Nicollet Avenue near Augsburg Park, with Sunday parking in use

One-Way Is the Right Way for Richfield’s Nicollet Avenue Bike Lane

Most of Richfield’s section of Nicollet Avenue is being rebuilt in 2026, and the redesign is the first chance since the 1950s to rethink this major thoroughfare. Spanning from downtown Minneapolis to the Minnesota River, Nicollet is an important street for the region — and it’s particularly important to Richfield. It connects Richfield’s downtown with key community amenities, including Academy of Holy Angels, Augsburg Park (including a possible new community center) and the most celebrated of all, Andale Taqueria.

I moved to Richfield in 2021 with my wife, Stephanie, and we enjoy riding and walking around town. We moved here in large part for bikeable, pleasant streets, like 66th Street. But so far, Nicollet Avenue hasn’t had the same appeal. Its sidewalks are barely usable, there are no trees and the only bike space is an unprotected shoulder with parking allowed on Sundays.

Showing flooded and inadequate sidewalks on Nicollet Avenue in Richfield
Sidewalk condition with the current roadway. Bad cross slope, no buffer from the road and major drainage problems make them nearly unusable (photo: Sean Hayford Oleary).

Richfield — and Hennepin County — residents deserve a safe, pleasant street. Join me and others on Thursday, February 29 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Richfield Community Center (7000 Nicollet Ave.) reconstruction open house event to advocate for exactly that.

The author enjoying bikeways just outside of Richfield — the Old Cedar / Long Meadow Lake Bridge in Bloomington.
The author enjoying bikeways just outside of Richfield — the Old Cedar / Long Meadow Lake Bridge in Bloomington (photo: Henrik Kowalkowski).

Project Background

According to Hennepin County, the goals of this reconstruction project are to create a safe place to travel, increase opportunities for active forms of transportation, improve bus travel and, in doing so, provide quality experiences for all forms of transportation. (Fun fact: Introducing bike lanes has been found to reduce car traffic by replacing car trips that would have contributed to delays.)

This project will reconstruct Nicollet between 66th Street and I-494. Over the past few months, Hennepin County in partnership with the City of Richfield (“the urban hometown”) has hosted two open house events where the public has had a chance to provide feedback on the street and to weigh in on visions for its future. The county has narrowed the design to three options.

Bike Walk Richfield has done an excellent job on its Facebook page synthesizing the options that will be presented.

A cross section of a street showing one-way protected bike lanes on either side of a three-lane undivided roadway.
Option 1: The one-way bikeway (credit: Hennepin County)
A cross section of a street showing one, two-way protected bike lane along the side of a three-lane undivided roadway.
Option 2: The two-way bikeway (credit: Hennepin County)
A cross section of a street showing a sidewalk on one side and a 10' sidepath on the opposite side of a three-lane undiivded roadway. No dedicated bikeway is shown.
Option 3: The shared path (credit: Hennepin County)

Why a One-Way Bikeway Makes Sense

A one-way bikeway is the safest option for pedestrians and cyclists. This design is already “tested and approved” in Richfield on 66th Street and in other locations throughout Hennepin County, including Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis and Cedar Lake Road in St. Louis Park. This option provides a hard curb and greenery buffer for cyclists, and pedestrians are further offset from the road surface via the bikeway.

Five adults ride on the 66th Street protected bike lane.
The 2020 “Ride with Mayor Maria,” with then-Richfield Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez, on 66th Street. The one-way protected bike space provides clear direction for people walking and biking (photo: Russ Lowthian).

As a frequent user of the 66th Street bikeway and sidewalk, I have truly enjoyed this one-way configuration. While 66th Street from Penn to I-35W has two car-travel lanes on each side, the greenery between the hard curb and the raised one-way bikeway provides a buffer and sense of security while biking. It feels so nice to cruise by Monroe Field (my favorite Richfield park) and take in the scenery without worrying about the traffic around me.

Nicollet will have a single travel lane for cars going each way, and I imagine that the experience as a pedestrian/biker will be even more pleasant under this configuration. Additionally, since the grade of the sidewalk and bikeway is equal, this effectively acts as a larger space for side-by-side biking when the sidewalk is clear of pedestrians. This feature works both ways, too. As a pedestrian I enjoy the additional space the bikeway adds to the sidewalk when walking with friends.

Henrik on a bike trail overlooking a lake
An evening ride in South Minneapolis (photo: Henrik Kowalkowski)

The one-way bikeway provides further benefits beyond physical separation from the road surface. When biking infrastructure is cohesive, clear and well designed, users implicitly make the right (read: safe) choices. If the one-way relationship between 66th Street and Nicollet is maintained with this reconstruction project, Richfield will see this benefit, as the one way bikeway from 66th will flow into existing on-street lanes to the north and south.

A Two-Way Bikeway Is Second-Best

A two-way bikeway is also under consideration. This option would use slightly less space than one-way lanes. But this proposal would not maintain as clear, cohesive and safe a connection as the one-way facility.

The two-way bikeway would increase the potential for head-on collisions and distractions from bike headlights while leaving only a narrow sidewalk on the other side of the street for pedestrians.

One direction of bikes will have to cross Nicollet twice at intersections for this 11-block stretch just to use the bikeway; this is both inconvenient and adds unnecessary risk. Intersections are where the majority of crashes on Nicollet have occurred in the past decade (Nicollet Avenue Open House, page 3).

A Shared Path Would Be a Major Loss

The shared-path option is even worse, and arguably a downgrade for bikes from the current street — losing the bikeable shoulders, without gaining an inch of exclusive bike space. It has every disadvantage of the two-way bikeway, but also introduces new conflict with pedestrians jockeying for space. This reconstruction project is meant to provide decades of improved connectivity and safety for the residents of Richfield and Hennepin County. We must strive for a solution that does the most for all.

Join Me! Support a Nicollet Avenue for the Future

The upcoming open house is a great opportunity to make your voice heard and have a tangible, positive impact on the community. Among the additional recommendations that I hope you will consider raising:

  • Lower the targeted speed limit to 25 mph — Richfield’s new standard for streets like this (currently posted at 35).
  • Narrow the lanes to help support lower car speeds (currently shown wider than the minimum required). Narrowing the lanes would also bring Option 1 more in line with Options 2 and 3 in terms of row width.
  • Ensure high-quality bike/pedestrian crossing at every block.
  • Reduce the open left turn lane in locations where it is impossible to turn left anyway (e.g., advocate for a median or other raised barrier adjacent to Augsburg Park).
A 35 mph sign in Augsburg Park adjacent to Nicollet Avenue, 4-lane undivided roadway.
Although the striping has changed since this 2012 picture, the posted speed limit has not. Hennepin County still welcomes 35 mph next to this major park (photo: Sean Hayford Oleary).

Please join me at the Nicollet Avenue reconstruction open house this Thursday, February 29 at the Richfield Community Center, 7000 Nicollet Ave. (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) to advocate for a vision that puts safety and accessibility first. Each multi-modal project that we complete has a greater effect than its individual parts as the network expands.

Just as the 66th Street project transformed our east-west corridor in Richfield, we have the unique opportunity to increase this impact north-south with Nicollet Avenue.

Richfield Community Center
Richfield Community Center (photo: Sean Hayford Oleary)
Henrik Kowalkowski

About Henrik Kowalkowski

Pronouns: he/him/his

Henrik Kowalkowski is a contributing writer to Streets.mn. A data scientist for a health tech company, he is interested in road design, planning and policy. In his free time he loves to explore Richfield, Minneapolis and the surrounding communities by bike.