A street in downtown Minneapolis will receive upgraded bicyclist protections after a project earned City Council approval on Friday.
New protected bike lanes will be constructed downtown on Third Avenue South between First Street South and 16th Street South. The streets will be redesigned to include bollard-protected — reflective plastic posts that mark path boundaries — bike paths. Four lanes for car traffic and green spaces will also be constructed.
The City Council rejected another proposal that would have offered more protection for bicyclists but cut down the number of lanes for cars.
The three lane option would have allowed more greenery in the downtown corridor, and there was little statistical time difference for motorist commute times between the three-lane and the four-lane option, said Ward 3 Council member Jacob Frey at Friday’s meeting.
He said he bikes down Third Avenue South every day, and there are times when his handlebars hit cars’ mirrors on the stretch of road.
“It’s incredibly dangerous,” Frey said. “There have been at least a few occasions where I almost got into an accident myself.”
One concern was raised about the adopted four-lane option, though, as it doesn’t include a dedicated turn lane for vehicles, which could cause traffic problems.
Without a dedicated turn lane, traffic flows less smoothly and there are more accidents caused by people changing lanes and stopping unexpectedly after someone in front of them has stopped to turn left, said Alex Schieferdecker, a graduate student studying city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, in a letter to the council.
To address the left-turn concern, the plan includes installing a vehicle detection system that would allow for a longer left turn arrow.
At the meeting, some council members pointed out that either way, the support of bike lanes has greatly increased in recent years.
“We have come a long way in Minneapolis, where we’re not debating whether or not to put a protected bike lane on this corridor,” said Ward 10 Council member Lisa Bender.
At the meeting, Ward 7 Council member Lisa Goodman called the new bike lane “a win” because business owners didn’t oppose the bike lanes, only the idea of potentially reducing the number of car lanes.
“This has gone from a bike project to a greening project to a lane diet project,” she said at Friday’s meeting. “We should be taking it as a victory and trying to figure out how we can improve the process next time.”
The project is expected to cost $3 million.