Bicycle boulevard construction season

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October 8, 2013
By: Hilary Reeves
Hilary Reeves

New bursts of orange are popping up all over — and not only on leaves and pumpkins. Construction began in late September on new bicycle boulevards in Minneapolis: the Presidents and Stone Arch routes in Northeast and, just south of downtown, the Southern Connector to Richfield. At the same time, East 24th Street, an east-west route just south of downtown, will be getting a bicycle face lift, including signage to make it easier to find routes.

Two things to remember about bicycle boulevards: 1) they are located on quiet, residential streets that often run parallel to busy, commercial streets, and 2) construction involves making changes that optimize the route for people riding bicycles or walking and discourage motor vehicles from going too fast. 

Presidents & Stone Arch Bicycle Boulevards

If you live in Northeast, you know the presidents. For this bicycle boulevard, several former POTUS—Polk, Tyler, Fillmore, and Pierce—guide cyclists from Columbia Heights to East Hennepin Avenue, where the Stone Arch Bicycle Boulevard points the rest of the way to the Mississippi River and many options for bicycling and walking.

At the north end, Polk kicks things off on 37th Street, near the Columbia Golf Course and only a block or so south of the Heights Theater. To avoid the steep grades on Polk, the route moves over to Tyler between 36th and 29th Avenues (where it intersects the St Anthony Parkway bike path, part of the Grand Rounds). From 29th to 22nd Avenue, the route returns to Polk and includes two bicycle boulevard features:  a miniature traffic circle at 28th Street and a median in the middle of Lowry Avenue to make it easier for people to get across the busier street.

Fillmore then takes a large piece of the route, crossing 18th Avenue (an east-west route connecting to the Quarry and the Diagonal Trail) and running alongside Northeast and Beltrami Parks. Another residential traffic circle will replace stop signs at Fillmore and Spring. Pierce gets a very brief piece of the route, taking bicyclists to East Hennepin Avenue.

At this point, note that many of the presidents named along this route were in office when the Compromise of 1850 was a heated topic for the nation. On a totally different scale, the route at East Hennepin also represents a compromise — to go a block or so along East Hennepin under a railroad overpass (either riding on the sidewalk or taking a lane of the roadway) from Pierce to 5th Avenue Southeast, where an Overhead Pedestrian/Bicycle Flasher & Crosswalk will assist with crossing. A better, seamless connection from northeast to the river was the original intention for this route—and still is. Achieving it will take persistent advocacy, negotiations to find a route over the railroad tracks, and funds to accomplish a solution.

From 5th Avenue SE and Hennepin, the route jogs over on 9th to follow 6th Avenue SE—the Stone Arch Bicycle Boulevard—to the river.

The Southern Connector (via East 24th Street) 

If you like a long bicycle ride, you will soon have the option of combining the routes described here to go from Columbia Heights to Richfield and farther south. From the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River, there are many options through downtown, including along 11th Avenue South or along Park (northbound) or Portland (southbound) Avenues. All these north-south routes cross East 24th Street, a quieter street that is parallel to and about three blocks south of Franklin Avenue. (Note:  East 24th Street at Cedar Avenue also features a nifty bike/ped bridge over Hiawatha Avenue, connecting to the Hiawatha LRT Trail and giving bicyclists a great way to keep moving east along 24th to the Seward neighborhood.)

The Southern Connector starts at East 24th Street and runs along 17th Avenue South, parallel to Cedar Avenue. The route crosses the Midtown Greenway and the RiverLake Greenway then briefly joins Minnehaha Parkway bicycle trail before turning south again along 12th Avenue to East 60th Street. The bicycle boulevard includes curb extensions, mini traffic circles to replace stop signs (at East 32nd, East 34th, East 36th and East 45th streets), and medians at East 42nd and 46th streets.

South of Lake Nokomis, the route crosses Highway 62 into Richfield on Bloomington Avenue, where bike lanes will connect with existing lanes on Diagonal Boulevard. Diagonal becomes East 73rd Street, where new bike lanes will give cyclists the option of continuing south to Bloomington on12th Avenue South or on Portland, which has wide shoulders due to a recent “road diet” (aka 4-3 lane conversion). Many hope that one day the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge will re-open as a bike/ped bridge over the Minnesota River. But that’s a southern connection for another day.   

Hilary Reeves is communications director for Transit for Livable Communities.