by Ethan Hiedeman
Last Monday Sept. 30 and Wednesday Oct. 2, Minneapolis residents and concerned citizens turned out to hear a presentation by Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis concerning the Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction project. Unfortunately, meeting attendees heard only one proposal from presenters.
Without giving the cycle track option the further study and consideration it warranted, the city and county are pressing forward with a plan to provide on-street bike lanes instead of investing in a greener “Bikeway for Everyone:” a cycle track separated from traffic by a curb.
Although the proposed on-street bike lanes are high-quality and a much-needed improvement over Minnehaha’s current infrastructure, not taking this chance to invest in commuter safety and accessibility to the fullest extent is a missed opportunity.
Again and again at the meetings, presenters stressed that they were making the decision they thought was the best balance of safety for pedestrians, bikers, and automobile traffic alike. Unfortunately, the plan the city and county are pushing is not the safest – a well designed cycle track is.
A common argument against the protected bikeway was that the county’s proposed cycle track would precipitate the removal of a greater number of trees along Minnehaha Avenue. But the loss of trees was just a part of the county’s proposed cycle track, not necessarily a cost of any cycle track design. But rather than go back and design a smarter cycle track to reduce tree loss, the county decided to go ahead with the on-road bike lanes instead, discounting the safety gains that a buffered cycle track would bring.
“We were supportive of a protected bike lane on Minnehaha, very supportive, but we wanted it to be designed right so it would be a good asset for the community for the next 50-60 years,” said Ethan Fawley, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. “We really wanted a protected bike lane design that would have no impacts on trees, no impacts on parking, no impacts on traffic.”
According to City Council Member for the Second Ward Cam Gordon, in a letter distributed to meeting attendees, “Hennepin County’s decision to proceed with bike lanes rather than a cycletrack on Minnehaha is unsurprising, but it is not based on national best practices, academic research, the stated opinions of bicyclists who participate in our bicycle advisory committees, or the preponderance of contacts from stakeholders in Minnehaha.” Gordon wrote that he was not prepared to vote to approve the project until a cycle track option was explored more thoroughly.
It is unfortunate that Hennepin County decided not to offer the public a set of options on an even playing field, especially when the option they removed – the protected bikeway – more clearly meets their stated goals of safety and accessibility, and the City’s goals of as outlined in their Climate Action Plan. The Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction project offers the chance for Minneapolis to begin defining the future of its transit system – why not lay the foundation for a safer, greener, more livable future?
Confused? Discouraged? If you live in Minneapolis, please contact your City Council Member today about the Minnehaha reconstruction project. Let them know that you support a well designed cycle track on Minnehaha Avenue.
Ethan Hiedeman is a Social Media and Blog Writer Intern with the North Star Chapter. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College in environmental studies and political science and hails from Hastings, MN. Ethan loves to write and aspires to tell the important stories of the environmental movement and how people interact with their planet.