Mar 9, 2012

Traffic Calming for Southern Connector

A bike infrastructure project that I am interested in is moving forward, it seems. The Southern Connector would provide a bike route on 17th Ave. from Minnehaha Parkway all the way to north of the Midtown Greenway. Eventually, this route would also tie in to the planned Intercity Bike Route as well, but that project is a ways down the road at this point.

I have posted several times about the Southern Connector project and provided comments during a field review of the route. I am interested in this one because we really do need a north-south route alternative to Park Ave./Portland Ave. on the east side of I-35W.

Recently, I noticed an experimental median on 42nd Street at 17th Ave. That crossing is probably the most dangerous on the Southern Connector route. We used to live blocks from this intersection, and often had trouble crossing this street because cars travel too fast on 42nd Street in general, and as the second photo shows, the sight lines from 17th Ave. are terrible due to a hill immediately east of that intersection that obstructs cyclist and pedestrian views of traffic heading west on 42nd Street.

During the route reconnaissance ride during the planning phase of the project, there was discussion of traffic calming and potentially a median at the intersection of 17th Ave. So. and 42nd Street to provide shelter for pedestrians crossing the busy 42nd Street.

With the temporary median in, I was curious to see it's effect on traffic, and if it was in fact slowing vehicles down to make this crossing safer for bikes and pedestrians. My quick reconnaissance this morning leads me to believe that this is working. I shot a short video of the intersection - you can see the cars building up speed as the leave the Cedar Ave. intersection but then brake and slow as they see the median.

Yes - the temporary median is ugly, but the final version will be much better looking. I think this will be a good improvement for the neighborhood and hope that the median becomes permanent at this location - that would make the crossing of this street a lot safer. Call 311 and let them know the median is an improvement if you agree.


  1. Interesting stuff. I had not heard that this test-median was out there. I might have to swing by and take a look.

    I'm a little conflicted about this post - partially because I have a hard time getting excited about bike boulevards to begin with, but also because I'm generally not a fan of traffic calming measures that disrupt grid connectivity without good reason. Improving crossings for pedestrians is a good thing, but we could also do it without blocking 17th avenue through traffic. I understand that part of the entire point of bike boulevards is to disrupt through traffic, but I'm not really convinced that excessive through traffic is a problem that needs to be fixed on 17th.

    But I should probably go take a look before passing any judgement.

  2. I don't think the plan is to give bikes priority like the barriers at Chicago Ave. do on Riverlake Greenway. The temporary median certainly does that, however. The point here is to make the crossing safer for bikes, not discourage cars from traveling on 17th. I am an "A" rider and even I find cars bombing down that hill to be scary. Go take a look and see what you think.

  3. This median is nice for pedestrians. As a cyclist, this intersection was never a notable concern. I ride through it a couple times a week and have noticed it takes a little more time to cross and requires more fine-tuned attention to double check for cars speeding over the hill from the East.

    If it slows down car drivers, then it's good.

  4. For me the more important route here is 42nd Street, and frankly, the temporary treatment makes me feel less safe riding through here. Nobody parks on 42nd street, adding bike lanes would be an easier more familiar way to calm traffic, and result in benefits for travelers on both routes.

  5. I live a block from that intersection. The 17th Avenue Bike Blvd idea is terribly absurd. I bike to/from work in St. Paul all the time and manage it just fine with the usual roads and parkway bike paths. There is no need to waste further money on this project just to appease bikers who tend to be the most entitled commuters out there.

    Also the median idea is a failure. It presupposes that people stopped at a stop sign or stopped to turn left are the issues at that intersection. The real problems are people continuing to go straight on 42nd. The median does nothing to stop them from speeding through. All it does it prevent people from turning left to get to their home.

  6. I don't really understand Anonymous' concerns here. I live two blocks away from this. The purpose isn't to block people from going straight on 17th (you can turn right, and then left on 18th -- this makes one's inconvenience merely one additional short block). The purpose is to calm through-traffic on 42nd but most importantly create a refuge island so bikes and pedestrians only have to cross one direction of traffic at a time.

    We need more of these medians in the neighborhood. 46th and 17th would be great. As would Cedar and 40th, 44th, and 48th.

  7. Also I'm not sure how bikers are the most entitled commuters out there, considering that the past 60 years of our infrastructure has catered to the car. The two sides of parking on 17th (and nearly every other residential street in Minneapolis) are a city subsidy for people to have free parking in front of their homes.

  8. The median is a temporary test - not the final design, "anonymous".

    Keep in mind that most bike infrastructure projects are aimed at novice or less confident riders - I find that most amenities are not to my liking, but I am an "A" level rider and I am comfortable with traffic and don't need lane markings. Most riders are not "A" level - they are less confident and appreciate separate lanes, etc. You sound like an A rider, so this infrastructure might sound un-necessary, but less confident riders will likely appreciate them.