Reader Rage Over Confusing Minneapolis Bike Lanes

It’s not your imagination. It’s not your fault. There’s a deliberate campaign by city, county and state transportation planners to get more cars off our freeways and streets. See “Twin Cities Traffic Congestion: It’s No Accident” for more specifics.

Star Tribune traffic expert Tim Harlow provides the latest example in a piece headlined “Lane Markings on Minneapolis Streets Baffle Drivers.” Harlow focuses on the nauseating experience awaiting the 15,000 drivers who will be detoured from the newly closed Franklin Ave.–I-35W bridge onto two east-west arteries in south Minneapolis.

Spoiler alert: Avoid W. 26th and W. 28th at all costs!

The city recently put down markings on 26th and 28th streets between Hennepin Avenue and I-35W that have baffled motorists trying to figure out where they can and can’t drive. Both streets have markings to designate parking lanes, bike lanes, buffer zones of varying widths and dedicated driving lanes, but motorists say they can’t make head nor tails out of them.

“I don’t have a lot of familiarity with roads that are divided up like this,” Drive reader Kristen wrote in an e-mail. “I want to know what is expected of me so I don’t cause an accident.”

Harlow tries to navigate the confusing maze of lanes and road signs for readers. But it’s a mess.

Well, Kristen, you are not alone. From I-35W to Lyndale, there are two 10-foot through lanes with a 3-foot buffer zone between motor traffic and a 10-foot wide bike lane. But from Lyndale to Hennepin, the layout changes to one 10-foot traffic lane, an 8-foot space that looks like a narrow traffic lane and a 7-foot bike lane.

“It’s awfully confusing to have one regular lane on the north side of the one-way street and one incredibly skinny lane in the middle — one that seems to be a car width, but is skinny enough to make one feel uncomfortable driving in it,” another reader said.

The heads-up from Harlow has already created “reader rage” from hundreds of motorists who are fed up with the city’s catering to bicyclists.  Some examples:

“I wish these city “leaders” would put as much effort into cleaning up the crime as they do for bike lanes.  We would have the lowest crime in the nation if they did.”

“The whole bike lane decree on every street, regardless of traffic flow and “build” is a travesty. More often than not, the bike lanes go unused and traffic crawls due to reduced lanes. I’d like to know exactly what all of it is costing the city, in labor hours, congestion effects, paint and those sordid bollards.”

“I’ve seen more people on Pedal Pubs in that lane than I’ve seen on bicycles. Also, it seems there are unintended consequences. Those spouting the green benefits of this plan should know that there are now blocks and block of idling traffic. So, not so green.”

There’s clearly a growing backlash to the city’s cutting back on lanes and parking spaces for motorists. But where do Minneapolis drivers go from here?