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