Four protected bike lane projects have been identified that will be paid for by $790,000 set aside in this year's budget by Mayor Betsy Hodges. They total 5.6 miles.

The list of projects includes Plymouth Avenue N. and 8th Av. NE between Fremont Av. N. and 5th Street. NE, Oak St. SE between East River Road and Washington Avenue SE, S 9th Street between Hennepin and Chicago avenues, and East 26th and 28th streets between Hiawatha and Portland avenues.

Three of the four are atop previously announced plans to add protected lanes as part of street repaving or park projects. The exception is 26th and 28th, where the money will cover a $160,000 gap in an already planned street resurfacing project that's also expected to include better pedestrian crossings.

Protected bikes lanes involve separating bike lanes from motor vehicles with a barrier. In Minneapolis, that separation has usually come in the form of flexible plastic tubes, although parked cars are used on 1st Avenue N. downtown.

The new projects represent one on the South Side, one on the North Side, one downtown and one in the University of Minnesota. The downtown and Oak projects will serve higher-volume biking areas. S. 9th now has a narrower bike lane bur Oak has none. Bikers generally eschew 26th and 28th, which have three traffic lanes and no bike lanes.

The Plymouth project will extend the current protected bike lanes on the roadway's river bridge. Bike traffic on that bridge has shot up since the addition of the addition of protected lanes. The east end of the new lanes will connect with the 5th St. NE bike boulevard, while the west end will connect with bikes lanes on Fremont and Emerson avenues. Those currently have wider buffered bike lanes, but protected bike lanes are proposed for one or both avenues in the future. Planners will retain narrower bike lanes west along Plymouth from those two streets to Wirth Park.

Also proposed for 2015 are protected bike lanes or off-road lanes at other locations in the city. They include portions of 26th Avenue N., five downtown blocks of Washington Avenue, the Franklin Avenue Bridge, the Intercity Trail leading south from Lake Nokomis, Broadway St. NE between Stinson and Industrial boulevards, the East Bank Trail between Boom Island Park and Marshall St. NE , a new trail on Ridgway Parkway, and a Bryn Mawr trail,

The protected lane proposals are intended to help meet a city-set goal, promoted by the bike lobby, to add 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020. Advocates argue that lanes that are wider and bordered by the plastic markers create space that makes timid cyclists more likely to ride, especially in congested areas near downtown. Hodges proposed spending an extra $1.5 million this year and next to jumpstart the effort.

(Photo: Protected bike lanes on the Plymouth Avenue Bridge will be extended east and west under a 2015 plan by the Department of Public Works. Photo from city of Minneapolis)