What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Posts about Public safety

Protected bike lanes in both 26/28th concepts

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 28, 2014 - 3:19 PM

Minneapolis stands a good bet to get its lengthiest protected bike lane by far with both concept designs unveiled for a paired set of one-way crosstown streets proposing physically separated lanes between cars and bikes.

The designs for next year’s planned repaving of E. 26th and 28th Streets differ mainly in whether each street gets a one-way protected bike lane or whether a two-way lane is installed on 26th. Both rely on drivers giving up one of their current lanes.

The designs presented to the community Wednesday night are intended to slow speeders and to better protect people on foot and bikes.  Bikers now largely eschew the twin streets in favor of the Midtown Greenway and residential streets, according to traffic counts.

“These streets are dangerous and we need safety improvements immediately,” said Council Member Alondra Cano, who represents the area slated to see repaving next year. A four-year-old pedestrian was  killed by a car along 26th near Stewart Park two years ago at twilight.

The initial work next year would happen between Interstate 35W and Hiawatha Avenue. But it’s likely to influence any future repaving of the twin one-way streets as far west as Hennepin Avenue, according to transportation planners.

Protected bike lanes use curbs, metal bollards, parked cars, plastic pipes or planters to separate driving and biking lanes. They're the third generation of on-road bike lanes to be introduced in Minneapolis after the initial narrow painted lanes, and later buffered painted lanes about the width of a car lane.

The city’s first protected bike lane is a mere six blocks along 1st Avenue. N. downtown. Construction of a two-way set of protected lanes is expected any week now on an eight-block section of W. 36th St. east of Lake Calhoun. But the work on 26th and 28th would encompass more than 20 blocks.

The potential protected lanes on 26th and 28th are still some distance from a certainty.  Jon Wertjes, the city’s traffic director, said the next step is to factor in public feedback on the alternatives and put them through analysis of their impact on motorized traffic and cost.

Then things get political, since the City Council ultimately would approve layout changes, as well approve outside funding that Wertjes said would be necessary to pay the cost of bike lanes that are much costlier than extra-wide painted lanes, such as those installed when Portland and Park avenues were narrowed to two traffic lanes.

The city has earmarked $400,000 in 2015 to make biking or pedestrian improvements on the two streets when it strips a layer of old asphalt and repaves 26th while adding a thin layer of tar and rock chips to resurface 28th. Among the potential improvements for people on foot are intersection bumpouts to reduce the time and distance needed to cross the streets, and concrete islands to give them a refuge partway across a street.

But it’s the proposed reduction in the number of lanes that’s likely to provoke a backlash from some drivers.  Wertjes acknowledged that people who like to drive at more than the posted speed limit of 30 miles an hour “are going to be sorely disappointed” by the design concepts.

If a protected bike lane is added to each street, they would shrink in the Hiawatha-35W section from three continuous traffic lanes to two lanes, although a third lane would be available for intermittent stretches, subject to turn lane and parking needs. That’s also true on 26th if a two-way bike lane was added there, but 28th would maintain its current number of lanes under that scenario.

“This has a variety of positive impacts,” said Jose Luis Villasenor, who lives between 26th and 28th in the Phillips community. He said he hesitates to bike on the two streets with his three boys in a trailer and child seat. He said the proposed designs make the streets safer and promote biking among the area’s minority residents.

Why does 26th get the two-way bike lanes in that proposal?  Wertjes said one factor is that 26th serves some major destinations, including a medical complex and Wells Fargo’s operations in the old Honeywell campus. Another is that 26th is farther than 28th from another major biking facility, the Midtown Greenway.The city is also studying the feasibility of adding protected bike lanes on E. 24th St. or Franklin Avenue.

But the proposed design that installs two-way bike lanes on 26th was found lacking by Ethan Fawley executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, who said 28th should get at least a bike lane. Some bikers attending the open house said they’d like to see a more substantial barrier between cars and bikes than the lightweight plastic tubes the city has used in some spots. Wertjes said that the type of separation haven't been determined.

In the project's web site, comments favoring protecting bike lanes appeared to draw substantially more support than those from people opposing a lane reduction.

(Photos: Above -- the city's first protected bike lane on 1st Avenue N used parked cars to shield bikers; Right -- Another protected lane on the Plymouth Avenue Bridge uses liught plastic pipes to separate bike and driving lanes.  No decision on type of separation has been made for 26th and 28th streets.

Police investigate shots fired at HCMC

Posted by: Updated: August 26, 2014 - 4:01 PM

By Matt McKinney

Star Tribune Staff Writer

Minneapolis police were investigating shots that were fired at Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon.

The shooting happened outside the "red" entrance to HCMC, at 730 S. 8th St.

Police had this entrance to the hospital blocked off with yellow crime scene tape around 3:40 p.m. The street was closed between Park Avenue and Chicago Avenue.

There are bullet casings in street near 8th and Chicago Avenues. 

Police believe it was possibly connected to a shooting earlier Tuesday near 38th Street and Portland Avenue S. in Minneapolis. Two people were injured just before noon with what police called "non-life-threatening injuries."

Check back for more details.

 

Lights coming this fall to LRT bike trail

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 5, 2014 - 3:23 PM

The lights should be on along the Hiawatha LRT Trail by the end of the year, some six years after a series of robberies on the bike trail and the connecting Midtown Greenway.

That's what city specs call for in a bid up for City Council approval this month. The $600,000 project funded by the city and Hennepin County will install lights every 95 feet in the remaining unlit areas of the trail, which parallels the Blue Line. The area to be filled in lies between 11th Av. S. on the eastern edge of downtown and E. 26th Street in the Seward neighborhood.

According to a city memo, the lights will cost some 33 percent less than the engineer's estimate.  That partly reflects the presence of several lights already installed near the Metro Transit operations center, and the earlier installation of lights south of 26th when the Sabo bridge for the greenway was built.

The new lights will be higher-efficiency LED lights, which use 50 percent less energy than high-pressure sodium lights. Existing lights on the trail will be retrofitted to LED as part of the project. They'll be designed to spill light in an oval-shaped pattern along the LRT trail, according to Allan Klugman, a city engineer.

The two trails were the site of at least 10 attacks in late 2008, including one armed robbery of a Star Tribune videographer. That prompted the formation of a Trail Watch patrol of the trails organized by the Midtown Greenway Coalition that continues six years later.

There have been muggings maybe once or twice a year since then on both trails, according to Soren Jensen, the coalition's executive director. But he said that the coalition has tested light levels on the greenway with meters, finding dim spots in about a dozen areas.  Three lights were added last year and three more are coming this year, he said. Jensen said priority is being given to lighting trail areas near stairways that can provide quick getaways for groups of youth that in a typical attack surround a lone biker. He said security cameras on the greenway are being improved, and he's hoping for signs that warn potential muggers that they're being filmed. 

Jensen offers these safety tips 1) Bike with a companion after dark. 2) Call in suspicious activity to 911 even if you are able to speed past a group of youths since they may prey on the next biker. 3) Keep using the greenway because there's safety in numbers.  

(Photo: Paul Caspersen and Mark Ambroe on night patrol on the Midtown Greenway in 2009.)  

Strib reporter drives by North Side shooting

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: August 4, 2014 - 7:25 PM

While writing a lot about gun violence, I had yet to witness gunfire outside the shooting range.

Until last Friday.

I was driving west on Dowling Ave. N. after work when I heard a gunshot and saw people ducking in the bus shelter in front of the convenience store at Fremont Ave. N., not more than a couple dozen feet to my right.

Was that really a shooting? It was just after 6:30 p.m., and still light outside. There were lots of people around – walking on the sidewalks, driving through the intersection, shopping at the store.

I hadn’t seen much in all the commotion, but circled the block and confirmed with a bystander that it was, indeed, a shooting. Three police cars showed up in minutes. Witnesses told the officers that a group of teenage boys had crowded outside, but couldn’t be sure who had the gun; they all scattered.

The number of nonfatal shootings in Minneapolis is on pace to top last year, and the North Side has already seen its share in recent months: a drive-by on Saturday injured three men, and three women were shot at a backyard gathering last month. One man was shot to death in a dispute that began on a public bus.

The shooting I drove by is not the sort that would ordinarily make the news, but it offers a glimpse into the kind of crime that can drag down an area and make people feel unsafe running everyday errands.

One woman told a police officer that she pulled in front of the store and waited in her car for a while after seeing a large gathering of young men hanging around in front.

“I was just about to get out of my car and I heard bam bam bam and I ducked,” she said. “My ears starting ringing; it was right behind me.”

"Broad daylight," grumbled another woman.

Inside, one cashier hit the floor when he heard the noise, but minutes later, continued work as usual.

A copy of the police report obtained today indicated that someone had been hit, contrary to what police and bystanders initially assumed. I called up the listed victim, Deveon Marquise Branch, 20.

Branch said he saw men he didn’t know making gestures at him as he walked into the store for a Black and Mild cigar and they walked out, but ignored it.

He heard shots ring out as he headed toward his car, and jumped in and drove home a few blocks away, before authorities arrived. Branch took off his shoe and saw a bullet had scraped the top of his right foot, by his pinky toe – an injury that doctors later said would heal soon.

“It was just unfortunate,” Branch said, adding that he already had plans to move off the North Side.

Branch said he rarely heard gunshots around that corner, and neither had I, after driving by several times a month for nearly two years.

The police report was sparse, noting, “FURTHER INVESTIGATION REQUIRED.”

No arrests have been made.

W. 36th Street bikeway nears construction

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 1, 2014 - 3:51 PM

The city is nearing construction of its first protected on-street two-way bike lane, and an adjoining pedestrian lane, on the south side of W. 36th Street next to Lakewood Cemetery,

Construction should begin in the next 30 days on the planned improvement that connects two sections of parkway -- Lake Calhoun and King's Highway.

The nine-block-long segment will feature two five-foot-wide bike lanes, and a six-foot-wide walkway where no sidewalk now exists next to the cemetery.

The bike lanes will be separated from the adjacent eastbound traffic lane by a three-foot buffer strip containing lightweight plastic bollards. More conventional bikes lanes are expected to be extended from King's Highway, where the protection will end, for two additional blocks east to Bryant Avenue.  

Access between the new bike-pedestrian facility and bike and pedestrian paths at Lake Calhoun will be in two stages across 36th and E. Calhoun Parkway

The project cost of $110,900 is being split by the city and by Hennepin County, which is working to fill gaps in bike routes.

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