A guide to the evolving streetscape

Minneapolis streets are constantly evolving. Many recent changes are products of two policies: Complete Streets, which prioritizes people walking, biking and taking transit, and Vision Zero, which seeks to eliminate fatalities and severe injuries that are a result of crashes on city streets by 2027.

Planning and design are focused on improving safety and encouraging more people to bike or walk, whether for commuting, running errands or recreation, said Nathan Koster, Minneapolis transportation planning manager.

“We want to make sure people have options that are safe and comfortable for their daily activities,” Koster said.

In many cases, the city is testing out new infrastructure and monitoring it in different seasons to see how it is functioning and how it can be improved. The city relies on the observations of its staff as well as resident feedback to inform the final design.

“The more feedback we get from residents, the better it helps us hone in on where there are issues of access and mobility in the city,” Koster said.

The infrastructure benefits everyone traveling around the city, regardless of transportation mode.

Koster explained, “In a lot of cases, people might see this as biking and walking infrastructure. In a lot of cases it provides better organized and more predictable streets. It actually benefits people driving, too.”

Read on for an overview of some of the new infrastructure you can experience around Minneapolis.

— Midblock crosswalks allow people to cross the street where they want to cross, rather than strictly at intersections. These crosswalks change infrastructure rather than trying to change the social behavior of people crossing the street and are usually installed in places where there are several desirable destinations — such as transit, retail, parks or schools — on both sides of the street.

Minneapolis has two midblock crossings: in Uptown on the newly reopened Hennepin Avenue South and in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. These crossings are raised above the grade of the rest of the street, forcing drivers to slow down. There are also neon pedestrian crossing signs to help alert drivers.

Spotted: In Uptown in front of Penzey’s Spices and the Dogwood Coffee Shop in Calhoun Square (Hennepin Avenue South between West Lake and West 31st streets.)

— Rectangular rapid flash beacons are installed at intersections without a traffic light and are meant to signal to cars that a pedestrian wants to cross the street. Push the beg button to turn on the yellow flashing lights and then wait before crossing the street to be sure that cars in both directions come to a complete stop.

Spotted: West 35th Street, West 36th Street and Pleasant Avenue South.

Protected bike lane (photo by Jamey Erickson)

— Protected bike lanes provide a structural barrier between people in cars and people on bikes. Research from the University of Minnesota looked at five different types of road designs and found that protected bike lanes are the safest design. In Minneapolis, there are several different types of protected bike lanes.

Spotted: Curb protected bike lanes provide a narrow median between the car and bike lanes and can be found on 11th Avenue South.

Raised bike lanes are slightly above street level at the same grade as a sidewalk and can be found on Washington Avenue South in downtown.

Planter-protected bike lanes can beautify a lane while keeping people safe and are being tested out on a portion of the 3rd Avenue South bike lane in downtown.

Bollards are the white posts popular throughout the city and can be found on Blaisdell Avenue South from the Midtown Greenway to West 40th Street.

Tall concrete barriers are employed on the Franklin Avenue Bridge to separate cars from people biking.

Protected intersection (photo by Jamey Erickson)

— Protected intersections use some simple design strategies to organize space and guide people biking, walking or driving through an intersection. They typically include curb bump-outs to reduce the crossing distance for people walking, which also decreases the chances of a person being hit by a car. Protected intersections also provide more separation between people biking and driving and are designed to get cars to travel at the speed limit and stop at intersections.

The city is currently piloting a protected intersection near Gold Medal Park. So far, Koster reports that the feedback has largely fallen into two categories: confusion on what the infrastructure is meant to do and feedback from people reporting that it is easier to cross the street. The city is actively monitoring the intersection and plans to continue doing so through the snow and ice of the winter.

Spotted: Near Gold Medal Park at 11th & 2nd.

— Head start crosswalks give pedestrians a walk light to cross an intersection a few seconds before cars get the green light. This is an attempt to give people more visibility to prevent cars from turning into them. It also gives pedestrians a little more time to get across the intersection. Many intersections don’t provide enough crossing time for pedestrians, especially for the elderly, kids and people who have a mobility disability.

Spotted: Near Lynnhurst Park at Minnehaha & 50th.

— Zebra-stripe crosswalks alternate light and dark markings and provide more visibility than crosswalks with simple parallel lines. The city unveiled a rainbow-colored crosswalk for the Twin Cities Pride Festival this past summer, but it isn’t clear if more culturally relevant crosswalks are planned for the future.

Spotted: Loring Park Rainbow Crosswalk at Willow & Yale.

Green conflict markings (photo by ST)

— Green conflict markings demarcate where people driving should expect to see a person biking through an intersection. These markings have become more standard practice over the past couple of years and are usually found at intersections with traffic lights or in areas where there are known issues.

Spotted: Along Chicago Avenue South between East Lake and East 54th streets at intersections with traffic signals.

Sidebar: Have a question or concern about streets or sidewalks in your neighborhood?

Using 311 is a good first step to report the issue or ask a question. City staff actively monitor these submissions.