Let’s focus for a moment on the opening statement of the NMA’s Streets That Work initiative:
Motorists deserve roads that not only work, but can also be put to work. That means allowing people the freedom to travel to the destination of their choice when they want with the least amount of interference. That is a fundamental principle of the American way of life. It also means keeping roads open for the movement of goods and services that is essential for society as a whole.
The last sentence resonates when learning about plans by Minneapolis, Minnesota officials to add protected bicycle lanes along two one-way streets lined with small businesses, plans that have many of those business owners unhappy.
Let’s start with daily traffic numbers provided by the city for the affected sections of 26th and 28th streets between I-35W and Hennepin Avenue:
Motorized traffic: 3800 to 6100
Motorized traffic: 4300 to 7000
On any given day, cars and other motorized traffic make up 80 to 88 percent of the road users, pedestrians 9 to 14 percent, and bicyclists 3 to 5 percent. Minneapolis transportation planner Rebecca Hughes says that the bike lanes will help keep bicyclists safe while noting the benefit of slowing down traffic as a whole. About 100 parking spots along the streets will be eliminated.
Larry Ludeman, a board member of the local business association, questions the need for bike paths when a greenway with riding paths runs parallel to both streets and is just a block away from 28th Street. “Yes, I believe bicycles are an integral part of our transportation system,” Ludeman said, “however, there is one group that the bike lanes discussion has left out, and that’s people who drive cars. We are still in the majority, yet we have no say in this. I think the whole thing has been rigged.”
Local resident Dick Rueter’s response to the tug of war between city planners and bicyclists on one hand and small business owners on the other sums it up nicely:
I was happy to read Jon Tevlin’s April 30 column [in the Star Tribune] about bike lanes. I have been perplexed by their proliferation in my south Minneapolis neighborhoods.
I think biking is an important step we can take in lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. For three decades, I commuted by bike to my job at Abbott Northwestern, though not in winter. Those were years when there were no bike lanes. For safety, and in avoidance of inhaling exhaust fumes, I mostly used side streets. Now, in my late 60s, I am a fair weather biker at best, and I still use side streets.
I have heard that up toward 16 percent of our populace commutes by bike. It’s hard for me to believe that number when I travel down Park, Portland or Blaisdell avenues in bumper-to-bumper traffic, seeing one to two bikes at best. At the recent precinct caucus, my City Council person promised me a link to the “Bike Master Plan,” which I have yet to see. I can’t imagine what that plan will look like, and how it will choke even more car traffic.
I think it would be wise to pause and look at the entire city’s transportation plan before proceeding further with bike lanes. From a clean-air perspective, cars idling on our streets waiting at traffic lights harm our air quality. We live here.
I ask for some common sense as we move forward. Citizen input would be a good thing. We don’t need to prove how groovy we are by reaching for designation as the No. 1 bike-friendly city in the nation. We are already groovy.
The tail will continue trying to wag the dog if we let it.