Plans underway for first Minneapolis ‘bicycle boulevard’

The new bike lane could be available by this time next year.

Alex Holmquist

A new and improved way of bicycle transit in Minneapolis may be available by this time next year. Plans for a bicycle boulevard extending from Columbia Heights to Marcy-Holmes are underway. This would be the first bicycle boulevard in Minneapolis, said Shaun Murphy, project coordinator from the Minneapolis Department of Public Works. Murphy said the number of bicyclist commuters in Minneapolis has quadrupled to more than 8,000 since 1980. However, a city survey indicated that bicyclists were concerned with a lack of bicycle trails and bicycle-friendly streets. A bicycle boulevard differs from a regular bike path or bikeway in that it slows down traffic on residential streets because the bicyclists and cars equally share the road. This will reduce the number of car and bicycle crashes, said Murphy. Bicycle boulevards also improve travel time for bikers because bicyclists donâÄôt have to stop as much along the route. Bicycle boulevards include features such as prominent pavement markings and way-finding signs, similar to regular street signs but marked for bicyclists, Murphy said. He added that the proposed bicycle boulevard would not decrease parking availability on most streets along the route. Murphy and John Crawford, traffic engineering manager at URS, a private consulting company hired by the city to work on the project, presented plans for the boulevard at a meeting Tuesday in Marcy-Holmes to get feedback from residents. The route would extend from Polk Street Northeast and 37th Avenue Northeast in Columbia Heights to the north end of the Stone Arch Bridge in Marcy-Holmes. Murphy said he began meeting with neighborhood residents about a year ago to get their initial feedback and has been revising plans to better serve its possible future users. Holly Engle, a second-year architecture student at the University of Minnesota and Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association board member, said she will likely use the bicycle boulevard regularly. âÄúIâÄôd take it to Stone Arch just for fun,âÄù Engle said. âÄúIt would be more of a recreation thing.âÄù Engle, who lives on Fifth Avenue Southeast, said she would rather take Sixth Avenue Southeast to campus because it is easier to cross the road at Sixth and University avenues. Plans for the boulevard include curb extensions at several intersections, including one at Sixth and University avenues. These extensions would allow pedestrian push buttons to be located directly next to the road, within reach for bicyclists trying to cross. The project will cost about $325,000, which will be covered by federal transportation funding, Crawford said. The project idea originated from the cityâÄôs bicycle master plan, Murphy said, but the 2010 network remains mostly incomplete. Though the City Council still has to approve plans for the boulevard, Murphy said he hopes to begin construction in late summer, to be completed by winter.