Biking, Walking, & Blogging: 10 Design Elements That Can Transform Your cityBiking, Walking, & Blogging: 10 Design Elements That Can Transform Your city


10 design elements that can transform your city

From Steve Clark, Bicycling and Walking Program Manager

Note:  During the recent National Safe Routes to Schools Conference in Minneapolis, BWTC's Steve Clark and Shaun Murphy from the City of Minneapolis led a tour bicycling design elements, several of which were funded by the nonmotorized transportation pilot. A version of this list was given to participants on the tour.

1) Bike Sharing System

Nice Ride Minnesota has documented more than 215,000 trips since its inception midsummer last year. 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 Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program has received as much positive attention as Nice Ride   - the only 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.  Colorized bike lane markings can be seen on Hennepin Ave (downtown) and also 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 (downtown) 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 would 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.

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 has found ways to either reduce the width of travel lanes to allow for bike lanes or reduce the number of travel lanes. Many 4-3 conversions have been done, and in the case of 1st Ave South (a one-way street) a 2-1 lane conversion has occurred, allowing not only a wide bike lane, but a buffer zone to boot!

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

The built urbanized 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 3,000 people use this greenway every day!

6) Bike/Walk Centers or Stations

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 or 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! A new bike/walk center funded by BWTC will be opening soon at the U of M and another sponsored by the Mpls Health Department is coming to North Minneapolis. Exciting!

7) Plentiful Bicycle Parking

Minneapolis leads the country in bike parking units per capita. Yet, there always seems to be a demand for more. BWTC is also attempting to encourage 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. A new bike parking program we're implementing will bring new racks to all the cities around Minneapolis who choose to participate.  (Saint Paul will be getting nearly 300 new racks!)

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 have the bicyclist forced to stop at every other intersection, and 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're proud to have introduced bicycle boulevards to the Twin Cities and look forward to new ones coming in not just in Minneapolis, but also in Saint Paul and Edina as well!

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, 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 and 28th; crosswalk and flashing beacons for Midtown Greenway at 28th St., and, coming soon: a special bike signal for the crossing at Broadway as part of the new 5th Street NE bicycle boulevard.

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 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 but mostly for relatively low-volume streets. Average daily traffic on E. 14th is under 5,000 cars a day. Removing the center stripe tends to be an effective strategy for reducing speeds - especially as two cars approach one another. 

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