New intersections to slow drivers and protect bikers

“Traffic calming circles” will be placed at two intersections.

by Elizabeth Smith

Neighborhood and city leaders are working to implement traffic obstacles in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in hopes of slowing down area motorists.

Two small circular blocks of land — known as “traffic calming circles” — will be placed at two intersections along Sixth Avenue Southeast to slow down drivers and protect the neighborhood’s increasing bicyclist population.

Calming circles are typically smaller than roundabouts and are designed for a low volume of traffic. The circles on Sixth Avenue Southeast will be between 20 and 25 feet in diameter. They will interrupt the parts of Sixth Avenue Southeast that intersect with Sixth and Seventh streets Southeast.

The intersections will be converted from four-way and two-way stops to all-way yields to allow for smoother traffic flow for both drivers and cyclists.

City officials haven’t solidified a timeline for the project yet, but Minneapolis Bicycle Planner Simon Blenski said he hopes the project will begin by August.

The project will take one to two weeks to complete, and it will be financed with $94,000 from a Hennepin County grant and the city. Before the plan moves forward, though, Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey — who represents the University of Minnesota and surrounding area — will have to approve it.

“It’s representative of all the interests we have,” said Marcy-Holmes’ spokesman Chris Lautenschlager. “It demonstrates that we’re not only making it better for bikers, but we’re calming down traffic for pedestrians, too.”

Blenski said Sixth Avenue Southeast was chosen for the project because it is an area that’s part of the existing Stone Arch Bridge Bicycle Boulevard, which was installed in 2013. The street is 36 feet wide, while most are 32.

Considering the street’s width, cars sometimes drive down it faster, Blenski said, putting cyclists and pedestrians in danger.

Blenski said the area doesn’t see many accidents between bikers and vehicles, and the plan is a proactive measure to avoid the incidents.

The project is also part of the neighborhood’s initiative to become more bike-friendly. The neighborhood association will also plant flowers and grasses along the street near the Stone Arch Bridge to make the bike boulevard more attractive.

“Marcy-Holmes, as a neighborhood and association, has been wonderfully aggressive in improving their bikeways,” Frey said.

Lautenshlager said the street will be heavily marked with signage to explain how to use the intersection.