Changing street scene in South Mpls
There are some big plans for changes to some familiar streets for next month.
Hennepin County is thinking about changing Park and Portland Avenues from three lanes to two with a wider bike lane. The speed limit right now is 35 mph, but traffic regularly goes much faster, and the lights are timed for 38 mph. The city would like to reduce the speed, probably reflecting the desires of the residents, but the county seems committed to keeping the speed limit the same, probably reflecting the views of suburban commuters.
The county is planning on moving the bike lanes to the right side of the street, which is generally the slower and therefore safer lane.
According to Mike Jones in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, “In May of 2009, cyclist Dennis Dumm was killed by a left-turning semitrailer. The ghostbike remains at the site of the collision [at 14th and Park]. In December of 2011, Louise M. Laugen was struck and killed crossing Park Avenue at 27th Street.”
Jones continues: “Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition President Ethan Fawley also recommends removing one of the traffic lanes and using the space to create protected bike lanes, also known as cycletracks.These bike lanes are controversial due to their haphazard implementation on First Avenue downtown. Falwey is confident that the correct implementation of cycletracks would increase safety and ridership.”
Perhaps Amsterdam is the most bike-friendly city in the world. They not only have separate streets for bicycles, but bikes also have their own traffic lights. Anyone who has tried to drive a bike up Park or Portland knows it is a risky business. It seems to me it would make much more sense to get the bikes off Park and Portland and use Oakland Avenue as an almost exclusive right of way for bikes, limiting automobile traffic to local residents.
The county is planning the re-striping and paving project for September. They were supposed to schedule a community meeting to solicit input from residents before that, but the date for the meeting was not available at press time.
Another change in street patterns will be soon apparent on 38th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues. The city intends to build four concrete raised medians, 15 feet long by 6 feet wide set back from the crosswalks and a poly plastic stamp in the middle of the road, also 6 feet wide. The effect of these medians will be to narrow the road, which statistics say causes motorists to slow down. Thirty-eighth Street has had a history of problems with speeding cars in front of Bancroft School.
But not all the neighbors are happy about the changes. Some worry that the narrow roadway will only make the street more dangerous and that small children might be tempted to play on the medians and the plastic stamp in the middle of the street.