There has been a lot of discussion locally here in Minneapolis about the proposed bikeway planned for Penn Avenue. According to info about the project on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s (MBC) blog (here and here), it looks like the most probable outcome for this corridor will be some sort of off-street facility, probably at the same elevation as the sidewalk (6″ above gutter pan elevation). Some folks aren’t on board with the idea of an off-street facility in this location, but this seems to be the only option the City has determined to be feasible.
I wrote a post previously where I recommended combining the proposed 5′ sidewalk and 7′ bikeway into a single 12′ facility (although 10′ would be plenty wide if we chose to do that). I was proposing a fairly standard shared-use path. I made this recommendation based on an assumption of what the intersections would look like – primarily, I assumed that they would look like every other intersection in the city, including standard curb ramps, truncated domes, & crosswalks. I stand by this recommendation, so long as the assumption that the intersection designs are fairly typical.
However, the MBC has made it very clear that they are hoping for something a little bit different at the intersections than the standard designs. They wrote in a blog post:
In this option, the key would be designing intersections to a higher level of safety for bicyclists. Bicycling on the sidewalk is actually the most dangerous position for bicyclists, because drivers don’t expect to see cyclists at intersections. This stretch has some “super blocks” so there are fewer intersections to worry about.
There is really a lack of guidance from reliable sources about how to design a two-way cycletrack that isn’t just the typical sidepath we’re so familiar with. Any of the traditional design guides from agencies such as AASHTO or MnDOT don’t go anywhere near the subject. Even the most progressive of American design guides, NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide, is somewhat lacking on how to handle a two-way cycletrack at intersections (the section on intersections is primarily concerned with one-way cycletracks, the section on two-way cycletracks doesn’t focus on intersections). That being said, the UBDG certainly comes closer than any other guidance.
Here are some ideas that should be considered, if we want the Penn Avenue bikeway to offer some benefit above the standard sidepath:
1) Prioritized the bike & pedestrian space over minor side streets. Instead of interrupting the bike/ped paths to allow for minor intersections or driveways, carry the paths through using continuous pavement elements. Require motorists turning onto or off of the side streets to go up & over the bike/ped paths. This photo is a very typical design seen in Copenhagen where bike/ped paths along larger roadways cross minor intersecting roadways.
This photo shows a similar treatment from Cambridge, MA, for a one-way cycletrack.
Or, if it is determined that the cycle path must be lowered to street level,
2) Allow cyclists to drop to street level without crossing other pavement elements like curbs or gutters. This may seem like an inconsequential design detail, but I believe the psychological impact to cyclists is important – it lessens the implication that bikes aren’t supposed to be in the street.
3) However, regardless of any other decisions made, the single most important recommendation I have is to make the intersecting roadways as narrow as possible using bumpouts. By narrowing the intersection conflict zone, motorists will have to drive more slowly.
The following couple of videos also have some good ideas. This video from Pedal Forward Consulting is a realistic suggestion of what this bikeway could look like:
There’s also a lot of great info in this video from Vancouver, although, they’re obviously discussing an on-street protected cycle track rather than a raised off-street cycle track.
What do you think? What intersection treatments would you most like to see included in the Penn Avenue bikeway (or for any two-way cycle track)?