Green Digest: Bryant Avenue bike lane “experiment” ends

Plus, Choose to Reuse this fall and upcoming Master Recycler/Composter training

The city plans to reconstruct Bryant Avenue between Lake Street and 50th Street in 2022. File photo

A two-year city experiment with green painted shared-lane markings — most prominently on 11 blocks of Bryant Avenue South — came to an end in September, and there are hints they haven’t always worked as intended.

A decision on whether or not to repaint the Bryant Avenue shared-lane markings will probably come next spring, said city bike planner Simon Blenski. In the meantime, the city is expanding use of a more expensive, but more durable, plastic bike-lane marking.

The intermittent stripes of green latex paint used on Bryant south of Lake Street were one of several innovative street treatments the city began testing in 2011. It was part of a swift expansion of on-street bike lanes that took place after Minneapolis received $10 million in federal funding through the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program.

Blenski said the stripes were painted close to the middle of the travel lanes for two reasons: to encourage bicyclists to ride a safe distance from parked cars and to raise motorist awareness of bike traffic. Stripes in the northbound and southbound lanes were painted at varying distances from the curb in an attempt to evaluate where bicyclists felt most comfortable riding.

Blenski said surveys and observations have shown many bicyclists still prefer to ride closer to the parked cars than the middle of the travel lane, a result he noted “isn’t following the original intent of the design.”

The two-year experiment also proved the limited lifespan of latex paint on the road surface. Freshly painted bike shared-lane markers faded significantly over the course of a season.

The colored shared-lane stripes were still new enough in 2011 that the street treatment required special permission from the Federal Highway Administration. They’ve since become so common across the country that the agency granted interim approval for the technique, Blenski said.

He said the city plans to deliver its report to the FHWA in early 2014. That report will evaluate other uses of the green paint, including several places where it alerts motorists to bike traffic in crosswalks and vehicle turn lanes  — applications Blenski said had “different degrees of success.”

“They’re really context sensitive and really depend on the location,” he added.

Blenski sounded much more upbeat about a different type of bike lane marking first used on 15th Avenue Southeast near the University of Minnesota campus. A brighter shade of green, the markings aren’t paint but a type of thermoplastic that is melted into the pavement surface, making it much more durable.

“We did some surveying of bicyclists there and they really like it,” he said. “They feel safer on that corridor, and we’ve found drivers are yielding [to bicyclists] more before turning.”

At about $10 per square foot, the thermoplastic is roughly five times more expensive than latex paint, but it has an expected lifespan of five to seven years. Thermoplastic will show up next on the new Plymouth Avenue bike lanes, and it may replace latex paint in a few other high-traffic areas soon, Blenski said.

Another sign that thermoplastic may be the bike lane of the future: A contractor striped the first thermoplastic bike lanes near the university, but the city has since purchased the equipment to do the work itself, and is training crews to start installing more thermoplastic next year.

Order now, reuse later

Hennepin County’s annual Choose to Reuse promotion got a little bit greener this year.

For the first time, the coupon book offering discounts at local retailers will be available in a paperless version. Shoppers can choose to download a free smart phone app with all of the coupons or go online to print paper copies of just those coupons they plan to use.

The county still plans to make the Choose to Reuse coupon books at area libraries, participating retailers, county service centers and Three Rivers Park District offices. This year’s book contains discounts at 80 local “reuse retailers,” or businesses where shoppers can choose to rent, repair or reuse goods instead of buying new.

Choose to Reuse coupon books became available for pre-order in September. The coupons are good Oct. 1–Nov. 30.

Participating Minneapolis retailers include Electric Fetus, B-Squad Vintage, Tatters, Architectural Antiques and many others.

Go to hennepin.us/choosetoreuse for more information or to download the smart phone app.

County offers Master Recycler/Composter training

Registration is open for Hennepin County’s fall Master Recycler/Composter training course, set to begin Oct. 1.

The course aims to boost participation in county recycling and composting programs by seeding communities with waste reductions specialists. To complete the course, new Master Recycler/Composters must complete 30 hours of volunteer service.

The course includes five evening training sessions running 6 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Nov. 5, plus two optional field trips.

Courses for the fall session will be held at Three Rivers Park District Administrative Center, 3000 Xenium Lane N., in Plymouth. The county plans to hold the spring session of the training program in Minneapolis.