Bikers may get bus-lane privileges

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June 25, 2002 // UPDATED 1:25 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Kevin Featherly
Kevin Featherly

A City Council committee has decided that bicycles should be allowed to mix with buses. Or, at least, bike riders should not be penalized if they do.

The Transportation and Public Works committee approved a proposed ordinance change adding bicycles to the list of vehicles authorized to use bus lanes. The matter must be approved by the full council and the mayor.

The issue came to a head after city transportation engineer Jon Wertges watched eight unauthorized vehicles speed down Hennepin Avenue one day last winter. He later learned that poorly drafted bus-lane rules hamstring police enforcement.

Wertges was hoping to discuss "concept" language to guide ordinance changes. However, Councilmember Gary Schiff (9th Ward) used meeting to sound off about giving Downtown bikers a break.

Introducing a motion to add bicycles to the list of authorized bus-lane vehicles, Schiff said, "My intent is to not make [bikes on bus lanes] a ticketable offense."

Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward) agreed. "I would like to see why this is not safe," he said. "It seems to me as a bicycle commuter that the pace of bus traffic and the pace of bus traffic is the same. ... We have people die on roads every day, but we don't ban cars from those roads."

However, Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward) disagreed. "It makes no sense," he said of Schiff's change. "[Bicycles are] no less and no more a problem than any of the rest of these offenders; I don't see why they shouldn't be treated the same way."

The committee passed the motion 3 to 2.