Protected bike lanes coming to busiest Dinkytown streets

University Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street Southeast see the most bicycle traffic in Hennepin County.

8th Street SE is partially closed for construction on Monday, June 12.

Ellen Schmidt

8th Street SE is partially closed for construction on Monday, June 12.

by Tiffany Bui

Plans for bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements in Dinkytown are nearing completion. 

City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials presented new bike lane protections on University Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street Southeast at a Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association general meeting on Oct. 16. Construction on the protected bike lanes is scheduled to begin summer 2019. 

While project planners considered two-way lanes on the streets, the recommended design maintains the existing one-way lanes on both sides of I-35W but adds striping and plastic barriers, or bollards. 

City of Minneapolis transportation planner Simon Blenski said retaining the one-way was the best option based on the scope and budget of the project. 

“Having a two-way design requires a lot more infrastructure. You’re kind of building a mini-street adjacent to another street,” Blenski said. 

University Avenue Southeast has the highest volume of bikers in Hennepin County, said Jordan Kocak, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator with Hennepin County. According to a 2016 county bike study, the area saw an average of 564 bicyclists a day. Fourth Street Southeast, which ranks as one of the county’s five most trafficked streets, had an average of 305 bicyclists pass through in a day. 

“That demonstrates that there really is a high demand here. Not only a lot students, but the University of Minnesota employs a lot of people as well,” Kocak said. 

While the neighborhood association has not officially endorsed the project, MHNA Executive Director Chris Lautenschlager said the group is open to safety improvements. Speeding traffic and a lack of infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists have made intersections difficult to navigate. 

“We’re interested in the increase of any barrier between the bicyclists or any vehicle. The preference would be more permanent protected bike lanes than just bollards but we’ll take what we can get for the time being,” Lautenschlager said. 

The project will also include approximately 100 new metered parking spaces in place of a traffic lane on the south side of Fourth Street Southeast in Dinkytown. 

“It’s almost killing two birds with one stone, allowing some parking back for people who need it and as a traffic-calming measure,” said Lautenschlager. 

Several other updates to bike and pedestrian infrastructure are scheduled to begin this summer across campus. 

The City is designing one of its first “floating bus stops” at Oak Street Southeast and Delaware Street Southeast, said Ole Mersinger, principal engineer with the City. This layout features an island for pedestrians to board and exit buses alongside the bikeway, which will be separated from traffic by a raised concrete median. 

“We’re in a process of really managing multi-modal, so it isn’t just bicyclists, it isn’t just pedestrians … it’s working to accommodate all users within the streets of Minneapolis,” he said.