New protected bikeways are coming to the UMN campus

Project representatives are seeking feedback on whether to make one-way or two-way bike pathways on University Avenue and 4th Street SE.

A biker stops behind a car as it passes through the bike lane at the intersection of 15th Avenue Southeast and University Avenue Southeast Tuesday morning.

Image by Kathryn Chlystek, Daily File Photo

A biker stops behind a car as it passes through the bike lane at the intersection of 15th Avenue Southeast and University Avenue Southeast Tuesday morning.

by Emun Solomon

Protected bikeways are making their way to campus.

Local government officials are collecting feedback from residents at two meetings this week on protected bikeways for University Avenue SE and 4th Street SE.

These protected bikeways separate bike lanes from the street with plastic barriers. The bikeways are set to be implemented eventually, but the public works agency is still deciding whether to make them one-way or two-way.

The decision is contentious for bike enthusiasts, who say two-way bikeways help bikers navigate one-way streets in a safer way, and business owners in the area, who are concerned the two-ways would eliminate parking spots.

“Neighbors are divided on issues like parking, but there is no doubt that these lanes would provide a safer, easier biking experience for Como and for those that use the area to commute via bike to the University or Downtown,” said Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) neighborhood coordinator Cody Olson.

The University area has the highest biking traffic in the state. The Department of Public Works listed the University and 4th Street bikeways as a top priority because it expects traffic to increase as more residents move into new developments.

At a Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday, Minneapolis transportation planner Simon Blenski said that 15th Avenue SE has the busiest bike traffic in the state.

A stakeholder group ­­­– including students, faculty and local business owners –– is calling for improved safety and lowered speed limits on University and 4th Street.

“What we have heard in discussions with the community so far is that University Avenue and 4th Street create a barrier between the neighborhood and the riverfront and University,” said Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill.

Because both four-lane streets are one-ways, it’s difficult for bikers to navigate them, Hill said.

He added that since implementing protected bikeways on N. Plymouth Avenue and 8th Avenue NE, bicycle traffic increased from about 430 bicyclists per day in 2011 to 720 in 2014.

Some business owners have expressed concern that the two-way bike lanes would take more space away from parking, Blenski said.

Project representatives will hold another feedback session at the SECIA meeting Thursday, and will continue to review community feedback throughout the coming weeks.

Plans have already been finalized for another set of protected bikeways, scheduled to be installed in 2019, that will run along 10th Avenue and 15th Avenue SE.

This development is part of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan. The plan puts forth a network of over 50 miles of protected bikeways centered around downtown and the University.

“Our aim is to enhance safety in the area for bikers and pedestrians in these areas while minimizing the effect on local parking,” Blenski said.