In 2012, buffered bike lanes were striped on Park and Portland avenues, both county roads. Hennepin County released its draft bicycle transportation plan in October. Credit: File photo

In 2012, buffered bike lanes were striped on Park and Portland avenues, both county roads. Hennepin County released its draft bicycle transportation plan in October. Credit: File photo

County plan aims to quadruple bike commuters by 2040

Updated: October 14, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Plus, tickets go on sale for the Minneapolis Garden Awards

Hennepin County proposes to add 20 miles of bikeways every year on average between now and 2040 while at the same time quadrupling the number of people who commute to work or school by bike.

Those are two of the main goals set in the draft bicycle transportation plan released in October by the county and Three Rivers Park District. The plan envisions a safer, more comfortable and convenient bikeway network that serves 48,000 daily bicycle commuters by 2040.

Key to reaching that goal will be enticing more of the cyclists who fall into the “interested but concerned” category out onto streets and paths. That group makes up over half of all cyclists, according to an influential 2006 report out of Portland, Ore., and their decision to use a bike over some other form of transportation has a lot to do with the perceived safety and convenience of the bikeway network, explained Kelley Yemen, the county bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

“I think the new focus is really on getting those people who are not out there (bicycling) already out there,” Yemen said.

That’s the big difference from the last bicycle transportation plan the county adopted, back in 1997. That report was updated in 2002 with a study of critical gaps in the bikeway network.

“We’ll still be doing wide shoulders (on county roads) for the types of cyclists who like to really get out on a more rural country road and just ride,” Yemen said. But the future network will also include more protected bikeways that physically separate bicyclists from motor-vehicle traffic, she added.

“We’ve been partnering with the City of Minneapolis on their protected bikeway study and will be integrating their findings into an appendix to our plan once they’re completed,” she said.

Over the next 25 years, the county aims to grow the existing bikeway system by more than 80 percent. There are now 651 miles of on- and off-street bikeways in the county network, and the goal is to add another 536 miles.

The draft 2040 plan’s vision for a “safe, seamless and easy to use” bikeway system involves closing an average of five gaps in the network each year. Ultimately, the goal is to put a bikeway within a half-mile of 90 percent of all Hennepin County homes.

Three Rivers Park District owns and operates more than 140 miles of off-street trails and is expected to expand its network by about 7 miles per year between now and 2040. The district’s past rails-to-trails projects established a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths radiating out from Minneapolis, but Yemen said the county needs more north-south connections that link destinations outside the urban core.

“That’s one thing we’ve laid out (in the plan), is how to really create a usable grid,” she said.

The plan outlines a number of targets, including moving the county toward zero bicyclist deaths and increasing the proportion of women who commute by bike to half of all riders.

“We’re seeing that women are harbingers of how safe and comfortable does your system feel,” Yemen said.

The county is hosting a series of public events to gather feedback on the plan. The first is 4 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Minneapolis Central Library.

Comments on the plan will be accepted through Dec. 5. For more information on submitting comments, or for a schedule of upcoming open houses, go to hennepin.us/bikeplan.

The plan is set to go before the Hennepin County Board soon after the public comment period closes. A vote to adopt the plan could come in early 2015, Yemen said.

 

Honoring beautiful, sustainable gardens

COLUMBIA PARK — Minneapolis’ best and greenest gardens will be honored Nov. 6 at the 2014 Minneapolis Garden Awards.

Trained garden evaluators spent the summer visiting hundreds of gardens and selected winners in a variety of categories, including best residential and business gardens, best container garden, best edible garden and more. There is a new award category this year for permaculture gardens.

The annual event is hosted by Metro Blooms, a Minneapolis nonprofit that promotes the planting of rain gardens for their environmental benefits. It began in 1983 as a ceremony to honor the city’s best boulevard gardens.

The awards ceremony at Columbia Manor, 3300 Central Ave. NE, will include appetizers, music and a cash bar. Tickets are $30 and must be purchased by Oct. 30 at metroblooms.org.