Meet the Worst Bike Lane in the Midwest

I'm sure the battle for "worst bike lane in the Midwest" is a contentious one. The USA is riddled with terrible bicycle infrastructure, from sea to shining sea. In fact, almost every bike lane is bad (by standards of "good bike lanes", which only rarely exist anywhere). It's like having a contest for the "Least Healthy Fast Food on I-90", going into Sexworld and trying to choose the "Worst Made Porn Cover", or going to all the bars in town looking for the "Dirtiest Urinal".

So basically, most bike lanes are bad and spotty and have huge gaps that force bicyclists to almost completely lose whatever dignity they might briefly have attained during their bicycle ride.

And if you're in a country where bad bike lanes are commonplace, how do you go about choosing the "worst" one? That's really where this discussion should be heading.

Given this trecharous landscape, I'm going to suggest that the following equation for choosing the worst bike lane: [total # of riders] + [quality of bike lane] = [total bike lane quality impact]

[Yes, this is the worst bike lane in the Midwest.]
And, using this equation, I want to propose that this tiny 1.5 block stretch of "bike lane" on the University of Minnesota campus is, in fact, the worst bike lane in Midwestern USA.

Allow me to explain...

Minneapolis is one of the top cycling cities in the country, both in terms of total riding and % of people riding bicycles. This makes bad bike lanes in here far worse than a bad bike lane in, say, Peoria IL, which might see a few dozen cyclists each day. Madison, WI has us beat in terms of bike rates, but they're a far smaller town. Chicago is bigger, but their rates are far lower and their cyclists more spread out. And other than Madison and Chicago, the rest of the big cycling cities are on the coasts.

So, if we're thinking about where within Minneapolis you'll find the worst bike lane, you'll need to then think about where in Minneapolis you find the highest densities of cyclists. And the answer to that? The University of Minnesota campus.

The two most dense spots in the entire city for cycling are both on or near the University campus:
Since 2007, the number of bicyclists counted has increased 47%. The busiest on-street location is SE 15th Avenue north of SE University Avenue with 3,810 bicycle trips. The busiest off-street location is the upper deck of the Washington Avenue Bridge with 6,850 trips.
There are thousands of bikes everyday day going in between these two main routes. And, what kind of bike lane connects these two major thoroughfares?

[Semi truck backing into the only space connecting two main bike routes.]

This crappy strip of narrow concrete is shared not only by tons of pedestrians and separated from the bike lanes by concrete barriers, strange crosswalks, and a ramp. On top of that, it serves as a loading dock for some sort of highly explosive-looking chemical facility, and routinely features huge semi trucks backing into and out of this tiny cramped space through which these large numbers of bicycles are supposed to flow.

Thus, I put it to you, Midwest. If you start accounting for crappy quality + total # of cyclists to create a total bike lane impact measure (Total BLIM), this stretch of the "university bike system" is the worst around.

[This, the worst bike lane in the Midwest.]

[Car driving in the tiny bike lane / parking lot / loading dock connecting the city's 2 most trafficked bike routes.]

[The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Board scratching their heads and staring at their shoes when confronted by the bike lane.]


Unknown said...

It also ends at a set of stairs going up if I remember correctly. I'd give the dual award of Worst and Most-Pointless bike lane.

Unknown said...

ugh. don't even get me started about the washington bridge. What surprises me most about this situation is that the construction of that new building just north of the bridge presented a perfect opportunity for the University to make better connections for bikes from the bridge to Washington Ave at grade, East River Parkway, and Pleasant Ave. This doesn't seem to have been a priority for them at all.

Brendon said...

Won't Washington accomodate bikes after light rail construction is complete? What is the plan for getting cyclists from the top of the bridge to at-grade Washington?

Bill Lindeke said...

Here, I'm pasting the plan for connecting Washintgon AVenue to the bicycle bridge below here, in this comment:

[There. there it is.]

Anonymous said...

Disagree. Whole-heartedly. I cross the washington avenue bridge twice daily when I commute (and have for the past 5 years) and continue on to the 'worst bike lane in the midwest' to get to work. Never an issue.

Of all the possible gripes about biking in the city, this one seems like the absolute most trivial one you could come up with.

Yes, one must keep their eyes open, but that's a good policy any time one a bike!

Jen said...

Andrew: no, it doesn't. This is not my favorite bike lane ever, but it's part of my commute. There are other bike lanes at the U of M that end in stairs (on the West Bank) and this one does not.

I try to time my arrival so it doesn't overlap with class change times. Then it's really hellish. You also have the occasional assh*le driver who thinks it's okay to drive the wrong way down this one-way-for-cars street.

Some of the pavement on East River Road near the Education Sciences building is also pretty shitty, especially at the interior of the curve, where the cars always seem to be going too fast. I like to ride a little farther out into the road there to dodge the badly-patched potholes, but then I feel more at risk from crashing due to cars (rather than crashing due to bad pavement).