Park planners are getting plenty of pushback on a proposal to eliminate two-way bike traffic through a cramped underpass that connects lakes Calhoun and Isles near the Calhoun refectory.

The proposal originated with a citizen advisory committee that spent almost a year studying and making recommendations for a master plan to guide improvements at lakes Calhoun, also known as Bde Maka Ska, and Harriet. 

One major theme favored by that group was to ease foot and bike congestion near the refectory. Some of those changes will play out over decades, but trail improvements are coming up for discussion even before the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board acts on the plan.

That's because the Park Board is under a Metro Council deadline to spend the roughly $3 million that's been allocated for short-term improvements at Calhoun and Harriet. It's giving priority to repairing and upgrading existing paths and making disability access improvements but wants trail work to build on the citizen recommendations.

The recommended changes will be presented on Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Lyndale Farmstead Recreation Center, 3900 Bryant Av. S.

The underpass combines bike and foot traffic alongside the lagoon between the lakes. The two uses are separated by a metal railing but the path for two-way bike traffic is narrower than usual bike lanes and suffers from blind corners.

Dan Elias, a park planner for the project, said that the Park Board has no detail to document any bike-bike or bike-pedestrian crashes  He said city accident data only tracks collisions involving a motor vehicle. The Park Board also has no data on how many bikers and pedestrians use the underpass.

Park planners proposed at an Oct. 4 open house that two-way bike traffic between Calhoun and Isles be shifted to cross Lake and Lagoon avenues on one edge of the grassy median that separates the twin one-way strreets. Two of the three options convert the underpass to foot traffic only, although cyclists could walk their bikes; a third allows one-way southbound cycling from Isles to Calhoun.

But city-appointed bike and pedestrian advisory committees have adopted formal stances urging that a two-way bike underpass be retained. The Bicycle Advisory Committee's position was that "a two-way facility is the only design that reflects the reality of how the facility will be used, and is critical for people who do not feel comfortable riding on-street to make the connection to the Midtown Greenway and Isles Pkwy.  A well designed two-way bicycle facility can solve the current congestion and conflict points." The Pedestrian Advisory Committee backed that position.

Park users were asked their opinion both at the open house and later online. Keeping two-way bike traffic under Lake won a plurality of support among 572 people who responded. Almost one-third supported that, closely followed by those who favor keeping one-way bike traffic. The remaining third of respondents were split between the two no-bike options.

Given that feedback, park planner Dan Elias said, the matter will be settled by the Park Board when it takes up the master plan this winter. The planning staff is recommending that the two-way path be kept until that decision is made, but recommendations for other path rerouting through the refectory area will be compatible any other the underpass options. The Lake Street-Lagoon street-level crossing with adjacent bike and foot paths also is recommended to go ahead.

Elias said that if two-way underpass bike traffic remains long-term, planners would look into bike path traffic calming measures for its approaches, and modifications that might improve sightlines.

But park officials have ruled out widening the underpass because it's hemmed between a bridge abutment and the lagoon. The latter needs enough width for lake weed harvester and small non-motorized watercraft, Elias said.

About three-quarters of those who expressed a preference supported another proposal that would shift the bike path on the north side of Calhoun into an eastobund lane of Lake Street behind a protective barrier.