A Minneapolis City Council committee recently approved a new proposal that would update and expand existing bike lanes around the University of Minnesota.
On Tuesday, the city’s Transportation and Public Works Committee approved the University of Minnesota Protected Bikeways layout, which would add protections to bike lanes as well as bicycle safety features to roads on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods.
The proposed 2.6 mile stretch of protected bikeways is part of an update to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan and will include streets in the Cedar-Riverside, Como, Marcy-Holmes and Seward neighborhoods, as well as on campus.
“The U of M was definitely a focus of that plan update since it’s such a high demand area for biking,” said Simon Blenski, transportation planner for Minneapolis Public Works.
Unlike conventional bike lanes, protected bike lanes feature a physical barrier between the cyclist and traffic, usually in the form of a marked post.
Other safety features will include marked “bike boxes,” which allow bikes to get ahead of vehicles for easier left turns, and a bike signal at the intersection of 10th Avenue SE and University Avenue SE.
The project also includes adding “No Turn on Red” signs at certain intersections. A bicycle boarding island at the Campus Circulator bus stop on 19th Avenue SE would help separate cyclists, pedestrians and bus riders.
Areas outlined in the project have the highest demand for bicycling in the city. According to the proposal, as many as 4,000 people use these bike lanes each day.
Ward 3 City Council member Steve Fletcher said the project will help increase bicycle traffic.
“I think the goal is getting more cars off the street, and getting bikes on the street is the way to do that,” he said.
In 2017, the city’s Public Works department held several engagement sessions with affected neighborhood organizations and the University to gather feedback and help inform the proposed layout.
One concern specific to the Southeast Como neighborhood was the removal of parking along certain blocks to accommodate the addition of new protected two-way bike lanes. The current layout calls for on-street parking removal on Rollins Avenue SE between 15th Avenue SE and 17th Avenue SE, and on a stretch of 18th Avenue SE between Como Avenue SE and East Hennepin Avenue.
“We understand it’s by the University of Minnesota, it’s always going to be busy. But overall we think the trade off is important because it’s also increasing bike access around campus,” Blenski said. “That’s really important.”
Residents were informed of these parking changes at two community meetings and via mail and door-knocking. Blenski said all but one property along the affected area have off-street parking, and the remaining property has plans to implement it soon.
Southeast Como Improvement Association Executive Director Cody Olson said while some residents of the neighborhood are excited about the proposal, others have expressed concerns about reduced parking.
“This is an issue that’s really, really divisive in the community, so we can’t really say something either way because there are people who live on the route who are very, very upset with this,” Olson said.