Bikers call for further protections

Mayor Betsy Hodges proposed to set aside $6M for protected bike lines around Minneapolis.

by Melissa Steinken

Despite Minneapolis’ good reputation among bicyclists, some would like to see the city take additional steps to make transportation easier for bikers.
While Minneapolis received the Gold Award from the League of American Bicyclists earlier this fall, some bicycle supporters say Minneapolis needs to engage in more efforts to make the entire city more bicycle friendly, such as adding more protective barriers between bikes and vehicle traffic.
Mayor Betsy Hodges has supported the push by proposing to spend $6 million on protected bikeways in the city over the next five years.
“It should be as easy to get somewhere on a bicycle as it is to get there in a car,” said Stephen Clark, bicycle friendly community specialist for the League of American Bicyclists.
In 2013, Minneapolis adopted a Climate Action Plan to add 30 more miles of on-street protected routes by 2020. 
Minneapolis has the ninth-biggest bicyclist population in the country, with about 10,000 
bicyclists throughout the city, according to data analysis from the League of American Bicyclists.
In the Midwest, Minneapolis trails behind cities like Bloomington, Ind., Madison, Wis., and Ann Arbor, Mich., which have higher percentages of bicycle commuters. 
“Minneapolis has long identified as a bicycle friendly city, and it is,” said Nick Mason, chair of the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee. “But other cities are investing significantly more than Minneapolis.”
Clark, who has taken bicycle tours of about 80 cities in the U.S., said Minneapolis has the best off-street bike path system of any city. 
Still, advocates say more protected lanes are needed.
“There are a lot of places to get around in the city,” Mason said. “But once you get off, you are on a bike lane along with cars, and it’s not safe.”
Bikers often have concerns about vehicle traffic and getting hit by cars, said Chris Stanley, a University of Minnesota neuroscience junior and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group environmental co-task force leader. 
Often, when people need to commute to work, school or the store, they are forced to cross busy traffic, Clark said, which puts them in danger from motor vehicle traffic. 
“Protected bike lanes help ease traffic, and pedestrians aren’t worried about getting hit by cars going 20 miles above the speed limit,” Stanley said. 
This summer, a student bike work group at the University helped implement a two-way bike lane on Oak Street Southeast between East River Parkway and Washington 
Avenue Southeast.
Alternative Transportation Manager for University of Minnesota Parking and Transportation Services Steve Sanders said he thinks there has been steady improvement in bicycle lanes in the city.
Conditions like the 20 mph speed limit and less traffic make choosing bicycle facilities for the University different, Sanders said. 
Recent developments in bike routes at the University — which was also recognized by the League of American Bicyclists for its bicycle friendliness — include a protected bike lane at University Avenue and Oak Street and protected bike lanes on Sixth Street, Sanders said. 
“When I travel around the country and ask people what the top bicycling cities are, Minneapolis is always mentioned and has reputation of a great place,” Clark said. “Partly because of the bike culture and the people who continue to bicycle year-round even in the coldest days.”