Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New design for Hennepin Ave. is wrong for cyclists

After years of riding in NYC I find this design proposed for Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis short sighted and ignoring best practices. In NYC it is common for cyclists on the avenues to ride in the bus lane. This is likely the least secure spot you can be in because of blind spots and right hooks. Putting cyclists in a bus lane and car turning lane is the last place you want to be. Even if the lane (18' in spots) has enough room to pass on the left, many cyclists are not use to riding in between two lanes of moving traffic. While splitting lanes in NYC is a common way to get around, it is not the norm in Minneapolis.

This new design will force cyclists to have to negotiate buses, cars, and pedestrians on a very crowded main arterial through downtown Minneapolis. Even though issues have been voiced about the current counter-flow lane on Hennepin, this new concept seems to tac on space for cyclists as if the planners and traffic engineers forget we use the roads as well.

I believe a counter-flow lane either on the side or down the middle of the road with lead intervals and bike boxes would have been the best solution for Hennepin Avenue. This would have given cyclist dedicated space and the necessary time to make right and/or left turns. Assuming the lanes would be 6' for each direction leaves plenty of room to pass cyclists who are stopped waiting for the light to change and make their turn. Also, this design is similar to the current configuration and predictable for drivers who are use to the existing counter-flow lane on Hennepin. What is less predictable are cyclists being stuck in between two lanes of traffic.

If we are going to take the time and come up with new designs why not look at complete street designs and best practices from around the world. We need to create streets that are safer for all users.

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