Green digest // Neighborhoods pushing for bike lanes

Efforts underway in two different parts of Southwest aim to raise several proposed on-street bicycle lanes to the top of the city’s list for future bicycle infrastructure improvements.

City Council Member Meg Tuthill (Ward 10) supports the CARAG neighborhood’s push to make both pedestrian and bicycle improvements to West 36th Street. One idea floated by city Bike Walk Ambassador David Peterson at the August CARAG board meeting was to install a two-way “cycle track” on that street between Lake Calhoun and Dupont Avenue that would be separated from motor-vehicle traffic by street markings and flexible posts— just one of several possible designs for bike lanes there.

And in the Linden Hills and Fulton neighborhoods, a group calling itself Southwest Pedal Power is calling on the city to prioritize construction of two routes that would add bicycle connections to the 43rd & Upton commercial node. Just as in CARAG, upcoming street maintenance projects may be just the opportunity needed to add the bike lanes.

But while both projects are consistent with the city’s Bikeways Master Plan, a 2011 document that outlines future bicycle infrastructure improvements, the sticking point is — as in so many cases — funding.

“There are a lot of lines on the [Bikeways] Master Plan — a lot of them,” noted Peterson, and that means there are many potential projects vying for a limited pool of funds.

Bicycle planners have been in talks with Tuthill’s office for several months about the West 36th Street project, which has gained attention in part because the street is scheduled for seal-coating yet this year. Bike lanes likely won’t be added immediately, but Peterson said the city is planning to mark out just a centerline on the new street surface so that it remains something close to a blank slate in case new bike lane stripes are added soon.

“I can’t commit to a time,” he said of the project. “It’s not going to be this year.”

The two-way cycle track is just one of several possible designs, but it’s one favored by some in the city’s bike program.

While a small percentage of gung-ho cyclists will bike almost anywhere, city planners aim to make new bicycle lanes appealing to a broader range of cyclists. With a reassuring barrier between the bicycle lanes and traffic, the cycle track may be the type of on-street infrastructure that helps the city reach its goal of getting 7 percent of residents commuting by bicycle by 2014, Peterson said.

A proposed cycle track design for West 36th Street also includes a wider sidewalk on the south side of the street where it runs past Lakewood Cemetery, an improvement long demanded by area residents. Many in the neighborhood consider the narrow sidewalk, the location of several bus stops, a safety hazard.

Even further from the downtown core, in Linden Hills and Fulton, there just aren’t many on-street bike lanes at all, yet, noted Linea Palmisano of Southwest Pedal Power. Palmisano wants the city to prioritize two proposed routes: a north-south route running on Upton and Sheridan avenues between Lake Calhoun and the city’s southern border; and an east-west route connecting France Avenue to Lake Harriet, which would run mainly on West 44th Street.

“I understood in very clear terms from the city we would need a very broad, strong show of support to make this happen,” said Palmisano, who made the rounds on National Night Out in August to gain backers for the plan.

Peterson said a section of the proposed north-south route between the Upton & 43rd business node and Lake Calhoun was near the top of the city’s project list. The estimated cost of that project is $15,000, similar to estimates for the east-west route, he said.

He said streets in the area are so narrow that city planners have limited options for bike lanes. One solution on Sheridan Avenue would be to remove the centerline and add so-called sharrows to the street surface. But that isn’t the kind of treatment that encourages all types of cyclists to get out on the road, Peterson noted.

“We’re not big fans of sharrows, because they don’t give bicycles their own space on the street,” he said.

Don’t toss it, fix it

LYNNHURST — Hennepin County debuts its new series of Fix-It Clinics 1 p.m.­–5 p.m. Sept. 15 at Washburn Library, 5244 Lyndale Ave. S.

The clinics match area residents with volunteers who have the skills and know-how to repair broken electronics, tools, small appliances and other items. Got a broken toaster or glitchy remote control, or even a pair of pants that need mending? Show up at the Fix-It Clinic for help.

The county is also recruiting volunteer fixers to help out at future events. For more information on the clinics, contact Nancy Lo at 348-9195 or nancy.lo@co.hennepin.mn.us, or Google “Hennepin County fix-it clinic.”

Help out with count

The Department of Public Works is seeking volunteers to monitor streets during its annual bicycle and pedestrian count, scheduled to take place Sept. 11–13.

This marks the sixth year of the city’s organized effort to gather data on non-motorized traffic. Over 300 locations within the city are monitored on a rotating basis.

This year, volunteers will count bicyclists and pedestrians at various locations in the Wedge, Whittier, CARAG and Lyndale neighborhoods, as well as parts of South Minneapolis, downtown and neighborhoods near the University of Minnesota.

Volunteers will be asked to work in two-hours shifts, typically 4 p.m.– 6 p.m. To sign up, contact Simon Blenski at 333-1274 or simon.blenski@minneapolismn.gov.