Three people stand on a median on Lyndale Avenue, holding signs advocating for a multimodal Lyndale Avenue design. The signs read "Bikes and Buses are Safe and Accessible Streets"

Lyndale Avenue Deserves a Multimodal Future

On a recent northbound trip on Lyndale Avenue in South Minneapolis, I was running late. The Route 4 bus arrives every 15 minutes, but during rush hour it’s often stuck behind a jam of drivers waiting for the freeway entrance near Franklin Avenue. This is usually a bustling street lined with neighborhood-scale retail outlets, stylish coffee shops and delicious restaurants. Instead, while I wait for my bus to move again, the view out the window is more akin to a parking lot. Even the sidewalks seem cramped and uncomfortable, and I watch a cyclist ride up a curb cut, dodging walkers to avoid the pack of cars on the street. Something needs to change. 

In 2026, Hennepin County will rebuild Lyndale Avenue South from Franklin Avenue to 31st Street. That might seem like a long way off, but the time to get involved in the project is now. The Livable Lyndale campaign is a volunteer-led effort affiliated with Move Minnesota which advocates for a street that will serve all modes. I, like many of the dedicated advocates in the group, live in the neighborhood and care deeply about making this street the best it can be. 

This spring, the county will begin by releasing a slate of “candidate designs,” each consisting of a potential road layout. These will be the topic of a public comment period before the final design is selected. We may see these glimpses of what the future could bring as soon as the end of March, so the sooner we speak up for the changes we want to see, the better.

Why Rebuild Lyndale?

Changes to Lyndale are sorely needed. The road is showing its age, featuring a design that has changed little since the rise of the automobile in the 1950s. The truth is, the very requirements placed on our roads have changed drastically over the past century. Especially in the urban core, we no longer build our streets considering only the needs of cars. Instead, modern design recognizes the social, health and environmental benefits of transit, biking and walking. Road safety has also seen a revolution. Streets that were once designed to speed up automobiles are being rebuilt to slow them down.

In its historic configuration, Lyndale consisted of six lanes dedicated to automobiles: four lanes for travel and two dedicated to street parking. This left little room for much else. Most sidewalks were narrow, more suitable for a sleepy residential street than a thriving commercial corridor. Buses ran late, especially during rush hour when they were forced to wait in traffic. The road design ignored cyclists entirely. Without other options, cyclists rode on sidewalks unless they felt prepared to bike among automobiles that commonly neared 40 miles per hour. With speeds that high, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Lyndale was a hotspot for dangerous accidents. It was listed as a “High Injury Street” in Minneapolis’ Vision Zero plan, highlighting the urgency of the issue.

Luckily, a pilot project for the upcoming full roadway reconstruction made significant progress in 2022, reducing the street from six lanes to five. This classic “road diet” was a massive success, removing a travel lane and converting another to a central turn lane. It also added medians at key intersections, preventing dangerous cross traffic. These changes resulted in 57% fewer crashes when the county studied the results, and vehicular speeds along the road were reduced to the legal limit. This is a historic achievement, and we should celebrate this massive improvement to the safety of this central roadway.

It’s even more impressive considering how little infrastructure was actually changed. A few concrete medians and some paint will save lives on this road.

A chart showing the decreases in speed after adding the medians and doing a 4-to-3 conversion on Lyndale Avenue.
Lyndale Avenue Reconstruction presentations. Photo courtesy Hennepin County.

Aren’t the 2022 Changes Enough?

Although the pilot project has been a success for the corridor, issues remain. The sidewalks are still narrow, buses continue to run late and bicyclists still have no dedicated space. Fixing these problems will require larger changes to the road.

The reconstruction is an opportunity to start from a clean slate. The project entered its first phase in 2023 by taking feedback from residents and visitors. Surveys and outreach events throughout the fall gathered data about interest in bus lanes, bike paths and sidewalk widening

The upcoming second phase will see the release of a limited set of possible road layouts (the “candidate designs”). In the third phase of the project, planners will settle on a final recommended design. Since this is a county road, it has a wider set of stakeholders than other nearby examples like Hennepin Avenue. Both Hennepin County officials and the Minneapolis mayor will get to have their say in different parts of the road.

For now, the focus remains on ensuring that the people who use the road daily have a voice in its eventual shape. That process necessarily begins with a set of candidate designs that features a wide range of options.

How Can We Be Heard?

A modern Lyndale will need to support transit, biking, walking and rolling. It’s fortunate that South Minneapolis has a history of engagement on topics like these. Nearby Hennepin Avenue is being reconstructed this coming year. Locals advocated for improvements to transit access, widened sidewalks and sidewalk-level bike lanes, and the selected designs will feature all three! In another recent success, Minneapolis rebuilt Bryant Avenue South to feature a two-way bike path. The project reclaimed space that was once allocated for cars and turned an ugly, ultra-wide road into a pleasant boulevard. Franklin Avenue will soon join the club as well. In the last phase of public comment, the county selected an excellent design that prioritizes the experience of walkers and bikers. These modern designs show that Minneapolis is looking forward to a future where roads are for everyone, not just those in cars.

It’s important to emphasize that these modes work best together. Transit users hop off the bus and walk to their favorite businesses. Cyclists will ride up Lyndale to catch the Route 2 bus on Franklin. The people of Minneapolis want roads that can support all modes. When the county releases the candidate designs in the coming months, providing a “bus option” and a “bike option” is not sufficient. We need to see what a vibrant, multi-modal Lyndale could look like. That means providing candidate designs featuring bike lanes, bus lanes and spacious sidewalks.

An example of a "candidate design" from Hennepin Avenue's recent redesign process featuring both bus and bike lanes.
Hennepin Avenue’s recent redesign process provided a detailed recommended design that accommodates a variety of modes. Photo courtesy City of Minneapolis.

There’s plenty of room for all modes to coexist. The county has already reclaimed valuable road width through the road diet pilot project. Even while preserving some street parking, Lyndale Avenue’s wide right of way can accommodate a modern mix of uses. Of course, it will require the county’s expertise in precise road data and design standards to turn this goal into a tangible plan. 

Two advocates at a recent Livable Lyndale rally holding signs. One reads "Livable Lyndale" and the other reads "Buses and Bikes: Lyndale Ave"
Move Minnesota will host a Canvass to Build Support for Livable Lyndale on Saturday, March 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. Photo by author.

We know that multimodal design is not only a recent trend; it is our community’s future. The many other roads being rebuilt to feature a modern design will enhance our bike and bus network. As more streets provide for different modes, more people will shift away from dangerous, inefficient, carbon-belching personal automobiles, to save money for themselves and to save the planet for others.

The first step toward enhancing this on Lyndale is to release a set of candidate designs for Lyndale Avenue that show off the true range of possibilities. The street will work best when it serves everyone.

About Andrew Jewell

Pronouns: he/him or they/them

Andrew is an uptown resident and advocate for improved street designs and zoning requirements in the Twin Cities region.