Park Avenue Buffered Bike Lane

BY REUBEN, ON OCTOBER 2ND, 2012

Source: VeloTraffic

(Editor: VeloTraffic is a cycling blog by Reuben Collins, a Traffic Engineer, Transportation Planner, and Cycling Enthusiast living in Minneapolis, MN.)

I happened to ride past the newly repaved and restriped Park Avenue this past weekend and noticed the new bike lanes have been placed. It’s still a work in progress, but here’s what it looked like as of 10:00 AM this past Sunday.

Park Avenue near 42nd Street.

The first thing that struck me about this new design is just how wide the new bikeway is. I didn’t get out a tape measure, but I’m guessing that this is a Hennepin County standard 6′ bike lane between an additional 4-5′ of buffer space on either side of the lane. This results in what looks like about 15′+ of pavement dedicated to a single bike lane!

Agencies are typically trying to find ways to sandwich narrow bike lanes within constricted rights-of-way. In this case, however, since the County removed one of the travel lanes on Park Avenue, they’re now faced with the opposite problem. What to do with all of this extra space?

Is wider always better? Are larger buffer spaces always better than smaller buffer spaces? Maybe. Maybe not. Bike lanes any wider than about 7′ or 8′ are generally not encouraged because motorists begin to confuse the bike lane with general purpose lanes.

This will be an interesting experiment to see how well motorists respect the bike lanes. Since the bike lane (including the buffer space) is plenty wide enough to function as a lane for motorists, and since there are no physical barriers keeping motorists out of the lanes, I wonder if we will experience problems with motorists encroaching into the bike lane too often.

I’m not sure. This will be an interesting case study to keep an eye on.

What do you think of the new lanes? Have you had a chance to ride them yet?