In another boost for the Twin Cities bicycling boom, more than 12 miles of local streets will be revamped to give priority to bikes.
The metro area is creating a "more benign version of the interstate highway system" for bicycles, said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who visited Richfield on Thursday morning to join bike advocates, other public officials and a representative from Best Buy in announcing the $1.8 million "bike/walk street" program.
Under the federally funded effort, streets in Richfield, northeast Minneapolis, St. Paul's Highland Park and the Roseville-Falcon Heights area will get special pavement markings, new off-street bike paths, bike lanes and crosswalk improvements.
In Richfield, nearly 2 miles of Oliver Avenue S. will be designated as a bike/walk street to give bicyclists an alternative to busy Penn Avenue, parts of which see upwards of 19,000 vehicles a day compared with Oliver's 300 to 500.
Best Buy's headquarters is at the southern end of Oliver Avenue, and Carol Hanson, manager of corporate services, praised the program for giving employees better commuting options.
Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel said families also appreciate designated routes for bikes, and "even our older residents bike considerably and do a lot of walking." Cars will still be able to use Oliver, but drivers may opt to take other streets when there are a lot of bikes in the road, Goettel said.
The $1.8 million is part of a $21.5 million federal grant being administered by Transit for Livable Communities.
Kay and Pat Elliott, who live on Oliver, were surprised to see Thursday's news conference just down the block -- it was the first they'd heard of the program. But bike clubs and people they know regularly cycle past their house.
"This is a great idea," Kay Elliott said.
Jim Foti • 612-673-4491