Above: A rendering of the proposed changes for Penn Avenue.
A Hennepin County proposal to redo a major north Minneapolis street without installing bike lanes cleared the Minneapolis City Council Friday -- despite reservations.
The proposed layout of the road initially stoked enough criticism in committee that it was sent forward without recommendation. The road reconstruction is part of a larger rethinking of Penn Avenue, intended to accommodate new high-speed bus service and spur development.
The so-called arterial rapid bus line is expected to deliver major improvements for transit riders on the North Side, which has been largely sidestepped by light rail plans. The concept, which makes its debut on Snelling Avenue this year, features pre-boarding payment, fewer stops, real-time arrival information and traffic signal priority.
A steering committee of local leaders making recommendations on the Penn reconstruction advised that the bike lanes be jettisoned in favor of additional parking and a tree-lined boulevard. They suggested exploring a bike facility on nearby Queen Avenue instead.
A number of cycling advocates oppose the Queen Avenue concept, however, partly because of obstacles along the route. In a motion Friday, the council requested that the county work with the city help fund a bike facility along a north-south route, potentially at Thomas Avenue.
"In all of this talk about bike lanes, I think it can get lost that this is first and foremost a transit project," said Blong Yang, a council member representing north Minneapolis. "We want BRT on Penn Avenue."
Council President Barb Johnson, who also represents the North Side, highlighted the plan to install green boulevards and wide sidewalks. "People really want to see green and beautiful," Johnson said. "And that was clear in all the community input that we had."
Council Member Lisa Bender could not support the final deal, along with council members Andrew Johnson, Cam Gordon and Alondra Cano. She noted that Penn Avenue is on the city and county's long-term bicycling plans.
"Not everyone can afford to drive, not everyone is able to drive," Bender said. "The transit will help immensely with that. But to leave out bicycles as a mode in a part of our city where we have health equity issues, where we have transportation equity issues, I just can't support [it] at this time."