The 10 mph speed limit for bike paths in Minneapolis parks may soon be gone under a proposal that park commissioners will consider Wednesday.
Path bikers would be required to ride at a “reasonable and prudent” limit given the conditions and hazards.
“If you’re out there with your kids, you don’t want people racing by you,” said Liz Wielinski, president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “If you’re out there at six in the morning when no one else is out there, why should you go 10 miles per hour?”
There are enforcement problems that come with the 10 mph limit as well, according to park Police Chief Jason Ohotto. “In my 20 years of working here, I’m not aware of any ticket we’ve written for a biker speeding more than 10 miles per hour. How do these bicyclists know that they’re going more than 10 miles per hour? Do you ticket them when they’re going 12?”
A staff memo calls the current 10 mph limit “exceedingly slow considering the design of modern bicycles.” That description was crafted by Superintendent Jayne Miller, a recreational cyclist who often bikes for hours.
Nick Mason, a cycling safety educator and chair of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, said: “If we have something that’s more enforceable and says you have to respect all users, that’s good.”
However, dropping the limit does have one downside for faster cyclists on parkways who occasionally get harassed by motorists. Until now, Mason and others noted, they could point to the path speed limit and argue that that’s why a faster rider uses the roadway, which state law allows.
Anthony Taylor said that he avoids parkway bike paths because he typically cruises between 15 and 20 miles per hour. He added that dropping the limit is one sign that such pathways are now part of a larger commuter network rather than the recreational paths they were built to be. Most adult cyclists, he said, are capable of riding between 12 and 15 miles per hour.
Ohotto noted that many of the trails that feed into Minneapolis park paths have no numerical speed limit, such as the Midtown Greenway, the Cedar Lake Trail, Hiawatha LRT Trail and University of Minnesota Transitway. Three Rivers Park District has no set speed limit, using a “prudent and careful” standard. Nor do state trails.
He said that ticketing someone under the “reasonable and prudent” standard depends on whether a crash investigation finds speed was a factor.
Park Commissioner Scott Vreeland said repeal of the numerical limit has been discussed for years, but also grew out of a recent proposal to the Park Board to standardize trail signs for clarity, consistency and safety. The board approved that in February.
“I don’t want to have rules that are unenforceable. It just seemed like the right time,” Vreeland said. Plus, that might put him on the right side of the law. “I’m not an excellent bike rider, but I have gone faster than 10 miles per hour often,” he said.
Park officials could give final approval to the proposal to remove speed limits in a couple weeks.