Does Washington Ave Downtown Need Protected Bike Lanes, aka a Cycletrack?

Washington Ave is due to be reconstructed in coming months and locals are pushing for a cycletrack parallel to the street.

Over 500 Hand-Written Letters Ask for Protected Bike Lanes on Washington Ave

Posted on August 9, 2012 by

Last week, we had the honor of delivering over 500 hand-written letters to Minneapolis Councilmember Lisa Goodman, Mayor RT Rybak and County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.  All of the letters – written by downtown Minneapolis residents, workers and visitors – request that the City and Hennepin County install protected bicycle lanes on Washington Ave S as part of the upcoming reconstruction project.
 

Washington Avenue today has seven lanes of traffic

Washington Avenue today has seven lanes of traffic. Despite the difficult conditions, hundreds of people bicycle on Washington Avenue S, in numbers equal to those on the much more comfortable S 2nd Street one block north

About a dozen dedicated volunteers from the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition gathered the letters from pedestrians and cyclists traveling within two blocks of downtown’s Washington Ave S. The support from people passing by was overwhelming. After seeing a photo of Washington Ave S today and a rough idea of what it could look like with protected bike lanes, hundreds of people put down their groceries, pulled over in the middle of a bicycle ride, handed their baby to a friend or otherwise stopped what they were doing to write a letter.

The letters tell the personal stories of why protected bike lanes would make a big impact on downtown. They demonstrate the diversity of the people who want to see protected bicycle lanes on Washington Avenue S become reality.

Full Post: http://mplsbike.org/blog/?p=2457

Of course, like 1st Ave you’ll have cyclists less visible being to the right of motorists’ visual focus centered on their lane and in the path of right-turning vehicles, but at least with the rough draft being presented no parked cars would additionally block motorists’ visibility of cyclists.

However, I have to wonder how all those businesses on Washington would feel about losing all on-street parking? With a current seven lanes and a median on top of that I’d think there would be room for two travel lanes, spacious bike lanes to avoid any door zone issues, and parking while also keeping cyclists more visible:no need to sacrifice parking for customers. Even in its current state the parking lanes are wide enough that enough cyclists feel safe enough to ride in the unofficial existing bike lanes and in comparable numbers to slower more bike-friendly streets nearby. If we do away with all on-street parking we’ll also be killing any chance of on-street bike parking which could dot this stretch and maximize accessibility, real and perceived, to customers on two and four wheels.

Personally, I have no qualms as a cyclist who has biked here numerous times about taking the lane along stretches of Washington where cars are not parked: motorists have two whole extra lanes to themselves at any given time. I think addressing this factor, where taking a lane is uncomfortable for less experienced cyclists/visitors, would be all that really needs to be done. Make that wide unofficial bike lane official, time up traffic signals for slower speeds like 25 MPH, and you’ll also have an easier ride that attracts more novice riders without having to stop at every intersection for turning traffic, because when it’s all said and done cyclists of all stripes are going to prefer (whether they admit it or not) the fastest bike ride from A to B with the least amount of stops. And like the little “stop” signs where the separated Midtown Greenway intersects side streets with motor traffic we know that the vast majority of cyclists are going to treat such signs were they to appear on Washington in the same manner: as yield signs. Might as well have infrastructure that reflects the reality of how cyclists will use it vs. how we’d like them to.

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