[This post originally appeared on the blog American Fiester.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
More video riding north
And already, this is where the new path ends at Hilloway Rd.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back at the beginning where Plymouth Rd meets Minnetonka Blvd.
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.