Fourth Street squeezed for parking, biker lane

Each day, about 1,000 bicycles traverse the road, which doesn’t have a bike lane.

Fourth Street squeezed for parking, biker lane

Barry Lytton

Down Fourth Street Southeast, past the McDonald’s arches that mark the road’s intersection with 15th Avenue Southeast, a bicycle lane disappears.

The three-lane, one-way road has a bike lane starting near TCF Bank Stadium. But once it hits 15th Avenue Southeast, a bike lane gap lasts until 13th Avenue Southeast, spanning the heart of Dinkytown.

Community members and bicycle advocates have taken notice, with many saying it would be practical to add a bike lane in the area of the gap. However, a few Dinkytown business owners aren’t pleased with the discussions, as the change would remove about a dozen parking spots.

About 1,050 bicycles traverse this stretch of road on a daily basis, according to Minneapolis city data.

“It’s one of the top spots in the city for people biking where there isn’t a bike lane,” said Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

It would also force the valet service operating outside Loring Pasta Bar to relocate.

Just over 17,000 cars whiz down Fourth Street Southeast on a daily basis, with more than a thousand driving down the street each hour during its peak traffic times, from noon to 7 p.m.

“I wouldn’t ride [a bicycle] down Fourth any more than I could absolutely avoid it,” said Jim Sander, whose wife owns Kafe 421.

Sander said the area has lost close to 300 parking spots because of major construction in the past year.

Rob Dettoff, owner of Varsity Bike and Transit on Fourth Street Southeast, said he has heard of two solutions to the dilemma.

One calls for eliminating a parking lane and replacing it with a bike lane.

The other would reduce the road to two lanes of through traffic and convert the third lane into a single parkway that buffers a bike lane along the sidewalk.

“You can solve parking in a lot of different ways,” said Bill Lindeke, a geography doctoral student and bicycle advocate, “but the main thing is that you provide safety and comfort to the 90 percent of people that actually walk and bike there.”

The bike lane is still in early stages of proposal, allowing for discussions to continue, said Simon Blenski, a bicycle planner for Minneapolis.

“It hasn’t gone very far yet,” Blenski said. “It’s really just some community interest in connecting the bike lane.”

The conflict between people and parking is catalyzed by area traffic, as the opening of parked car doors and moving vehicles can be perilous for two-wheeled pedalers cycling down Fourth Street Southeast.

Steven Hedding, a delivery bicyclist for Jimmy John’s and a University graduate, said he would support a bike lane down Fourth Street Southeast in Dinkytown.

“I certainly think it’ll improve bicycle safety,” he said. “It’s always a danger passing parked cars.”