Riding the New 36th Street Protected Bike Lane

On a perfect fall day, dozens of bicyclists, the old and very, very young alike, came out to celebrate the opening of the 36th Street protected bike lane with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. This bike lane was implemented by the City of Minneapolis and is the first of its kind in the city. 

Plastic bollards separate a two-directional bike lane along Lakewood Cemetery from moving vehicle traffic between Richfield Road and Dupont Avenue S.

It was the product of advocacy efforts and leadership from the CARAG neighborhood association, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, and Council Member Lisa Bender, just to name a few. Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene, Cameron Conway (chair of CARAG Neighborhood Association’s Land Use and Transportation Committee), Council Member Bender, and I spoke.

I was excited to have little Teddy Rockwell, my 6-month old son, on his first Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition ride there for the event! Having an infant along for a bike ride should be evidence enough to the city and any skeptics that this bike lane works for vulnerable riders!

I was able to ride a portion of the bike lane with Simon Blenski, the city’s bicycle planner. I spoke with a few bicyclists who felt thrilled that they have a protected bike lane to ride in now.

I also spoke to two bicyclists well-versed in city riding who expressed concern about the intersections. The entrance/exit at Lake Calhoun on Richfield Road is still not efficient for walkers or bike riders. However, it was not nearly as safe (from a purely personal and anecdotal perspective) before. So while it’s not a vast improvement, it’s not a step backward in terms of safety.

The intersection at Hennepin made one rider nervous but as a former resident of that neighborhood, I loved having a bike lane to turn from onto Hennepin as opposed to a regular traffic lane. 

My last note about potential future improvements is that it would be great/useful/necessary to stretch the lane up to Bryant Avenue. The wonderful business node at 36th received lots of business from our riders (we all ate at Gigi’s afterward and someone investigated the wheelbarrows at Bryant Hardware) after our ride.

However, we felt safe traversing up to Bryant Avenue because we were in a group. How many families would feel safe making that same trip without the protected bike lane? I certainly wouldn’t.

The city did a great job creating a visual cue to riders that the lane is narrowing by painting the ground a clay color. It signifies to riders to pay attention because the width of the lane is about to change. I appreciated this sort of cue as opposed to a sign, which not everyone notices.

Additionally, the lane creates space for walkers and runners! As someone who is a pedestrian just as much as a bicyclist, I appreciate the safe space created for me on 36th Street.

Anyone who has ever waited for the bus along where it borders Lakewood Cemetery knows that pedestrians have felt especially unwelcome on 36th there. This lane facilitates greater use of 36th Street by walkers, runners and bicyclists alike. Simon Blenski also assured me that there is a plan for winter maintenance.

The lane isn’t perfect, everyone acknowledges, but it’s an important step in the journey toward a network of 30-miles of protected bike lanes. The mayor’s most recent budget proposal includes $750,000 for protected bike lanes which is also an important step on the journey to making all riders feel welcome and safe on our city streets.

As someone who now walks, bikes and buses around Minneapolis with her tiny son, I am so grateful that the city (advocates, neighborhood groups, elected officials, etc.) is coming together to make projects like the 36th Street protected bike lane happen. It’s the first of many more to come. 

Once you ride the lane, the city is welcoming comments and feedback. Make sure to get out there and ride it while this gorgeous autumn weather holds. I’ll see you in the lane! 

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