A long-awaited plan to reconstruct a major north Minneapolis corridor, Penn Avenue, garnered vocal criticism from the City Council Tuesday for not making room for bike lanes.
Hennepin County has been overseeing a multifaceted planning process for Penn — a county road — to make it more attractive, spur adjacent development and accommodate unique, high-speed Metro Transit bus service. But an option to include bike lanes in the new layout was ultimately jettisoned by a steering committee of local leaders making recommendations on the project, who opted instead to keep two lanes of parking and add a tree-lined boulevard.
City Council members reviewing the proposal Tuesday were disappointed by the layout and accompanying suggestion to explore a bike boulevard on nearby Queen Avenue. Bicycling groups oppose the Queen Avenue option because the street is too narrow, abruptly terminates in several spots and would not significantly increase bike usage.
The council committee ultimately voted to send the issue forward without recommendation, leaving the issue unsettled until a final vote on Aug. 7.
“When we design our road network for people to drive in their cars, we don’t expect they will suddenly hit a barrier that’s impassable,” Council Member Lisa Bender said. “We expect that a car network will be full and robust throughout the city.”
Bender noted that Penn Avenue is a featured route in both the city and county’s long-term bicycling plans. Transportation planner Don Pflaum said the city bike plan is intended to be a guide, and city staff initially took a position supporting bike lanes on Penn.
“But when we have a process that involves other agencies and a lot of stakeholder groups, we get into this conversation … where you have to talk about values and priorities,” Pflaum said.
Both council members representing the route were among the four votes at the steering committee for a hybrid option, which only featured bike lanes south of 26th Avenue. Another 12 supported the option with boulevards and no bike lanes.
“We’ve decided to put in boulevards and parking instead of the bike lanes, even though it’s in our plan, even though it’s in our policies, even though it’s in our best interest and even though the council members from the ward support it,” Council Member Cam Gordon said.
Project Manager Kelly Hoffman-Orth said the layout decision was influenced by the feedback from the public. “What we heard from all of our community outreach was that really the most important issue was that pedestrian space … and then people just really didn’t want to give up any of the on-street parking,” Hoffman-Orth said.
The Penn reconstruction would extend from Glenwood Avenue to 44th Avenue N. Staff expect it will ultimately take 10 to 20 years to complete.
A high-speed bus concept planned for Penn, featuring fewer stops, preboarding payment and more amenities at shelters, may be constructed in 2017.
Staff writer Steve Brandt contributed to this report.