Plans in the works for a more bicycle-friendly downtown

City of Minneapolis planners have bicyclists in mind as they make First and Hennepin avenues two-ways downtown and revamp nearby bike lanes. The city anticipates that the changes, which would take place this fall, would make downtown corridors more bicycle-friendly, including the cityâÄôs first ever âÄúbike boxesâÄù and innovative curbside bike lanes. The current proposal was created by Public Works and Transportation staff following numerous public engagement meetings with bicyclists, police, downtown businesses and City Council members. According to the plan, Hennepin AvenueâÄôs center bike lane would be replaced with âÄúhybridâÄù lanes near the sides of the road, shared between experienced bicyclists, buses and right-turning vehicles. Because less-experienced bicyclists may be intimidated by the moving vehicles, curbside bike lanes on each side of First and Hawthorne avenues will allow them to travel directly alongside the curb. During peak traffic hours, the vehicle lanes nearest the bike lanes will be open for through traffic. At night and on weekends, that vehicle lane will be reserved for parked cars, creating a barrier between bicyclists and moving traffic. Steve Mosing, MinneapolisâÄô traffic operations engineer , said this essentially means they are taking the designated bike lane off of Hennepin Avenue and moving it to First Avenue. âÄúYou will have the less-experienced bicyclists who will want their designated space and thatâÄôs what theyâÄôre going to have on First,âÄù he said. The curbside bike lanes will be well-marked and posted signs will tell drivers when they are allowed to park by the bike lanes. If the current plan is approved, the curbside lanes will run on First and Hawthorne avenues from Second to 11th streets north, with connecting bike lanes on other streets, Mosing said. City Council member Cam Gordon , who represents much of the University of Minnesota area, said he hopes the bike-lane changes encourage more people to bike downtown. âÄúIâÄôm interested in seeing how that works and how people adapt to it,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm excited about it.âÄù Other potential additions to downtown streets are âÄúbike boxes,âÄù designated zones at intersections that will provide bicyclists with an area to wait in front of cars before making a left-hand turn. New forms of signalization are also being explored, Gordon said, and could eventually include separate light signals for bikes. Rob DeHoff, bicyclist and owner of DinkytownâÄôs Varsity Bike and Transit , said he will be glad to be rid of the center bike lane on Hennepin, as it is often blocked anyway. He said he thinks the changes would make people feel a lot better about riding downtown. As far as the changes being successful, DeHoff said itâÄôs all a matter of drivers and bikers getting educated and respecting the changes. A Feb. 10 meeting between City Council and the CityâÄôs Transportation and Public Works committee will seek to finalize plans for the bike lanes. It will then be voted on by the full City Council.