The explosion in Minneapolis biking mileage was dramatically reinforced at last week’s city-county open house on bikeway planning -- and more is on the way.
According to city maps, the mileage in Minneapolis devoted to bike travel has shot up, from 82 miles in 1997 to 139 in 2010 to 207 this year. The city is now working on boosting that to 402 miles long-term.
Those numbers are slightly deceptive. For example, the 1997 numbers include 62 miles of what are labeled protected bikeways. But most of those are on off-road recreational paths installed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board long ago in the 1970s along its parkways.
They’re included in the category of protected bikeways, but the planning these days for protected bikeways in the city is focused mostly on on-street bikeways. The city’s main bike advocacy group has set a goal of 30 miles of protected bikeways on city streets by 2020.
Protected bikeways have some degree of separation from nearby traffic that’s more than paint, such as a curb, bollards or a different elevation. Some people make a distinction between protected bike lanes and cycle tracks – reserving the latter term for places like Washington Avenue where a new two-way set of two-way lanes will be up on the curb level.
Much of the recent growth in Minneapolis has been in the cheapest form of bike facility, which are simple painted bike lanes. Mileage there has grown from 19 miles in 1997 to 78 miles now, with more than 50 miles more on the drawing boards.
It seems like bike planning is exploding these days. Minneapolis is updating its 2011 bike master plan to show where bikers want protected bikeways. Hennepin County and Three Rivers Park District are close to putting the finishing on an update of a bike plan. MnDOT is developing a statewide plan for a bicycle system, and is planning a workshop and open house on Thursday in north Minneapolis.
In case you’re wondering how long it may take the city to hit the goal of 402 miles, think long-term. Simon Blenski, a city bike planner said the goal is to have the on-street lanes now listed in the city’s master plan done in 20 years, but that off-street routes could take 30 years.
Whenever that happens, most Minneapolis rides should find a bike route handy. The city master plan calls for every resident to live within one-quarter mile of a signed bike route, one-half mile of a bike lane and one mile of a trail by 2020.
But getting those additional lanes installed could be tougher in the future. The bike route explosion of the past dozen years was given a considerable boost both by fitness advocate and Mayor R.T. Rybak, now out of City Hall, and by a key appropriation. The money came from the $28 million in federal aid that flowed to the Twin Cities under a pilot program to encourage biking and walking engineered by the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar. But offsetting the end of that funding is the emergence of a Minneapolis bike lobby determined to redistribute how streets are split between motorists, bikers and walkers.