I was interviewed last week by a reporter for the Downtown Journal who was looking for reaction from local cyclists to the Marq2 Project. The reporter had come across my blog, read up on that subject here and must have figured that I was guy with opinions and so he tracked me down.
I told the reporter that I had mixed feelings about the Marq2, because while the cyclists of Minneapolis lost two more bike lanes due to this project, I am also pro-transit, and I did think that this project was a positive move for transit. My main points on the Marq2 Project were that I felt the City failed to make accommodations for cyclists during construction, and cited examples of times when the bike lanes were closed with no suitable detours to make more room for cars on the construction-narrowed streets.
My other main point was that despite the lip service Minneapolis gives to trying to increase mode share for bikes, the reality is that our downtown bike infrastructure is not that great. The image above is an excerpt from the City of Minneapolis bike map that is available on line. The snip is the section that covers the heart of downtown. As you can see, we have designated bike lanes ringing the Central Business District, but nothing in the CBD itself. The north-south routes on Marquette and 2nd Ave have now been removed, so that means our only designated lane north-south routes are Hennepin and Park/Portland Ave. That's 10 to 11 blocks of the downtown area without a designated bike lane going north/south.
If you want to go east or west, your not much better off; we have east/west lanes south of the CBD on 9th/10th Ave. and we have an east bound lane on 4th (you are kind of SOL if you need to go west on the north end until you get as far north as River Road).
Now, I don't need a designated bike lane to get around downtown. I fall into the "A" rider category; I pick my routes based on convenience and speed, and I am willing to ride in traffic to do that. I do appreciate bike lanes and generally feel a little safer in a bike lane in heavy traffic areas, but I will claim my lane when I need to. The thing is, most people are not in this category. If Minneapolis truly wanted to increase mode share for bikes and decrease downtown traffic congestion, then putting in more designated bike routes in the CBD to encourage the less confident riders to commute by bike would be a logical solution.
The problem, I believe, is that doing so would mean taking away from the car lanes. Until Minneapolis is willing to do that, and create more space in the Right-of-Way for bikes, the claims about being so bike-friendly will only ring true for the recreational riders who are happy to toodle around on the Parkways as far as I am concerned.