Sharing the road

New pavement markings on Bryant Avenue meant to increase public awareness of road’s use as a bikeway could help change national traffic control codes

A strategy to get Bryant Avenue recognized as a shared road and bikeway could have a national impact.

Thanks to a push from the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG), Minneapolis recently joined the ranks of a handful of cities testing experimental shared-roadway markings that could be considered for federal approval. CARAG used Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) money to fund pavement markings incorporating a cyclist rendering and arrows pointed in the direction of traffic in each lane along every block of Bryant Avenue from the Midtown Greenway to 40th Street.

The city applied the markings in late September and plans to add street signs soon. The goal is to get cyclists off busier roads and onto Bryant and to increase motorist’s awareness of the road’s use as a bikeway.

For several years, CARAG has sought a bike path along Bryant, an avenue the city recognizes as an official bicycle route. The group hired a consultant to research routes north and south through the CARAG neighborhood in 2003 and set aside more than $20,000 in NRP funds in anticipation of the project.

When community members opposed the creation of a bike lane separate from the road, CARAG and city planners decided to experiment with shared-road signs and pavement markings similar to those used in San Francisco, Denver and Portland, Ore.

“The only way to do a separate bike lane was to remove parking, and folks were not for it,” said CARAG Community Organizer Scott Engel. “So we came up with a compromise.”

The city will evaluate the effectiveness of the pavement markings and shared-road concept throughout 2007 and take its findings to the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, said Don Pflaum, Minneapolis transportation engineer and bike coordinator. The pavement markings could then be added to the federal codebook. If the markings are not approved, they will be stripped from the road and the city will have to find alternative signage, Pflaum said.

“It’s like a science experiment,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, you try something different.”

Pflaum said the likelihood of the pavement markings being added to the codebook is good, but it’s possible the symbols won’t work as they are expected to. If they confuse people or start to cause accidents, the markings could be removed early, but he hopes they’ll have the opposite effect.

Lyndale, which cyclists frequent, has roughly one to two bike-car crashes per major intersection each year, Pflaum said. The 15,000 motor vehicles that travel the road each day are a big factor in those crashes, he said. Bryant sees about 3,000 vehicles each day and far fewer bicycle accidents.

On May 9 of last year, neighborhood volunteers and city employees spent 12 hours counting the number of bikes at particular points on Bryant and Lyndale. Bryant had more, with 205 cyclists, but Pflaum and CARAG residents said they would like to see the 101 bikers counted on Lyndale migrate to the bike route.

“If your destination is Downtown or further away and you’re not stopping along Lyndale, why wouldn’t you take Bryant?” Pflaum said.

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association is looking at extending the Bryant pavement markings to the Loring Bike Bridge. The extension could help prevent the majority of Lyndale bicycle crashes, which occur north of Lake Street.

Cyclists and motorists have noticed the markings between the greenway and 40th Street.

James Carolan started using the route a few weeks ago to get from his East Harriet home to Minnesota Community and Technical College. Bryant is faster than neighboring roads because it has fewer stop signs, he said. He said cars have been pretty good about yielding to him.

CARAG resident Cindy Christian rode the bikeway with a trailer in tow on a recent weekday morning. She was on her way to pick up coffee near the greenway. Christian said she had heard at least one motorist comment on the pavement markings. The symbols make her feel safe, especially when she’s hauling something other than coffee.

“When I’m pulling my kids, it’s nice to know there’s a reminder to cars that we belong in the road,” she said.

 

Jake Weyer can be reached at 436-4367 and jweyer@mnpubs.com.