied Plymouth Ave in Minneapolis and put he lane out in the street with an extra curb to protect it. That design works so much better than having a glorified sidewalk like this trail.

  2. Keith

    Problem is that few people will use it because like you said it doesn’t connect to businesses. This is strictly for residents wanting to tool around their neighborhood on a bike and trail users only. Maybe Minnetonka will connect their trails to businesses at some point?

  3. Chris Nelson

    I hope you understand, I didn’t say it was a bad project, but it has some issues. It’s close to home, literally, and as a frequent user of this road (by bike & car), I did want to share my perspective.

    I share my life with somebody that does not like to ride on roads, I’m very emphatic to the needs of riders with different abilities and preferred routes. We just sold our house in Minnetonka to move to Hopkins, one reason for the move was the difficulty riding our bikes out of the garage. I hope the Plymouth Rd trail helps more people ride out of their garage. I’m personally skeptical that this project will achieve that goal, I do think this trail will be great for neighbors to walk and jog … and that’s not a bad thing. However, like the sidepath along Baker Rd in Eden Prairie, I believe it will rarely be used by people biking because it’s not well designed for people on bikes. I would be happy to be wrong.

    BTW – I’m not a fan of “strong and fearless” term. I am experienced and strong, but I have a great deal of fear. I know that it appears from the outside that I have no fear, but those outside don’t see the efforts I put in to route planing, safety devices, researching best practices, and other ways to keep myself safe. [knocking on wood] decades of riding thousands of year-round miles every year, I’ve never had a collision with a motor vehicle [/knocking on wood].

    1. Nick M

      I agree with Chris completely. I’m a “strong and fear-balancing” rider and I was not pleased to lose a generous shoulder going down the hill on Plymouth the first time I rode through this fall and I will definitely not ride on a MUP down a hill “against” traffic unless there are zero driveways and roads crossing the path. The risk just feels too great based on my walking and cycling experience closer to home (NE Mpls) and how infrequently people there look right when turning right, given that the level of non-motorized traffic in my neighborhood is much, much higher than this area. I’m not opposed to the path, I think that we should have both.

  4. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    I guess I’m just really surprised how rosy a view this is. It’s a typical 8-10′ MUP, with nothing special at driveways or crossings. This same basic format that outer suburbs have been doing since the 70s.

    Some of crossings are even substandard by current standards, with partially diagonal curb ramps that make it hard to keep a straight line for the full width of the trail.

    In a relatively low-density environment, I’ve come around to MUPs, and don’t think sharing with pedestrians is a huge problem in most cases. However, there are a few improvements I’d like to see:

    Street crossings: Street crossings should be as short as possible, narrowing the crossing street or using bump-outs. Whenever possible, they should maintain trail grade (as the driveways do) and have the cars go up over the trail, rather than trail going down to car level

    Driveways: Although I’m happy with grade, if both trail and driveway are asphalt, I like to see edge striping so it’s obvious what the boundaries of the trail are. This discourages parking on the trail

    Both sides: Other than exceptional circumstances, MUPs should be provided on both sides of busier streets, especially where there a lot of crossings. This allows bicyclists to travel with traffic. Having only one side means that half the bicyclists using it will be going the “wrong way”, significantly increasing their risk of a crash at driveways and intersections.

    Width: 8′ is substandard. 10′ should be minimum, up to 12-14′ where space allows (such as flat, rural environments)

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