Bike Walk Twin Cities Infrastructure Investments—10 Design Elements that can Transform Your City

From Steve Clark, bicycling and walking program manager

The Bike Walk Twin Cities nonmotorized pilot program has programmed to date approximately $18 of the total $28 million program funds on new on-street and trail connection projects and bike-sharing. The combination of investments transforms a community to make it easier and more convenient to bike or walk to get around.

1) Bike Sharing System

Nice Ride has documented more than 350,000 trips since its inception midsummer 2010. Surveys reveal that 20 percent of these trips replaced auto trips and 23% of the subscribers do not own a bike. No other investment made by the Bike Walk Twin Cities Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program has received as much positive attention as Nice Ride   - the first large bike-sharing system in the world to be managed and operated entirely by a non-profit organization!

2) Colorized Bike Lanes/ Priority Bike Lanes


There are often situations where there is not enough space for both the desired number of travel lanes and bike lanes. We have found that shared lane markings or "sharrows" are not nearly as effective in encouraging cycling as bike lanes. However, when reinforced by green paint, the sharrows magically become "priority bike lanes" and boost both cycling numbers and cyclists' confidence. The best example of the colorized bike lane markings can be seen on Bryant Ave, south of Lake Street, where bicyclists now feel confident riding outside the door zone. Another good use of the green paint can be found on Blaisdell Ave at 'conflict zones' where right turn lanes flip flop with the bike lanes.

3) Buffered Bike Lanes (aka Cycle Tracks)


Yes, lots of cyclists would prefer riding with a buffer zone protecting them from moving traffic. This is accomplished on 1st Ave in downtown Minneapolis with parked cars and a buffer zone marking. During peak traffic, parking is banned, and the bike lane next to the curb, is of course, still there. While arguably "the ideal" cycle track would be slightly elevated from the parking lane/travel lane and have special signalization restricting right turning movements when cyclists have the green light, motorists and bicyclists both seem to be getting used to the new configuration. Note: this was not a BWTC funded project. We did fund some other buffer zone bike lanes, but instead of using parked cars for the buffer, the projects simply used paint. The Franklin Ave bridge, Fremont Ave North and First Ave S (south of Lake Street) are all good examples of buffered bike lanes.

4) Road Diets


In today's fiscally constrained environment, doing "more with less" resonates with people of all political persuasions. Many of the bike lane projects being implemented in Minneapolis are the result of simply reprioritizing space on the street. Rather than add more pavement to make room for bike lanes (which would create longer crossing distances and delays) Minneapolis and Saint Paul as well as the City of Richfield have found ways to either reduce the width of travel lanes to allow for bike lanes, or reduce the number of travel lanes.  BWTC has funded "road diets" on 10th Avenue SE in and along Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis.  See also this video about Road Diets.

5) Off-street facilities through parks, or along rail corridors  

The urbanized built environment can be a difficult place to build off-street facilities for bicyclists and people on foot or wheel chair. Yet, we know that these are always the most popular facilities when done right. Rail corridors and park lands are both ideal places to locate short-cuts for cyclists as well as safe and pleasant facilities. The Midtown Greenway may be the best example in the nation of an urban off-street facility that truly has all the right ingredients. It's no wonder that more than 3,000 people use this greenway every day! (More than 5,000 on the nicest days.) BWTC didn't fund the Greenway, but we did fund other important trails, such as the Hiawatha Extension leading to downtown Minneapolis and the new Uof M trail from the Transitway to the bike/ped bridge over the Mississipppi River,  to be completed late 2012 or early 2013.

6) Bike/Walk Centers and Trail Oriented Development

Enjoy a dessert, coffee or just the free ice water at the Midtown Greenway Bike Station while waiting for your bike tires to be properly inflated and a quick brake adjustment made and  you'll soon understand why bike centers (private, public,or in the case of Midtown Bike Station, a private/public partnership) have become so hugely popular. By the way, the bike shop here (owned by Freewheel Bikes) is the only bike shop in the country (as far as we can tell) that can only be accessed by bike or on foot. No car access!) Many other examples of trail oriented development can be found along the Midtown Greenway. Many people of course desire to live along or near this spectacular greenway. Bike Walk Centers funded by BWTC include the new one at the University of Minnesota (on Oak Street) and the Seward Bike Center opening in summer of 2012.

7) Plentiful Bicycle Parking


Minneapolis leads the country in bike parking units per capita. Yet, there is still a need for more. A bicycle parking program was developed by BWTC to make it as easy as possible for all 14 eligible communities to obtain new racks. BWTC also is encouraging the development of more covered bike parking, which is hard to find in the Twin Cities, even though 30 percent of regular bike commuters continue to bike through the winter. 

8) Bicycle Boulevards (aka bike streets)


Take a low-volume, low speed street found in most residential areas and turn it into a popular alternative to the parallel high volume arterial. Well of course this makes sense, but how to do it? First the local street has to enable you to get to the same locations as the arterial. Second, it can't force bicyclists to stop at every other intersection. Third, it has to make crossings of the busier streets easier. And, finally, after doing all of this, it can't encourage more auto traffic (which reversing stop signs tends to do). Speed tables, raised crosswalks, traffic circles, median diverters, half-closures, low speed limits are all tricks to make bicycle streets really work. We now have four bicycle boulevards completed in Minneapolis (with two more coming) and others being built in Saint Paul, Richfield and Edina in 2012. See this video about the RiverLake Greenway.  

9) Improved Crossings for walkers and bicyclists


Crossing major streets can be a huge barrier. Bicycle boulevards that use local streets are especially fraught with crossing challenges. Curb extensions (bump-outs), medians, bike boxes, marked crosswalks, stop sign reversal, traffic circles, diverters and innovative signalization can all be effective strategies for reducing crossing delays and increasing safety. Examples: median at Franklin and Bryant, bump-outs at Bryant and 26th & 28th; crosswalk and flashing beacons for Midtown Greenway at 28th St.

10) Advisory Bike Lanes


Last but certainly not least, advisory bike lanes are based on the principle of designing a street from the "outside in."  East 14th Street (near the Minneapolis convention center) is a great example of this.  Sidewalk? Yes. Landscaped boulevard? Yes. Parking lane? Yes. Bike lane? Yes, but with a dashed inside stripe. Why? Because, there isn't enough remaining room for two standard travel lanes. Solution?  No center stripe! This treatment is now becoming very standard in Europe (in urban and rural areas), but mostly just for relatively low-volume streets.  Average Daily Traffic (ADT) on E. 14th is under 6,000 cars a day, so there is no requirement for a center stripe. Removing the center stripe tends to be an effective strategy for reducing speeds - especially as two cars approach one another. 

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