Potential “cycle track” coming to 36th Street?

Community, Featured — By on August 22, 2012 8:40 pm

The City of Minneapolis Public Works Department is looking into the feasibility of adding a “cycle track” along 36th Street from at least Dupont Avenue to East Lake Calhoun Parkway. A cycle track is often considered a separated bike lane that is on or adjacent the roadway but generally is located between the sidewalk and the drive lane or parking lane. The closest thing to one in Minneapolis is the First Avenue North bike lanes.

Currently, the City is just in a conceptual stage and has no definitive plans or funding to make any improvements. Public Works is engaging the community to identify the appropriate improvements, if any, and will then do final designs and seek funding.

36th Street Bikeway rendering

A possible cycle track is being considered for 36th Street in Minneapolis.

One option being considered would have a two-way bike path on the south side of 36th Street from Dupont Avenue to Lake Calhoun. The two-way path (shown above) would have 5′ lanes in each direction with a 3′ buffer from the traffic lane with plastic delineators (reflective plastic flexible bollards) to reduce the risk of cars driving in the bike lane (intentionally or unintentionally).

Several options include adding a walking space adjacent the cycle track on the south side of 36th Street, as currently there is not a sidewalk there. Other options include bike lanes with and without protection zones.

It is unclear as of right now how the bus stops on 36th Street would be impacted by this project. Also unclear is how far east the improvements could extend. A one pager from the City (linked below) discusses how 36th Street was recently seal coated, which provides an opportunity to restripe without much effort from the City. The map also shows a map that extends east all the way to Chicago Avenue. From what I gather, the first section would likely extend from Lake Calhoun to Dupont in part because one of the adjacent neighborhoods (CARAG) has encouraged it as well as being adjacent to the Lakewood Cemetery, which provides a nice unobstructed route.

Next steps is public feedback, then projecting costs and finding funding.

Download the one-pager and the potential layout options currently being considered.

36th Street cycle track

A rendering of how a cycle track on 36th Street could look east of Dupont Avenue in Minneapolis

Thatcher Imboden

How cities work and change, how they are the product of their inhabitants and outside forces, and the resulting livability keep me thinking and dreaming about the future. I work in transit oriented development and have a background in urban real estate development. I am Past President of an Uptown business organization, grew up in Uptown, was on an Uptown neighborhood association Board, and am an Uptown and Lyn-Lake historian.

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  1. There’s a reason why cycletracks like this aren’t in any U.S. standard or guideline books. They hide bicyclists from motorists as they approach intersections. They claim to offer “separation,” but they only offer separation up until the moment of impact.
    A cycletrack like this just caused a fatal car/bike collision in Montreal, within the last month or so. Other cycletrack designs have caused fatalities and a large quantity of non-fatal crashes all over Europe. Minneapolis has had two fatalities that can be attributed to the bicycle facility.
    These things always look great in the computer-generated drawing. Reality, though, is different.
    There is SO much you can do to make a city inviting to cyclists, without using dangerous features. You don’t need to pretend that “dangerous is safe” to make cycling inviting.

  2. 36th Street is part of a grid system. Smaller, lightly-traveled 35th Street is one of several that could instead be configured as a bicycle boulevard (also called neighborhood greenway) like those in Berkeley, Eugene, Portland and Seattle, so bicyclists use it as a through route while only local motor traffic uses it. That is popular with residents and avoids the problems with sight lines which John Schubert has described.

    Now for some comments on those Photoshopped pictures. They come from what I call the “Photoshop School of Traffic Engineering”, Or the “Anything Goes” school. Well, anything goes, in a Photoshopped picture but not necessarily in reality.

    In the top picture, there’s already a sidewalk on both sides but now there’s also a special lane so pedestrians can walk in the street. To make room for this and the bikeway, the blue car in the right-hand travel lane is squished to about 3 feet wide and the lane is about 8 feet wide. The text describes the bikeway described in the text as 10 feet wide, but it measures as about 12 feet wide based on the size of the bicycle wheels. 36th Street has a cross street every 300 feet, also entrances to back alleys and driveways in almost every block, but in the picture there are no intersections all the way to the vanishing point in the background. That avoids the safety issue at intersections but I don’t think it’s really going to happen, as there’s some need for people to get in and out of those cross streets, alleys and driveways.

    Second picture: The bikeway is shown at a more realistic width. I just got back from Montreal where I rode bikewayss like this and it’s hair-raising with heavy two-way bicycle traffic in such a narrow space. I’m not sure how three travel lanes, a parking lane, 3-foot buffer and 10-foot-wide bikeway fit into a street which now has only two travel lanes and two parking lanes. Also note the car about to turn right across a lane of traffic and then across the bikeway at the one intersection shown. The lane with the closest car in it is shown as a lane of traffic, not a parking lane, or there would be signs and markings to indicate that. Assuming though that it is a parking lane and the turning car isn’t cutting off the closer one, then the closer one is still hiding approaching bicyclists from the turning one, whose driver must look to the right rear to see them as they get closer — remember, they may be traveling at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. The bikeway is outside the field of view of the turning driver’s right-hand rear view mirror. Some vehicles have no windows behind the front seat, and so the bikeway would be in a complete blind spot. Riding in the Montreal bikeways, I had repeated conflicts with motorists turning across my path, using intimidation to try to make a gap for themselves in the stream of bicyclists.

    The proposed design is about a social agenda: creating the appearance of safety for naive bicyclists, and making motoring more difficult. Actually, motorists would instead use the smaller parallel streets. Elimination of parking on one side of the street to create the bikeway is unlikely to be popular with residents.

    The Montreal bikeways are the subject of a widely-publicized research study claiming a safety advantage, but it has been demolished, see http://john-s-allen.com/montreal.kary.htm

  3. Khal Spencer says:

    That looks like a right hook crash about to happen in photo #2.

  4. Josh says:

    In the second illustration, isn’t the cyclist in red, in the shade of the tree, about to suffer a right-hook impact with the turning SUV? He’s out of that driver’s line of sight, and that driver could be going fairly fast — will that driver see the cyclist in time to stop? Or is this photo actually an illustration of why this sort of facility is best confined to use beside high-speed routes with limited, controlled intersections?

    • The illustration is kind of ironic, but I don’t think cycle tracks are any more likely to seduce right hooks than regular bike lanes. State law states that cars turning right should first move into the bike lane, and then turn right. Minneapolis has tried to make that even clearer with the dotted lines approaching intersections. And yet still absolutely nobody does it (save for a few folks using the bike lane to illegally pass stopped cars for a right turn on red). Fortunately, I think we’re getting to the point where people just look over to the right and make sure they’re clear of bikes — which is the same whether it’s a cycle track or a lane.

      Still hate the two-way flow, though.

  5. Anders says:

    Can anyone point to actual research showing that cycle tracks are inherently less safe than other alternatives?

  6. I’m not opposed to cycletracks at all, and I mostly like the 1st Ave N one. But this proposed one from Calhoun to King’s Highway has one serious flaw: two-way flow. There’s a very good reason why it’s unlawful to ride on the left side of the street, against traffic. If cars are paying attention to contra-flow movement at all, it’s 3 mph pedestrian traffic they’re looking for. A bike going 10-20 mph is much too fast to react to when it’s not connected to the similar flow of auto traffic.

    The two-way cycletracks make up for their safety flaws when applied to one-ways, since they provide a somewhat useful outlet for “salmon” cyclists who might exist anyway. But on a 2-way street, they’re completely useless. Really, all you’ve done here is take one of those suburban asphalt sidewalks (aka “bike paths”) and put it in the roadway.

    Create separate tracks, with the flow of traffic, and you can create the safe-feeling and sense of separation without the serious safety problems of going against the flow of traffic.

    • Anders says:

      Normally I’d agree, but 36th has the advantage of not having any 4-way intersections between Dupont and Lake Calhoun (exception: the unique cemetery intersection at Hennepin). The last two blocks, between Dupont and Bryant, would be more challenging for the reasons you mention. Additionally, there are already a decent amount of cyclists who bike the wrong way up the hill from Lake Calhoun, presumably because they feel safer not being sandwiched between 30mph vehicles and a big iron fence.

      • Yeah I realize this street has unusual advantages because of the Lakewood Cemetery, but there’s the issue of transitioning. If I’m riding west toward Calhoun, do I veer left at King’s Highway to get into the wrong-side cycletrack? Separate, right-side bike lanes (with whatever level of separation) would better connect to normal, lawful bike traffic east of King’s Hwy/Dupont and connect equally well to the bike lanes on Richfield Rd.

        In any case, it seems like a good rule of thumb to not design a bicycle facility that creates behavior that would be unlawful under all other circumstances.

  7. Marcus Nielson says:

    Wish the city would learn from there 1st ave north mistake and realize that paint on the road and a few plastic ugly bollards does nothing to protect cyclists from auto drivers

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