West 36th Street from Dupont (King's Highway) to Lake Calhoun is currently 2 lanes going one way and 1 going the other. Since the same amount of traffic occupies each direction in a day, the city feels - rightly I think - that they can re-design the street to accommodate only 2 lanes thus freeing up space for ped/cycle infrastructure. It should be noted that this is a major access way to Lake Calhoun as the cemetery to the south otherwise impedes access.
They offered several ideas for the project and a couple of things struck me leading to a comment in the meeting.
First, the project is only a half mile long. The diminutive size of this project allows the city to take some risks and work to really get this right. What do I mean by that?
- Create this infrastructure with a people centered approach as opposed to a car centered approach. So many projects are designed to insure that car traffic is left pretty much unimpeded whilst giving a mere nod to the needs of walkers and cyclists.
- Connect it now to the Bryant Avenue Bike Blvd as the resultant 2 blocks without even a painted lane will result in more dangerous cycling options. To be fair, the city sees the need for this and is considering the option but we believe it must be done simultaneous with the 36th project.
Copenhagenize Design published a graphic showing the "The Short History of Traffic Engineering": It tells the story well.
Between Dupont and the Lake, three bus stops are planned on the south side of the road. If you can visualize what seemed to be the preffered plan the arrangement of things will be, from south to to north:
- Pedestrian path nearly up against the cemetery fence
- Two bike lanes together - one eastbound and the other west
- Buffer zone with bollards (of some kind) to further signal the divide
- Two lanes for motorized vehicles
- One lane for parking on the north side of the street
Now if we take the same need for the bus stop and allow for the inconvience caused by anything short of keeping the car traffic lanes straight, we can imagine a couple of scenarios, one workable and the other not. For the "not": If they left the cycle track and ped areas alone, the busses would have to stop in the middle of travel lanes and this could be unsafe.
The other option is to remove the parking on the north side of the street for the length needed for the bus stop and divert the cars such that the lanes would shift, leaving the cycle and ped paths unimpeded. If you think first about the this project from the drivers' perspective, a lane shift will be a small inconvenience. However it makes for the comfort and safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.
While a strategy like this may not be the best design city wide, its a great opportunity to make a cyclist/ped centered design that will have been designed with people and not car traffic in mind. this sounds like an old rubric in the pike/ped world (old because it's true) but Minneapolis is pretty advanced in this area and we need to encourage oourselves to continue along the advance path of thinking.
I won't go into the benefits of walking, cycling to business, health, the environment, and enjoyment of our city with the buffer that 2 tons of steel and vinyl provide. I guess I just did.
It's only half a mile. Let's do this right!