Many people were excited to see the new concrete-protected bike lanes being installed on Blaisdell Avenue South between 28th Street and 32nd Street this past fall as part of the Whittier-Lyndale bikeway project.
Unfortunately, delays have plagued this project. Public Works initially committed to delivering the entire length of lanes during the 2021 construction season. The department got off to a late start, however, and ended up splitting the project into two phases to be delivered across 2021 and 2022. People who have been advocating for a safe way to bicycle between south Minneapolis and downtown since 2018 were understandably frustrated by that delay, but it was understandable given the pandemic.
What’s not understandable is Public Works’ rationale for never opening up the newly concrete-protected bike lanes between 28th and 32nd streets, and instead forcing bicyclists to ride in a car-traffic lane for four blocks. This has been happening since October 1, 2021.
This decision directly conflicts with the updated Complete Streets Policy that the City Council adopted in late 2021. That policy states that during street construction:
“Impacts to pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users will be limited to the extent possible during construction. Safe, convenient, and connected detours will be established for people as they walk, take transit, and bicycle when those networks are temporarily interrupted by construction work.”
The Public Works representative responsible for closing this section of bike lane has stated that they cannot open it until the weather warms up enough to fully paint the stripes for the bike lanes between 28th and 32nd streets. Otherwise, automobile drivers might become confused and drive in the protected bike lanes.
Here’s what this Public Works staffer couldn’t answer: How does the absence of green paint in this concrete-protected bike lane make it more dangerous to my safety than the alternative — me having to bike in an automobile traffic lane with my children?
This same Public Works staffer suggested that if bicyclists don’t want to ride in the car traffic lane on Blaisdell, they can simply take an alternative protected bike route. But no other protected bike route exists between south Minneapolis and downtown, a fact this Public Works staffer was surprised to learn.
In the near term: Public Works should open this portion of the Whittier-Lyndale bikeway and plow it for the rest of the winter. A solution that temporarily keeps drivers out of the concrete-protected bike lane does not necessarily require green paint to be applied to the asphalt. Since I am neither a trained traffic engineer nor a lawyer, however, I can’t say which solutions would prevent the city from being found liable if a car driver mistakenly drove down this bike lane and struck a bicyclist.
In the long term: Public Works needs to put vulnerable road users first on Minneapolis streets — and follow its Complete Streets Policy every time it performs work on sidewalks, crosswalks or bike lanes.
Telling my family and friends that we should just take another route does not comply with Complete Streets and seems to value easy solutions for city staffers more than the lives of people who use city infrastructure in multimodal ways.
Want to Take Action to Fix This Problem?
Email your City Councilmember and the staff associated with this project. Let them know that you’re counting on them to keep you safe on our streets year-round and to hold staff accountable to following city policy.
- Ryan Gottsleben, paving engineer, Minneapolis Public Works: Email Ryan.Gottsleben@minneapolismn.gov or call 612-590-4233 (mobile).
- Larry Matsumoto, paving engineer, Minneapolis Public Works: Email Larry.Matsumoto@minneapolismn.gov or call 612-919-1148 (mobile).
- Find your City Councilmember.
Can’t see green paint under the snow anyway!
Only a few blocks are closed. If you go from a trail around Calhoun to the Midtown Greenway to 1st Ave problem is solved.
If you think it is reasonable to have bikes detour all the way to Bde Mka Ska when they want to travel on Blaisdell, surely it is just as reasonable to have cars take that detour instead.
Use a neighboring residential street for a couple blocks.
Perhaps the cars should be detoured to a neighboring residential street for a couple blocks and the street should be opened to cyclists and buses instead.
That makes a lot of sense. There is probably 1 biker for every 500 cars on that street.
Maybe you’ve just highlighted the problem perfectly: there seem so be too many cars. It seems like we would be well-advised to reverse this ratio.
I think it would take much longer for that to happen than the bike lane will be closed.
So let’s say you’re a biker who is happy to take a short detour, so long as it’s safe. You’re biking west on the Midtown Greenway and your plan was to take the Nicollet exit and go south on the Blaisdell bike lane. It’s closed.
Where is the safe alternative? Not Nicollet. That’s a one way street in the wrong direction. That leaves us with Pillsbury and Pleasant, both of which would require biking in little to no space between traffic and parked cars. This is why we see bikers on sidewalks, which should be reserved for pedestrians. It’s a cascading problem.
You have aptly identified the very choice the author is addressing, including why it is not consistent with the city’s own policies. You have successfully disregarded the contents of the article to make a suggestion that has already been considered and addressed in the article. Thanks.
I’ve given up on expecting these things to open promptly. I don’t think we’d ever let a road project sit for months at 95% complete but closed, but we do it for bike facilities all the time.
“The Public Works representative responsible for closing this section of bike lane has stated that they cannot open it until the weather warms up enough to fully paint the stripes for the bike lanes between 28th and 32nd streets. Otherwise, automobile drivers might become confused and drive in the protected bike lanes.”
I suspect Chuck Morohn might be able to translate the Public Works response for the non-engineer. His recent podcast, Two Different Languages, does an excellent job of explaining where the traffic engineers are coming from.
Obviously, painted or not, the protected bike lane is a lot safer for bicyclists than the lane of fast moving traffic, yet the absurdity of the response is either ignored or unfathomable to the traffic engineers. The engineering manuals don’t prioritize safety. The only item on the traffic engineers’ agenda is maximizing the speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic.
Another obvious fact, if Public Works is busy dumping truckloads of sludge-producing salt and sand, as they do on my quiet residential street in Roseville, in order to enable morons to race a block or 2 to the next stop sign, then resources to maintain a protected bike path are unavailable.
The fact is, areas of high-volume, high-speed traffic are dirty, noisy, dangerous, shitholes. As long as there’s deference to the expertise of engineers, and the goal of the engineers is making the shitholes shittier by increasing the volume and speed of the motor vehicle traffic, we’re screwed.
Ironically, the areas close to the high-speed, high-volume motorways are where most of recent high-density, big box apartment building development has occurred.
“If the dog’s will eat it, it must be good dog food.”
As an engineering student every manual prioritizes safety. I don’t know where you learned that nonsense.
If every manual prioritizes safety, then the folks designing and building the roads must be winging it, and not be reading the manuals.
What manual that prioritizes safety recommends closing a protected bike lane for 4 months or more while waiting for some stripes to be painted?
What manual that prioritizes safety recommended replacing the rusted, worn out, collapsed 35W bridge with the current concrete monstrosity? Are you engineering students studying the crash counts before and after these asinine road construction projects? What manual that prioritizes safety recommended any of the rebuilt freeway interchanges where crashes occur daily?
What manual that prioritizes safety recommends idiotic 4-lane death roads, with no center divider, no shoulders, and a narrow right lane that effectively disappears immediately after any significant amount of snow?
Have you or any of your fellow engineering students tried marching across the recently rebuilt Rice Street Bridge over I694? What manual that prioritizes safety produced that piece of work? What manual that prioritizes safety recommends expanding and contracting a 2-lane road (Rice Street) to accommodate a 4-lane death road drag strip bridge deck whipping high-speed vehicles into and out of dual lane roundabouts channeling even higher-speed vehicles onto and off of an Interstate Highway? After a horrendous years long road construction project, costing boatloads of tax dollars, adding additional lanes in all directions, north-south-east-west-diagonally-circularly-semicircularly-back and forth in an “S”-like direction, there’s rarely a day when I listen to the rush hour traffic reports and I don’t hear of crash in the vicinity of the recently expanded Rice-694 interchange. If that’s the result of reading a safety manual, I hate to see what the danger manual looks like.
Other than some very rare 4-3 conversions of isolated portions of 4-lane death roads, can you identify any road construction project that’s made travel safer on any major thoroughfare in the last 30 years? Surprise me. Name one.
If you search for crash reduction projects you’ll find plenty. You can also look for CMF’s (crash modification factors).
Is the recently completed expansion of 35W a “crash reduction project?” Having to navigate more lanes of high-speed traffic at the loony rebuild of the I94-35W interchange may be a factor in modifying crashes, but unfortunately, the modification is not a reduction.
Surprise me. Name one major metro area road construction project that has made travel safer.
I think you’re confusing the decision to design and build a protected bike lane for improved cyclist safety, with a project management decision to delay its use until it’s 100% complete vs the relative improvements in safety a non-compliant bike lane could bring in the interim. Unless you believe there is something inherently dangerous in the design of this bike lane project?
Somewhere there is an engineer who has been warned not to sign off on a bike lane project that is missing some critical elements for fear that that a cyclist will be injured due to a forseeable accident.
What’s more likely, a cyclist getting hit in the protected bike lane or in a lane of high-speed motor vehicles? I think you’re confusing your imagined CYA mentality of your imagined “Somewhere there is” engineer with the issue of bicycle safety.
Does your imaginary “Somewhere there is” engineer not foresee a cyclist getting creamed in the lane of high-speed traffic next to the closed bike lane? If not, why not?