16.12.11

Minneapolis bike count shows disparities in cycling infrastructure

There is a lot of good news about Twin Cities cycling today, as the latest bike/walk counts were released. Twin Cities' cycling reached an all time high after a few years of sagging numbers. Overall counts were up 22% from last year, and up 7% from the previous 2008 record. That's unequivocal good news.

Some of the fine grained geographic detail is interesting, too. Counts at the Franklin Avenue bridge are way up following the bike-friendly redesign. (Lake Street Bridge and the Cedar Lake Trail counts are up significantly as well.)

[These kids: the main reason for increased Minneapolis cycling rates.]
But by far the most meaningful increase in cycling took place around the University of Minnesota. (This was in spite of the University's reluctance to meaningfully support cycling.) All around the University cycling counts have increased, particularly at the (highly dangerous) 15th Avenue SE bike lane.

(By contrast, differences in 2011 v. 2008 cycling counts at the Martin Sabo Bridge are negligible.)

The fact that greatest total number of cyclists are in Dinkytown should come as a surprise, because when compared to the quality of bike infrastructure elsewhere in the city, the bike routes around campus are very poorly designed.

Minneapolis' best quality bike lanes and trails in Minneapolis are in South Minneapolis: along the river, along the creek, along the Greenway, and beginning this year, along bike boulevards sprinkled through the city. Millions of dollars have been spent over the years improving these trails and making cycling safer for cyclists in Minneapolis' less student-laden residential neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, decent cycling routes are almost impossible to find near the University of Minnesota. The very narrow and congested 15th Avenue bike lane, the most highly trafficked bike route in the city, is very dangerous. It was only (marginally) improved after this summer's tragic fatality. The bike lanes along University Avenue and 4th Street SE are similarly dangerous designs, located on the wrong side of high-speed one way streets without parking. Nobody seems to be talking about the need to improve them.

[Until very recently, this is what the most heavily used bike route in Minneapolis looked like.]

There are a lot of reasons why increasing the quality of cycling infrastructure at the University of Minnesota is difficult. But as we look at these latest bike counts, we need to ask ourselves why resources aren't focused on the areas around the University? Is an Uptown gent riding a carbon fiber more important than an undergraduate on a Huffy? The Sabo Bridge cost $3 million, but a more heavily trafficked route through Dinkytown remains a death trap.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be spending money and paying attention to improving cycling all through the city. But at the same time, we need to focus on where cyclists actually are riding, on where cyclist density already exists.

The University of Minnesota is the epicenter of bicycles in Minneapolis. There's a lot of work to be done to improve safety and comfort for its riders.

[Don't get me wrong, I like this bridge.]

2 comments:

Alex said...

Well it sounds like that trail in the railroad trench under Dinkytown will be done next year, despite railroad intransigence. So at least there will be a good route through campus, even if campus isn't exactly accessible from it.

Used Cars Twin Cities said...

It's great to see more folks cycling in Twin Cities. Makes sense that there would be more cyclists around the uni; it's much cheaper and low maintenance for the students.