Lyndale Avenue. Photo courtesy of Philip Schwartz

An Open Letter on the Future of Lyndale Avenue

Dear Community: Lyndale Avenue is currently in the planning stages for an upcoming reconstruction. This corridor is the heart of a uniquely vibrant part of Minneapolis, home to coffee shops, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, quirky shops and so much more. I am writing as a resident of the Lyndale neighborhood, as a volunteer member of Move Minnesota‘s Livable Lyndale team and as a parent with kids who love biking.

Since last reconstructed in the 1930s, the focus of Lyndale in the post-streetcar era has been to move cars through the neighborhood as quickly as possible. Despite that, the corridor remains a place where the community comes together. A full reconstruction allows us to create a vision that magnifies the best parts of our neighborhood.

A few years ago, prompted by decades of crashes and deaths, the #FixLyndale movement successfully pushed Hennepin County officials past their comfort level to install safety upgrades, including a 4-3 lane road diet with pedestrian crossings. These have led to massive safety and livability improvements. Flipped over cars and smashed bus stops, once the norm on Lyndale, are now a rarity. I look forward to those changes being made permanent with a full reconstruction while knowing there is so much more we can do to make Lyndale a beautifully vibrant, walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly corridor.

A crowd of around 50 cyclists along Lyndale Avenue.
Cyclists on Lyndale near the intersection of Lake Street. Photo by Philip Schwartz

This month, Hennepin County is seeking feedback on a new set of potential design options. While right of way is limited, these options show us that there is plenty of space to improve pedestrian, bike and transit conditions without the complete elimination of parking, loading and delivery spaces. I want to thank project staff for including the option “Concept B with bikeway” that features both a dedicated bikeway and bus lane, reflecting the priorities that the Livable Lyndale team has been working so hard to promote to community members, Hennepin County commissioners and project staff since early 2023.

Although I’m a volunteer member of Livable Lyndale, an initiative of Move Minnesota, I would like to share some of my own thoughts on the project and do not intend to speak on behalf of the team.

Pedestrian Considerations

Crossing Medians: The medians should be retained at 25th and 27th streets. New crossing medians should be considered for 22nd and 29th street. All medians should have planting beds versus the raw concrete present today.

Bumpouts / Raised Crossings: Bumpouts should be as wide as possible wherever possible. Side street crossings should be raised by default (see “continuous sidewalks”).

Tabled Intersections: Recognizing that fully raised intersections are not allowed on State Aid Roads like Lyndale, project staff should work to get a variance on this outdated rule, just as St. Paul has done for Grand Avenue. Both business owners and residents want to see traffic move more slowly on Lyndale, and this would be one of the best ways to achieve that. Simply saying it’s against the rules is not enough here. We can do better, and we should push the envelope. Project staff will have the support of the community.

Bikeway Considerations

Two-Way Bikeway: Two-way bikeways are often avoided on busy streets due to added complexities and conflict points. Separated one-way bikeways shown in the county’s concepts are generally considered best practice, and this was my mindset when I started getting involved in this project. However, after conversations with the Livable Lyndale team, I have warmed up to supporting a two-way bikeway on the east side of Lyndale and now feel it’s the best option that should be included in the design.

Some benefits:

  • A two-way bikeway would interline seamlessly with the bikeway connection north of Franklin and would allow for a potential future bikeway retrofit south of 31st Street.
  • A two-way bikeway will take up significantly less space than separated one-way bikeways. With thoughtful planning, it would allow for more tree preservation than one-way bikeways.
  • ALDI and Wedge Lyndale, the grocery stores and popular bike destinations that people visit with frequency, both are on the east side of Lyndale.
  • The number of complex intersections is very low on Lyndale. The medians at 25th and 27th create closed intersections. 26th and 28th are one way, which simplify traffic operations. 29th has no roadway on the east side of Lyndale.
  • A two-way design would be consistent with nearby bikeways on Hennepin, Bryant, First Avenue, Blaisdell, 40th Street and more.

A valid safety concern is visibility for turning vehicles at driveways. This could be addressed by restricting left turns with a planted median, making exceptions to policy that prohibits the use of alleys for parking lot access, and other creative safety solutions that would tame aggressive and inattentive drivers.

Four cyclists on a two-way bikeway on Bryant Avenue.
3500 block of Bryant Avenue, approaching 36th Street. Photo by Philip Schwartz

Bikeway Must Extend to 31st Street: Current plans call for the bikeway to end at 28th Street. This must be corrected. Diverting people on bikes, scooters and mobility devices away from the biggest destination of the corridor, LynLake, would be a regrettable and puzzling choice that would damage the safety and utility of the entire corridor. Circuitous detours to Bryant make biking less intuitive. Not including a bikeway through the LynLake district will force people to mix with heavy traffic and increase dangerous sidewalk riding. Directing users away from LynLake will rob businesses of drop-in customers and vibrancy that come with a busy bikeway.

At 60 feet wide, the Midtown Greenway bridge has more than enough room to include a bikeway. The complexity of crossing Lake Street is also not a valid reason to prematurely terminate the bikeway. One needs to go only a few blocks down Lake Street to Blaisdell, and soon First and Hennepin avenues, to see how a two-way bikeway can cross a busy road. With proper design considerations and a focus on creating a calm street where cars are driving at safe speeds, this is totally doable.

Bikeway Connections: In addition to the plans connecting cyclists to the Greenway via 28th Street, project staff should work with the City of Minneapolis to implement the low-stress bikeway along 31st Street designated in their Transportation Action Plan, providing a valuable connection to Bryant Avenue south of LynLake.

Transit Considerations

Push up BRT Timeline: Bus Rapid Transit on Lyndale Avenue is proposed for 2030 as part of Metro Transit’s Network Next. County leaders should work through the entanglement of bureaucracy to move this schedule up so that BRT service is ready to go when the ribbon is cut in 2029. At a minimum, the reconstruction should be BRT ready, with features that improve transit service baked into the design.

A Metro Transit METRO C Line bus rapid transit (BRT) bus travels along Penn Avenue North at the 29th Avenue bus stop station in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A Metro Transit METRO C Line bus rapid transit (BRT) bus travels along Penn Avenue North at the 29th Avenue bus stop station in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Tony Webster on Wikimedia Commons

Bus Lanes: Given space constraints and the negative impacts of wider roads, bus lanes and queue jumps should be targeted only in areas of high congestion, like near Franklin and the northbound approach to 28th Street. Fast, convenient and reliable transit is essential, so other strategies including off-board fare collection, stop consolidation, transit signal priority and level boarding platforms should be used to keep transit competitive.

Excessive deployment of bus lanes will have negative externalities. A wide 5-lane roadway will undo some of the progress made on the recent 4-3 conversion by encouraging speeding and detracting from the cozy vibes that come with skinnier streets. Both-side bus lanes will result in long and unpleasant pedestrian crossings. Careless drivers will be sure to take advantage of the extra 24 feet of asphalt for illegal passing and parking, reaching levels of abuse that enforcement won’t be able to keep up with.

Meanwhile, allowing parking in less congested areas enables wide bumpouts to narrow pedestrian crossings. Parking also has side benefits of adding friction to the road, slowing traffic, providing a buffer from the sidewalk, and making the street feel like more of an active destination with people coming and going. While maximizing parking should not be a priority for this project given all the nearby surface lots and side streets, the inclusion of some space for loading, deliveries and short-term customer parking is not only necessary for smooth street operations, but will also help quell concerns of business owners who are otherwise supportive of Livable Lyndale’s goals.

I understand the desire to maximize the presence of bus lanes, but quality transit can still be achieved by combining thoughtful placement of bus lanes with the other enhancements listed above. Shaving off a single-digit percentage of time on a typical trip will come at a large cost to the streetscape. Personally, when I’m on a bus multitasking or daydreaming out the window, travel speed is not at the top of my mind. More important to me when using transit is frequency, amenities and convenience.

Aesthetic Considerations

Green Space: Lyndale south of 31st, while lacking key features like bumpouts and a safe place to bike, is a lush, attractive street. The planted median that was added here 15 years ago should extend north toward Franklin to help beautify Lyndale, provide additional shade and add more friction to slow traffic. Lyndale is also home to some mighty mature trees. While accommodations should be made to preserve as many as feasible, allowing them to dictate the design should be weighed carefully.

Placemaking: Lyndale Avenue is a special street in Minneapolis. Its design should stand out and signal to people that this is a destination for hanging out and popping into our wonderful shops. Learning from the mistakes of the City of Minneapolis’ gray-scape rebuild of the 3000 block of Hennepin, businesses should work with urban designers to ensure a combination of the following aesthetic upgrades:

  • Brick pavers
  • Stamped and colored concrete
  • Custom fixtures like benches, bike racks and lampposts
  • Banners
  • Public art
  • Planters
  • String lights hanging over the road in areas with high commercial activity, especially LynLake
  • A floating gateway sculpture hanging over the LynLake intersection (see Janet Echelman).
A large sculpture made from colorful netting suspended in the air between several skyscraper in Canada Place.
An example of Janet Echelman’s sculpture work at Canada Place in Vancouver, Canada. Photo by Winson Tang Photocreative on Wikimedia Commons

Open Streets Gates: Lyndale is at its best during street festivals and community gatherings. Operable gates, retractable bollards or other measures should be included to allow for easy road closures. This could facilitate events like the massively popular Open Streets to occur monthly, or even weekly.

Vehicular Considerations

Curbside Flex Zones / Parking: Where parking is provided, it should be raised using a mountable curb. Local examples include the parking areas outside of City Hall on Fourth Street and the Public Service Building on Fourth Avenue. This treatment is more attractive and helps visually reduce the width of the roadway, calming traffic. It also makes repurposing the space for parklets, cafes and sidewalk sales more attractive to local businesses.

Limiting Turn Lanes: Left turn lanes should be provided where needed for smooth street operations, but they should not trail on for an entire block. With the closed intersections at 25th and 27th and the one ways at 26th and 28th, the need for a continuous two-way left-turn lane throughout the entire project area is overkill.

Extra Traffic Lanes: I realize it will be tempting for project staff to keep the southbound right-turn lane at Lake Street and the five-lane cross section at Franklin, but we must ask for better. The priority in the Lyndale reconstruction should be building a safe and attractive urban space that draws people in and invites them to stay. At no point on the reconstructed Lyndale should there be sections with multiple general traffic lanes. After years of claims from Hennepin County that Lyndale could not support a 4-3 road diet, that road diet has ultimately turned out to be a smashing success. With resulting typical traffic delays of only a minute, the supposed traffic apocalypse never materialized. Building Lyndale to accommodate car traffic over people should not be tolerated.

Lane Widths: Lane widths should be kept as tight as possible. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that “the number of crashes does not significantly change in streets with a lane width of 9 feet compared to streets with lane widths of 10 feet or 11 feet” and that “narrowing travel lanes is associated with significantly lower numbers of non-intersection traffic crashes and could actually contribute to improvement in safety.”


Advocacy is hard work, and the Livable Lyndale team has spent countless hours the past year and a half engaging the community, meeting with elected officials and promoting our message. We are disappointed in the news of construction being delayed another year to 2027; that will pull us away from other priorities, like enjoying time at Lyndale businesses with friends and family. We are also concerned that a longer timeline will result in turnover among staff, elected officials and stakeholders, adding more complexity and less accountability. A refreshed Lyndale Avenue can’t come soon enough, and our team will remain steadfast in pushing for the best outcome.

We have an amazing opportunity to set the stage for a groundbreaking design that can help local businesses thrive and make spending time outside of a car not only safe, but irresistible to neighbors and visitors of all ages. I urge project staff to reach for the stars and make Lyndale Avenue the best street in the nation. I promise that the community — pedestrians, bikeway users, transit riders, drivers, and business owners — will support you every step of the way. Thank you!

Crowd in the middle of Lyndale Avenue during Open Streets Minneapolis.
People out and about enjoying Open Streets Minneapolis on Lyndale. Photo by Philip Schwartz

Editor’s Note: Phil Schwartz published this essay originally on Medium. We share it here with his permission.

Philip Schwartz

About Philip Schwartz

Philip is a resident of South Minneapolis and enjoys riding bikes with friends and family. As a City of Minneapolis Inspector, he introduced a fleet of e-bikes used by staff to conduct field work. For the past 20 years, he has worked and played downtown in various capacities, including the occasional pedicabbing shift. In his free time you can find him at the Painter Park skatepark, agitating for safer streets, or exploring new spots to have a picnic.