An Increasingly Usable Bike Network
Minneapolis has gained recognition as a top American bicycling city. The city's main bike thoroughfares, from the off-street Midtown Greenway to bicycling boulevards like Bryant Ave, are bike highways designed to move cyclists from one part of the city to another. But the city should not limit its bike network to highways anymore than it should limit its car network to highways. Instead, Minneapolis should facilitate safe cycling along the city’s commercial strips.
Some of Minneapolis’s Downtown commercial corridors are already bike accessible to one degree or another. But other city corridors – such as western Franklin, Uptown’s Hennepin and Lyndale, and Downtown’s Washington Ave – do not offer bike lanes or even ‘sharrows.’ Instead, the city offers alternate routes parallel to these main drags: Bryant fills this role in Uptown and South 2nd Street fills this role Downtown.
Although these alternate routes are safe because car traffic is low, these routes are also less usable than their high-trafficked neighbors. First, these routes do not provide direct access to many destinations. For example, a biker cannot access Uptown area grocery stores on Hennepin, Lyndale, or Lake from the Bryant bicycle boulevard. Second, these routes often do not connect to other central corridors. For example, Downtown’s South 2nd Street runs between Hennepin and the U of M campus but does not connect to either, while parallel Washington Ave connects to both.
Busy commercial corridors are busy because people want and need to access businesses along those corridors. And cyclists already use these busy corridors, whether or not the city or county welcomes them with a bike lane. For example, according to city Bicyclist Traffic Counts, daily ridership on Downtown’s Washington Ave, a non-bike friendly seven lane county road that connects to other corridors and hosts businesses, is between 340 and 540, while the daily ridership on South 2nd Street, a quiet street with two-way bike lanes just one block north of Washington, is around 460.
Some residents, neighborhood assocoations, and advocacy groups, including the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (disclosure: I volunteer with them), are pushing for bicycle facilities on major roads such as Washington and Franklin. If Minneapolis wishes to stay a preeminent bicycling city, it should work with these constituent groups to facilitate bicycle access along busy commercial corridors just as it facilitates car access along those corridors.