Bike Routes

From the StarTribune:

The metro area is creating a “more benign version of the interstate highway system” for bicycles, said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who visited Richfield on Thursday morning to join bike advocates, other public officials and a representative from Best Buy in announcing the $1.8 million “bike/walk street” program.

Under the federally funded effort, streets in Richfield, northeast Minneapolis, St. Paul’s Highland Park and the Roseville-Falcon Heights area will get special pavement markings, new off-street bike paths, bike lanes and crosswalk improvements.

In Richfield, nearly 2 miles of Oliver Avenue S. will be designated as a bike/walk street to give bicyclists an alternative to busy Penn Avenue, parts of which see upwards of 19,000 vehicles a day compared with Oliver’s 300 to 500.

QUERY: Why do only 300-500 automobiles currently use Oliver Avenue per day?
ANSWER: Because it doesn’t go anywhere useful or provide easy access to any particularly desirable locations.

Oliver Avenue is not a through street. It does not cross Highway 62 on the north, and terminates at 76th Street on the south. The unsignalized intersection at W 66th St is probably difficult to pass through during congested periods. Oliver is not a through route at W 68th Street (you have to deviate onto 68th Street for probably ~100’ to continue on Oliver Avenue). In addition, you can’t actually reach the Best Buy campus from Oliver Avenue. Any Best Buy employees who are cycling south on Oliver Street will be unable to access the Best Buy campus because of the impassable median on 76th Street. Once a cyclist reaches this point, they will have to deviate one block west to Penn Avenue or one block east to Newton Avenue (which will only be possible if they ride on the sidewalk) if they wish to reach Best Buy.

Of course I support additional funding for bicycle facilities, and hopefully some of the $1.8 million will be used to fix some of these obvious deficiencies, but some of these aren’t easily fixed ($1.8 million isn’t going to build a bridge across Highway 62, for example). But I am a little perplexed by the idea of designating low traffic streets as “bike streets.” This is a common procedure, however. Minneapolis has designated Bryant Avenue and 24th Street as “bike streets” to provide alternatives to Lyndale Avenue and Franklin Avenue, but what does it mean? Does painting a few pictures of cyclists on the pavement or putting up a few “bike route” signs really make it a more attractive bicycle route than it would be without them?

QUERY: When I lived off Franklin Avenue, why did I ride my bicycle along Franklin Avenue multiple times every day, but never once deviated one block south to 24th Street (an officially designated “bike route”)?
ANSWER: Because, like Oliver Avenue, 24th Street isn’t a through street and doesn’t provide easy access to any particularly desirable locations.

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