A Hennepin County proposal to redo a major north Minneapolis street without installing bike lanes cleared the Minneapolis City Council Friday, despite reservations from cycling advocates.

The road reconstruction is part of a larger rethinking of Penn Avenue, intended to accommodate high-speed bus service and spur development.

The 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 features preboarding payment, fewer stops, real-time arrival information and signal priority.

A steering committee advised that bike lanes be jettisoned in favor of parking and a tree-lined boulevard. It suggested exploring a bike facility on nearby Queen Avenue instead. Cycling advocates oppose that concept, however, partly because of obstacles along the route.

The council asked that Hennepin County work with the city to 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 north Minneapolis council member. “We want BRT on Penn Avenue.”

Council President Barb Johnson, also of the North Side, highlighted the new plan. “People really want to see green and beautiful,” she said. “And that was clear in all the community input that we had.”

Council Member Lisa Bender could not support the deal, along with council members Andrew Johnson, Cam Gordon and Alondra Cano.

“Not everyone can afford to drive; not everyone is able to drive,” Bender said. “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.”

 

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