The heart of downtown Minneapolis is challenging to get to and through on bike. Marquette and 2nd Ave South can provide the answer that will attract many more people to bike into downtown.
The current situation
Most people (average of about 1,300 people biking a day) use Nicollet Mall as their north-south bike route in heart of downtown. But the Mall leaves much to be desired for biking.
We hear two very common complaints: 1) it's slow with slow-moving buses and poorly timed stoplights and 2) the buses make an uncomfortable place to ride, especially in rush hour. (We certainly also hear from some people who love riding Nicollet Mall.)
Nicollet Mall will be reconstructed in 2015-16 and while some effort is being made to make it a little easier to pass buses, it will be basically the same as today for biking (until streetcar tracks are added in the future).
Many people also use Hennepin and 3rd Avenue S to access the heart of downtown. Both streets are poor for biking and serve only very confident bicyclists. We hope to see a protected bikeway on Hennepin or greatly improved 1st Avenue N in the future to serve that part of downtown.
Marquette and 2nd Ave S can serve as great north-south route through the heart of downtown
Marquette and 2nd Ave S were among the most popular bike routes downtown before they were converted to express bus streets in 2009. The change was great for buses, but not for biking. We can make them great again for biking.
It's pretty easy to imagine Marquette and 2nd forming a slick connection from Whittier and points south through the heart of downtown to Northeast. A southbound route (the red line in the map below) could run from Central Avenue NE/3rd Avenue bridge to 2nd Avenue South to LaSalle/Blaisdell. The northbound pair (blue line) would run on 1st Avenue S to Marquette to Central/3rd Avenue bridge.
We can fit a comfortable protected bikeway on Marquette and 2nd Ave S
Here's an option:
This option offers a one-way protected bike lane on each street while maintaining all existing bus and car traffic lanes. That would look like:
This option is a little tight overall. The buses and bikes are giving a little (10-foot and narrower car lanes are commonplace in downtown environments in most of the rest of the country). Typically we'd want at least 8 feet total for a protected bike lane. This is just 7 feet. Metro Transit will say they want 2 more feet than they get in this. We'd say that maybe the City could go to 9.5-foot car lanes so the buses could have another foot (9-foot lanes are not uncommon in downtown environments).
We walked the corridors this week to evaluate whether we thought 7 feet for the protected bike lane could work well. The consensus of our group is that it could because of two important factors: 1) this is a recently and well constructed street with basically no gutter area seam to worry (see picture below) about meaning that bicyclists should be able to comfortably bike close to the curb, and
2) winter maintenance is top notch here--all the snow is removed off these streets. It would be a bit tight. Passing a bicyclist may require hopping out of the protected bike lane and into traffic. That's not ideal, but it should still be a comfortable place for many more people to bike than any downtown bike lanes right now if done correctly. We weren't comfortable going narrower than 7 feet for a protected bike lane. And we think having a protected bike lane is important here.
It would look pretty close to this only slightly narrower and without parked cars (picture from Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago).
Do you like the idea of protected bike lanes on Marquette and/or 2nd Avenue South?
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