Photo by Nick Falbo, Alta Planning+Design
To create a bicycle lane that is protected from cars and pedestrians
Despite relatively high levels of bicycling and bicycle infrastructure throughout a city that has the reputation of being one of the best cities for bicycling in the U.S., Minneapolis had yet to install a single protected bike lane. A protected bike lane adds curbs, parked cars, landscaping and other physical barriers to protect bicyclists from moving traffic.
Protected bike lanes make bicycling safer, except at the most dangerous places: intersections. The solution? The Protected Intersection.
Originally a Dutch concept, the protected intersection shortens the crossing distance for bicycle traffic, adds corner refuge islands between cars and people walking and bicycling, improves light signal phasing and gives bicyclists and pedestrians a head start when the light turns green. In addition, the design slows vehicles and puts right-turning drivers in a position where they can easily see a bicyclist or pedestrian crossing.
In 2013, a pop-up protected bike lane event took place, led by a volunteer leadership team, and in 2014 the Minneapolis-based advocacy coalition Bikeways for Everyone conducted four one-day pop-up protected intersection projects — including one on Lyndale Avenue — as part of a city-sponsored open streets program where designated streets are opened to only pedestrians and bicyclists.
The street normally has four traffic lanes and parking. Reallocating two of the travel lanes provided room for creating a 10-foot cycle track on each side of the street, maintain on-street parking, and have room to maneuver around the corner refuge islands.
The Bikeways for Everyone team constructed 15 plywood planter boxes, which they laid out as corner refuge islands to separate people from motor vehicles in the intersection
Costs and Crew
The materials cost about $600 and the planters took three hours to assemble by 10 volunteers. The team rented a truck to haul the planters to the target locations. Local nurseries lent plants to the project for use on the demonstration days.
Outcomes And Next Steps
Nick Falbo, who designed the protected intersection demonstration, observed: "Children seemed to get it intuitively. They'd roll up through the intersection and just turn slightly to the left and sit in the protected area before crossing. I couldn't imagine the same thing happening with more conventional designs."
The city of Minneapolis has approved a plan to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020, and is considering protected intersections as well.