Friday, May 28, 2010

Public Forum Brings out Bike Lane Concerns

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

While Minneapolis has been voted the top bicycling city in America, NoMi residents often have to go to other parts of town to enjoy the honor. We don't even have a bike shop. One proposal to bring more bike lanes to our community was held on Thursday night at North Regional Library.

The idea being put forth includes adding north/south bike lanes on Fremont Avenue and part of Emerson Avenue North from Plymouth Avenue up to 44th. Approximately 30 people showed up to discuss the option, and the biggest objection people had...

...was the proposal to remove at least some parking on Fremont between 33rd Ave N and 44th Ave N. The proposal can be found here, and a description of the overall plan is here.

At the forum, people were first asked to introduce themselves and if or how they bike or otherwise travel Emerson and Fremont. Already during introductions folks were expressing their concerns about losing parking, often prefacing their statements by saying, "I'm the one who called and gave you a hard time." What was especially concerning was the possibility that a senior citizens' mult-unit building could be left with insufficient parking if the proposal is not implemented correctly (or perhaps even if it is).

Shaun Murphy, the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Coordinator for Minneapolis, gave a short presentation about biking in general as well as in NoMi. He said the number of people biking to work in Minneapolis has quadrupled over the past thirty years. And aside from the weather, the top two reasons why more people don't bike more often are a lack of bike-friendly streets and safety. Studies have consistently shown that safety between bikers, drivers, and pedestrians increases when extra bike lanes are added.

Currently in north Minneapolis, there are really only two major north/south bike thoroughfares - 2nd St N along the river, and Theo Wirth Parkway to the west. Although Emerson and Fremont have their drawbacks, those two avenues are the only two that are centrally located and are continuous north/south corridors. For better or for worse, there really aren't other options for where to put bike lanes.

The current proposal takes Emerson Avenue northbound and narrows the lanes from Plymouth Avenue up to 33rd, where it would cross over onto Fremont. Some parking on the 3200 block of Emerson may be removed. That same stretch along Fremont going southbound would be reduced to one lane of traffic, since the street itself is narrower. Parking would remain, and a bike lane and buffer lane would be added.

From 33rd Ave N up to 44th/Webber Parkway, bike lanes that go both north and south would be added, and in some areas parking could be removed. Once again, this seemed to be the primary concern of people in attendance. Other concerns raised were:
- kids won't obey bike lanes anyway
- the possibility that both school and public buses would block traffic or interfere with bikers
- if lanes are narrowed, how will that impact biking and driving in the winter?
- people speeding on Emerson and Fremont will make it dangerous for cyclists
- the occasional wrong-way traffic will be even more dangerous for cyclists
- too many cars don't pay attention just north of 26th and Emerson, and hit parked cars where the street zigs slightly to the west. How will cyclists be safe?
- double-parked cars in front of places like the E+L and Emerson "Food" Market will cause problems for cyclists
- are one-way streets safe for bikers? (In response to this general question, 4th St SE and University Ave SE were pointed out as examples of bike-friendly one-way streets)
- the contentious stretch of Fremont includes a rather large hill that may deter bike usage no matter what. (I'm still looking for the mystical M.C. Escher-inspired bike path that always goes downhill.)

The one resident that I really disagreed with, though, was a gentleman who said that if parking were removed in front of his house in favor of bike lanes, that would "immediately make [his] house less desirable and less valuable." I would counter that by saying it would make his house desirable and valuable to different people. There are those who would LOVE to live on a street with dedicated bicycling space and little parking.

CM Johnson was in attendance as well, and she reminded us that investment in bicycling infrastructure has too often passed north Minneapolis on by. She and the moderator explained that we are in the public comment phase, but recommended changes may be in the works by as soon as August or October of this year. If people have comments they would like to be considered in this issue, don't JUST leave them on this blog. Pass them on to CMs Johnson, Samuels, and Hofstede, as well as Shaun Murphy at

There is no doubt we need more biking infrastructure in NoMi; here's hoping we get it done right.


The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Editorial note: the html was acting funny for some reason and an initial post that was incomplete was published and then quickly corrected.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

"Patrick" left a comment on the version of the blog post that had to be deleted. He used sarcasm, presumably, in saying that the property values along the bike lane would go up because so many more people use bikes as their main form of transportation.

I did not assert that more people use bikes than cars, nor did I assert that the property values would increase. I merely pointed out that replacing parking with bike lanes doesn't necessarily DECREASE property values nor does it necessarily make a property LESS desirable.

There is a market for people who want to live near or directly on bike lanes, is basically all I was saying.

The Hawthorne Sentinal said...

I believe that bikes can already use these or any other street they please. Why not just encourage them to shut up and ride. If a homeowner can't even park a car in front of their own home that would certainly reduce the market of buyers for their home and thus lower the property value. Homes in NOMI don't need any further help in making themselves more affordable. Anytime you shrink the market for a given item for sale you reduce it's value.

Hans said...

Is the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Coordinator a paid position in the City of Minneapolis?

Patrick said...

What evidence do you have to point to regarding the "market" for those who want to buy houses in bad neighborhoods where they cannot park but can watch bikes go by?

Michael Spivak said...

I wasn't at the meeting due to another commitment, but I left a comment on the website and Shaun responded to me very quickly.

My concern was that reducing Fremont to one lane would cause traffic to back up behind parked buses, but the buses would pull out of the traffic lane to stop. Unfortunately, this creates a problem for cyclists who have to deal with buses merging in and out of the bike lanes.

"Patrick" said...

What effect then do you think removing parking spaces in favor of bike lanes has on property values? Positive? Negative? Neutral?

I think it has a negative value, especially in an urban area like NoMi. This is true because parking is at a premium and is desirable. If my property was losing parking in favor of bike lanes I would be upset.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

To the person posting comments as Hans, but not using a Google profile: Your two comments have been approved because they're substantive enough. However, there is another contributor on this blog using the "Hans" handle already. If you wish to have future comments approved, pick another name that does not create the impression that you're attempting to hijack someone else's profile.

In terms of property values in relation to biking and parking: Look at plenty of places in south Minneapolis where parking is a total pain in the ass yet property values are higher there. Why is that? My theory is that's based on quality housing stock (most of it historic and NOT demolished) and access to amenities. Milwaukee Avenue anyone? Look at values THERE.

I haven't decided personally whether I like this proposal, including the parking reductions. But we do have more parking in NoMi than other parts of the city, and less other amenities. Perhaps it's our prerogative as a community to place a premium on parking as such an amenity.

You could make the argument that such a move would result in less people wanting a certain property and therefore with a smaller market looking at the purchase, that drives the value down. There may be a correlation there, but certainly not causation. The big question is WHO gets eliminated from that market.

If a slumlord like Paul Koenig doesn't want to buy a property on Fremont Avenue North because there aren't enough parking spaces for the four cars that the family will have on site once it's converted to a duplex (not to mention parking for their friends who come by and cause commotion at all hours of the night), people will come out ahead. If Mahmood Khan's alleged drug-dealing tenants (in the McKinley neighborhood post) have no place for their clients to park cars in front of a property, that would have a positive effect on values.

I'm completely hypothesizing here, but I wonder how many people bike to work because they cannot afford a car, and how many bike to work because it's a lifestyle choice? For the latter, that frees up more money that they're not spending on gas, that they can spend in the community or invest in their home. Are people who bike to work a more affluent demographic? If so, I'd almost say we ought to forge ahead and get those bike lanes up right away in order to entice affluent people to the neighborhood.

I can hear the cries of gentrification already. But remember the original issue was parking spaces in comparison to property values. The person at the meeting was concerned about being able to sell his house for the most money possible. Well, when that time comes, who do you want fighting to buy your house, poor people or rich people?

I don't know if anyone else has their mind made up by now, but I think I just convinced myself.

Anonymous said...

The beauty of Mpls except for afew neighborhood is its abundance of parking. Most single family homes have one to two off-street parking spaces to use. Is a bike lane on Emerson really going to be detrimental? i think not. Unless your slummin' up an old house into an illegal 8 unit rental.

8bit4life said...

I think more bike paths and more ways for non-drivers to be mobile would be a fantastic thing for NoMi. I used to bike everywhere before I moved to NoMi. The lack of bike paths is one reason I bike less. The potholes do seem to be a bigger problem to biking than paths, though. I made the mistake of taking 7th street home from downtown one day and my bike still hasn't fully recovered :)

Hans said...

I was at the meeting... and would like to see a compromise reached between those concerned about parking and property values and the idea that a fully striped bike lane is necessary (and the removal of parking).

I think the parking should remain... for now. Create the bike corridor and see if more people start using it. If use increases to the point where elimination of parking makes sense then by all means remove the parking. But if the corridor doesn't see much use why should all the people living along that stretch lose their parking? I don't like the idea of eminent domain street parking removal.

I don't want to hear public outcry that a "stupid" bike lane was put in that "nobody" uses and now the property owners can't park on the street.

With that said... I think speeding is the biggest issue along fremont and emerson. ANYTHING that will reduce speeding is fine with me. (and if speeds were reduced I might feel safer biking along those streets even without bike lanes)

Anybody else with comments please forward them to

emma. said...

I think adding bike lanes is a wonderful idea. Being a biker (though not as much recently due to needing my car for work) I always prefer a street with a bike lane than a street without - though the absence of a bike lane would never hinder me from riding on a street. I do know that it does hinder plenty of bikers and having more access to these in our community would make it significantly more welcoming to others - not only to current or prospective residents but also people visiting our community who will benefit it economically (biking to a store, restaurant, gallery, etc.). Biking is a huge trend right now and I don’t see it going away – we should embrace that and adjust our community accordingly as many major cities are currently doing.

I don’t think taking parking away is a major issue. I agree that parking is very plentiful in all of Minneapolis compared to many other cities. Being from Chicago I rarely, if ever, had a garage or space in back to park and had to rely on street parking (and even when I had access to a space it cost extra to use). In every neighborhood but one (the “worst” I lived in) I was required to buy a parking permit and had to have daily permits on hand for visitors. Even then I often had to park blocks away from home.

I rarely had a car in Chicago – I almost always relied on public transportation and my bike regardless of the weather. Unfortunately that is something that I miss the most living here in Minneapolis – I feel like I NEED a car, for the most part. Improvements to both public transportation and bike lanes/greenways would bring Minneapolis closer to the perfect picture of a city that I have. However I am very pleased with the plethora of parking here and not needing parking permits. : )

Last year my husband and I purchased a house in NoMi – I really don’t think that the presence or lack of street parking contributed to our decision whatsoever. In Minneapolis I expect to have access to parking in the back and really don’t mind if I or my friends need to walk a block or two as it’s what I’m used to based on past experience.

la_vie_en_rose said...

Actually, this whole area (the Twin Cities) is easier to access by walking/bus/light rail/etc than Indy or Cincy are. You definitely need a car to get around in those two cities. Indy only has bike trails in the nicest, richest part of the city (although they are supposed to be working on light rail as a part of hosting the 2012 Super Bowl), and Cincy doesn't have anything at all (much less a dedicated bus system these days as routes close often). They're working on using streetcars again, but citizens are totally against it for some reason (cost being the biggest concern).