Mpls bike plan to expand access

The proposed Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan could add miles of paths and lanes, increase bicycle enforcement and promote ridership and safety.

by Andre Eggert

Minneapolis officials have proposed a bicycle plan for the city that could add miles of paths and lanes, increase bicycle enforcement and promote ridership and safety.

The proposal, the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, has been in the works for years. However, officials are now holding public meetings to get input from community members.

“There are no predetermined outcomes here,” said Donald Pflaum, a transportation planner for the city. “We’re asking for the public’s input.”

So far, four public meetings have been held, with small but vibrant crowds, Pflaum said. The last one will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

The proposed master plan focuses on two major goals, he said. The first is reducing accidents and having no bicycle fatalities in the city. The second is to increase the number of bicyclists in the city.

Minneapolis is second to Portland with the most people biking to work, Pflaum said, pointing out that 4.3 percent of Minneapolitans did so in 2008, the last time statistics were released.

“We’re pretty proud of that, but there’s still room for improvement,” he said.

While much of the new master plan is off the University of Minnesota’s campus, there are several projects that have recently been completed, will be completed or are being proposed around the University area.

Projects include adding bicycle lanes to existing roads that connect to campus, a proposal for better connections from the University to downtown and the ongoing pedestrian and bikeway project, he said.

The largest change on campus would come with the construction of the Central Corridor Light-Rail Transit line, Pflaum said. A shared-use corridor will run through campus along the line, where only buses and bicycles can travel.

“[It] will change the character of the campus,” Pflaum said.

Emma Wright, a sophomore at the University and member of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, said she supports city efforts to improve bicycle transportation. That support reflects a similar stance by MPIRG.

As students are navigating the city every day, it is important to promote the safety of bicyclists, she said.

“I hope that the U can continue to support bike initiatives and trying to make campus transportation safer for students,” Wright said.

The costs of the master plan are still being calculated. Pflaum said that if it were possible to make all of the changes in the plan this year — an insurmountable goal — the total cost would be somewhere between $200 million to $500 million.

Steve Clark, the program manager for Walking and Bicycling at Transit for Livable Communities, said the master plan is ambitious with plenty of good goals, but that TLC is crafting a way to strengthen it.

“It’s a great start,” Clark said. “With just some additions … [it] would be a strong plan.”

Clark said TLC wants to promote several things, including a policy framework that would promote bicyclist safety.

“We would want to recommend some … policy framework that would place the safety of bicyclists above the convenience of motorists,” he said, noting that such a framework would recognize bicycling as a transportation solution that is affordable to most of the population.

Ethan Fawley, a volunteer for the Minneapolis Bike Coalition, said a master plan is long overdue and that if we want to be the No. 1 bike city, we have to expand the plan.

“We’re competing with places like Portland that have a bicycle master plan that is even better than ours,” Fawley said.

A major problem in the city right now, he said, is addressing accident reduction and making people feel safe when biking.

“If we’re going to have more people cycling, then at the very base they need to feel comfortable and safe cycling,” Fawley said.

He noted that many accident “hotspots” were commercial areas of roads, such as Lake Street, Franklin Avenue and Hennepin Avenue near Uptown.

In general, the city needs a more cohesive plan for implementing bicycle transportation options, Fawley said. Currently, such decisions are made independent of other road projects.

“Every year, Minneapolis repaves or reconstructs or repaints many roads across the city,” Fawley said.

He added that the city should take advantage of these perennial projects by adding bicycle lanes at the same time, and that doing so would be a more efficient use of tax dollars.

“If we have a street that has a significant amount of traffic … and that there is space for a bike lane, then we should add a bike lane,” he said. “We wouldn’t build a road without a traffic lane.”

Both Fawley and Clark said Minneapolis needs to get a full-time bicycle coordinator to make sure bicycle plans are advocated for as part of city policy.

The final public meeting is Wednesday night at the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center, 2001 Plymouth Ave. N.