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Minneapolis is breaking bicycling ground with new protected lanes: Here’s what’s working

“What are those white things? Do they take them away in the wintertime?”

My mom asked me that the other day, and she’s not alone. All across Minneapolis, a new kind of bike lane has been popping up, marked by the telltale sign of those white plastic thingies.

So what are they? The short answer is that they’re the quickest, most affordable kind of protected bike lane. (And yes, they leave them up in the wintertime.)

They're also a sign of things to come. Since Minneapolis began building protected bike lanes years ago, the city has refined its designs. Now that they’re hitting their stride, planners are learning lessons about what works and what might be improved.

The case for protected lanes

“Why are protected bike lanes important? There’s a physical barrier between you and moving cars,” Jessica Treat told me. Treat is the director of St. Paul Smart Trips, a non-motorized advocacy group. For years, she has been trying to get St. Paul to build protected lanes like those she sees in Minneapolis.

“It’s as simple as that. People feel intimated by cars moving past them, and to have that physical barrier provides a lot of comfort,” Treat said.

If you listen to bike advocates for very long, you’ll uncover a meaningful shift taking place. For decades, most bike advocacy organizations focused on the problems faced by existing bicyclists, that 5-10 percent of people brave, broke, or committed enough to ride through harrowing urban traffic. The vast majority of the time, advocates focused on people who were white, male, and well off, and used to asserting themselves in often-dangerous situations.

These days, though, bike advocates like Treat are thinking about the people who aren’t yet riding bicycles, but might like to try it some day.

“These lanes provide comfortable space for a lot of those reticent riders, the interested-but-concerned, which is a big slice of the population,” Treat explained. “Especially if you want to ride with families and kids, and you don’t feel safe. Protected lanes would enable more of that riding for transportation, with parents taking their kids to school or going out for dinner or things like that. Having a connected network of protected facilities would provide that.”

Thanks to a strong bike coalition and forward-thinking city government, Minneapolis is leading the way in shifting the dialogue around bicycle planning. And the biggest leap forward was the adoption this year of a plan to build 30 new miles of “protected bike lanes” throughout the city.

After this years’ construction season, the first wave of new protected bike lanes hit the city, on 36th, 26th, 28th and Oak Streets.

What are those white things?

According to the city’s Public Works department, the white plastic bollards, called “flexible delineators” by city planners, are easiest and cheapest way to construct a protected bike lane.

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
Flexible delineators mark the new protected bike lane on 26th Street, in South Minneapolis.

“The standard design for projected lanes implemented on street corridors in the near term include flexible delineators, the white posts,” Simon Blenski told me. Blenski is a bicycle planner for the city’s Public Works department.

“That’s simply the lowest cost option and is the easiest to implement in the near term, until the opportunity for a street reconstruction comes along, where we can look at more robust separation,” Blenski said.

As Blenski explained, the plastic delineators are working well. The city has learned that bolting directly into the roadway is a better technique than gluing them on (which they’d been doing in the past).

Today the biggest problem hasn’t been cars hitting them, but the difficulties around street sweeping and snow removal during the wintertime.

“Posts have some maintenance issues as they go through various seasons,” Blenski told me. “If they get hit or scraped by a plow, it’s the maintenance around the posts. Instead of having a nice straight hard curb to plow or sweep against, it requires crews to go in and out. [There’s] interest in establishing something that would reassemble more of a standard curb that would be easier to plow and sweep against.”

The new two-way protected lanes

The bollards are one thing, but two-way bike traffic is another. Because of their two-way design, where bikes closely pass each other, some of the latest bike lanes have been met with a few quizzical looks from Minneapolis bicyclists.

Suzanne Zaayer has been riding along the brand new Oak Street protected two-way “cycletrack” lane since it opened earlier this summer. So far, she’s not a fan.

“I just confirmed my dislike of cycletracks,” Zaayer wrote recently. “I was riding north in the protected cycletrack, and I had the green so I continued at a good clip. The car turning left failed to yield. Today's lady was on her smart phone, as were about half the other drivers out there today. Hang up the phone and yield to those who have the right of way.”

Minneapolis’ other new two-way lane, on West 36th Street, has had similar problems, with cars turning into bike traffic at intersections. Because the lane is a two-way design, it forces some awkward accommodations at the two ends of the new route, which the city has tried to improve with the liberal use of green paint.

Photo by Tyler Schow
The 36th Street bike facility has its critics.

“36th is the second-worst bike facility I've ever experienced,” Sean Hayford O’Leary, a Richfield resident who regularly bikes around South Minneapolis, told me. “36th is awkward with any pedestrians. I feel like I'm about to hit posts or curbs, and connections at either end are awkward.”

Granted, many others like the design, and it's certainly big improvement over what was there before. But Zaayer’s and O’Leary's experiences point to a common problem with protected bike lanes. At intersections, the devil is in the details.

Visibility versus safety

Protected bike lanes face a recurring problem: There’s a trade-off between visibility at corners and protection along the block. For example, the city’s most controversial protected bike lane is also its oldest: the parking-protected lane along 1st Avenue North, running through the heart of downtown’s busy Warehouse District.

The appeal of parking protected lanes is pretty simple. Compared to the white plastic dividers, parked cars offer real solid protection for bicyclists who want to be safe from speeding cars. By simply swapping the locations of the bike lane with the row of parked cars, planners can easily create a well-protected bike lane along busy city streets.

“As far as different varieties of protected bike lane goes, the bigger the barrier the better,” Jessica Treat, the director of St. Paul Smart trips, told me. “Flexible bollards [those white things] are probably the least attractive. A parked car or a curb or a planter type of lane is a bit more substantial. The amount of the barrier equates to how much you’re actually protected.”

That’s the theory anyway. But with the way that the 1st Avenue lane is actually used on a  day-to-day basis, with crowds of young people exploring the downtown clubs and distracted drivers emerging from the driveways that cross the lane, visibility is often a problem.

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
Many drivers continue to park against the curb, so that cyclists will find SUVs parked in the middle of the right-of-way.

“Nobody’s looking for you,” Andy Janus, a long-time cyclist who works at the downtown One on One Bike shop, told me. “On the 1st Avenue lane, when people are pulling out of the Hilton, they aren’t looking for you in the bike lane. They pull out of there and just about smack you every time. I see this every day riding into work. There’s a certain point where I say, I’m not going to use this bike lane any more.”

Over the years, the city has tweaked the 1st Avenue lane by widening the buffer and trying to move the lane out of the curb gutter. But problems remain, and many more experienced bicyclists simply avoid it.

Why Big Buffers work

If you talk to Minneapolis bicyclists, the most successful of the new style of bike lanes has to be the buffered lanes on Park and Portland Avenues, wide one-way streets that run from downtown through South Minneapolis. While not officially “protected” by dividers, they offer wide painted buffers that give bicyclists a lot of breathing room.

“I like Park and Portland because of the extra width,” Adam Miller, another long-time Minneapolis bicyclist, told me. “I took a Nice Ride to Abbott during rush hour yesterday, and I appreciated having enough room to let the faster-moving bike commuters safely by while still avoiding door zone. My future bike commuting plans currently center on making use of these two lanes.”

While the Park and Portland buffered lanes seem to be working well, and are certainly far better than the dangerous wrong-side lanes that existed before, compromises by county planners at intersections like Lake Street and the freeway on ramps leave something to be desired. The buffers around the bicyclist disappear right at the most congested spots, the exact places where safety is most needed.

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
The Park and Portland buffered lanes seem to be working well.

 

Interim solutions

For the diverse designs of Minneapolis’ new protected bike lanes, the lesson is that they’re work in progress. Many of the existing design flaws are the result of compromises around limited budgets and the lack of bike-specific intersection infrastructure. As the city learns what works, staff are slowly improving the network by adding green paint, widening certain dimensions, or shifting traffic patterns.

The second key lesson of the new bike lanes is that a network takes time. The end goal for advocates is to see these temporary plastic bollards made permanent, with more secure  (and expensive) concrete or curb separation. The current bike lanes remain interim solutions, temporary experiments meant to improve the bicycling experience before better designs can be built.

Courtesy of Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition
While the wide painted Park and Portland bike lanes are successful so far, the real goal for advocates at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition was to encourage the County to build real concrete buffers, that would provide meaningful separation between the bicycle and car traffic on the busy street.

As the city refines and expands its network, hopefully some of the kinks can be worked out, and the interested but concerned riders will start to find a convenient network of concrete protection waiting for them on city streets.

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Comments (42)

Turns

You are right that the worst spots are at the ends. Turning right in a car say at 36th and kings highway is really difficult if you are watching for bikes which can be moving at speed in that new lane. Likewise at other spots like 46th and Portland. There needs to be a better way to overlay auto turn lane with the bikes. I don't think liberal use of green paint will suffice.

Great reporting on the disconnect between theory & reality

A million times thank you for writing this article. Features like parked-car-buffered bike lanes and on-street buffered cycletracks may look good and safe on paper, but they are horrible in practice. I've biked on both first ave and Oak St recently and both were a disaster (and when you don't use a protected lane because it doesn't work for you, e.g. when you need to turn left, motorists are not happy).

I hope our local bike advocacy organizations take this information to heart and stop demonizing the humble paint buffer as "not enough". On-road bike facilities will always be just that: on the road. Putting a car or a curb or a flower box in between cars and bikes is just making it harder for cyclists and motorists to be aware of each other, the need for which can't be pretended away, and making it harder for cyclists to route (left hand turns anyone?) or respond to conditions on the road like giant potholes. If big paint buffers and humble white posts are enough for most cyclists (as this article suggests), let's not spend the big bucks putting up more complicated infra that people don't even want to use.

It's interesting that people

It's interesting that people in The Netherlands (and elsewhere), including pro bike racers, don't find protected bikeways so abhorrent. They are huge fans of them.

The only cyclists I ever hear complain about them and say they are horrible are people in the U.S. Why?

Most likely because they're

Most likely because they're designed much different in the US than in other countries, and here they don't go along with the strong bias towards traffic calming for automobiles. With a few exceptions, almost every cycletrack I've ridden on (Missoula, Minneapolis, Portland, and NYC) felt more dangerous than simply taking the lane. Especially for situations where either the car needs to cross the track, or if you need to make a turn from the track as a cyclist.

So from your standpoint a

So from your standpoint a well designed (Dutch?) cycletrack (and junctions) is better than riding with traffic but riding with traffic is better than our poorly designed cycletracks?

It would be a shame to see

It would be a shame to see the Minneapolis Bike Coalition ruin these perfectly useful lanes with planter boxes.

All of this protection makes people feel safer between intersections, where accidents rarely happen, at the cost of complicating and reducing visibility at intersections where accidents do happen.

Portland and Park

I keep hearing about how well the protected lanes on Portland and Park are working. The reality is, they're great most of the way but where the going gets tough - the 4 blocks around Lake Street - they shrink down to creepy old-style "door lanes" which disappear entirely in the winter. If the goal is to encourage new and less confident cyclists, skipping the hard parts doesn't cut it.

Haven't the Dutch figured this out?

Great post Bill.

Haven't the Dutch engineers figured a lot of this stuff out? Why do our engineers not look more closely at the CROW Manual for Bicycle Traffic Design to see what engineers in places with highly successful bicycle networks have learned?

They long ago learned that two-way cycletracks are dangerous and a bad idea. They don't build them.

They've learned that junctions are as important as the space between them and insure that junctions are modified appropriate to the facilities leading in to them.

They know the importance of little things like a bikeway crossing a driveway, such as at the Hilton, needs to be obvious to drivers entering and exiting the driveway with path color, sharks teeth, and grade providing important communication to drivers.

It's like if Elon Musk, instead of learning from what others had done before when designing the Tesla Model S, had ignored all who'd gone before him and started from scratch with a single cylinder 3 hp engine on a buggy with wood spoked wheels.

Bike Techniques

I've often wondered why there is so much hand wringing about trying this or that new bike lane technique. Hasn't this all been covered in the Netherlands and other countries over the past forty years? Rather than spend time and money reinventing the wheel (pardon the pun), why aren't we just looking to them to see what items they tried, what worked, and why it worked?

It's like everything is new in Minnesota and no one anywhere on the planet has ever tried to make a protected bike lane.

1st Ave improvements coming

What isn't mentioned here is that there is an obvious solution to the biggest problem with the 1st Avenue N protected bike lane--people parking in the bike lane. That solution is adding flexible dilineators to clarify where people should park. The City did a pilot of it a couple years ago and it worked great. The City is planning to add those imminently on 1st (they were supposed to be in already). And then things will improve. It still won't be ideal as the area for the protected bike lane is 1 feet too narrow and there is more walking demand than sidewalk space along 1st. That's why the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition supports eventually moving the protected bike lane to Hennepin Ave from 1st when Hennepin is reconstructed in 2020.

Oak and 36th Street can both be better, but goodness are they better than the nothing that was there before. It would be nice to have a perspective of a family in the quotes as we hear a lot of positives about them (mostly 36th since it has been in longer), especially from families.

With all due respect to the

With all due respect to the great work you guys do at MBC, as a long-term and former-beginner bike commuter, the "biggest problem" with the 1st Ave N lane is not people parking in the bike lane. It's people parking next to the bike lane, as is the design. I'm an experienced bike commuter (though I remember being a beginner) and car-protected lanes honestly scare me. I was just biking First Ave last night and all I could think of was "how soon can I get away from this road?". Parked car "buffers" interfere with my ability to feel in touch with the traffic alongside of me -- or know that motorists even know I'm there. I need to be able to bike defensively and I can't do that if I'm struggling to keep tabs on what's going on, like whether the car next to me has a turn signal on ahead of an intersection. Furthermore, a parked car buffer makes me feel trapped. Whether I need to take the lane to prepare for a left hand turn (why should I have to cross an intersection like a pedestrian when I'm not one?) or I need to swerve around an obstacle, having a bunch of cars on one side of me doesn't feel safe to me. I will continue to avoid these lanes whenever possible and I hope that MBC will take the kinds of feedback like that in this article (and mine) into consideration without dismissing it as just a problem of cars parking in it.

It's the junctions!

Hi Michelle, I think the concerns you have are not with a protected bikeway but with poorly designed junctions. If the junctions are designed properly then there is no need to feel in touch with motor traffic or to worry if they know you're there. You don't need to worry about their signals, lack of them, or which way they are turning because a combination of signal lights and road markings will make your interactions with motor traffic quite safe.

Properly designed junctions can actually make it faster and more efficient to use a bikeway for left turns than motor traffic lanes. And more importantly, much safer.

This is all why riding a bicycle in The Netherlands is 9 times safer than in the U.S.

My comment included "It still

My comment included "It still won't be ideal as the area for the protected bike lane is 1 feet too narrow and there is more walking demand than sidewalk space along 1st. That's why the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition supports eventually moving the protected bike lane to Hennepin Ave from 1st when Hennepin is reconstructed in 2020."

I hear a lot of complaints about 1st Ave (the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition was founded by people who were upset with it). The biggest is that cars are parked in the bike lane. There are people--like you--who just don't like the design and I hear that, but I also hear from people who like the idea, but have problems with details.

I certainly don't at all dismiss your concerns and similar from others. But I also don't dismiss the feedback from the more than 7,500 people in Minneapolis we've talked with who are very excited about protected bike lanes.

I think we need protected bike lanes, regular bike lanes, and the understood right for people to bike on any street. It isn't an either or and we aren't fighting for protected bike lanes on every street.

Can protected lanes work for everyone?

Ethan, protected bikeways in The Netherlands and other countries work for all riders from 6-year-olds to 96-year-olds, slow plodders to pro tour racers, and able-bodied to those with disabilities (riding bicycles, using handcycles or piloting mobility scooters). How difficult would it be to get those here built to Dutch CROW standards?

Great point

One of the key ideas of protected bike lanes is that they're NOT designed for the experienced bicyclist, and most of the people quoted in this article are pretty experienced. So, yeah, for every criticism there are likely many people out there who use the lanes, are satisfied, and don't speak up.

And I completely agree that these designs are much better than what preceded them. 36th was terrible, and now it's good to great, depending on who you talk with.

I guess I qualify as "experienced"

But I regularly use 1st as my north/south route through downtown. I just do so with the expectation that it I will want to go a bit slower and be alert at intersections (and prepared to dodge pedestrians, although the diversion between 5th and 6th has helped). I'm generally kind of slow anyway, so that doesn't really bother me.

It's still better than Hennepin, which is scary, and Nicollet, which means getting stuck behind buses (and is under construction). I could bypass the whole thing on the Cedar Lake trail, but I guess I prefer riding on the road or something as I actually leave the trail to take 1st with some frequency.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear that there will be more guidance to keep the parked cars where they belong soon.

I don't think that parking in

I don't think that parking in the lanes is the biggest concern.

There's also not having enough space to get around other cyclists, pedestrians wandering in and out, and the fact that a good 1/3 of it is gutter and not road. It's hard to make turns to the left, as well. It's been awhile since I rode it during winter, but I remember it used to just pretty much disappear pretty often from the snowbanks.

Almost everyone that I know goes out of their way to avoid them. I know my friends probably aren't the target demographic for protected bikeways. They're not scared by interacting with traffic.

But it's kind of disheartening that there's this huge push for protected bikeways from advocates in the face of many, many experienced cyclists' real world knowledge and experience. It may be more attractive to new riders that don't understand the nuances, but what's going to happen after they've started riding regularly and on more types of infrastructure? Are they going to have the same concerns being expressed by the experienced cyclists now?

It's something that's concerned me for years, that those two spheres don't overlap very much.

We want protected bikeways

We want protected bikeways that work for both groups. Trails work for both groups. I think 26th and 28th Street work well for both groups and the Plymouth Bridge. Do you agree or do you have problems with those?

1st Avenue doesn't work for really either group, which is why we've consistently wanted something different as I state above. We shouldn't judge protected bike lanes based on one that wasn't even a purpose built protected bike lane and is very poorly implemented. (You were there when we first complained about 1st!)

We take seriously the complaints about 36th and Oak and want to make those better too. Reality is that we are still scrapping for what we can get in an auto-oriented world and that means that sometimes it isn't perfect (I would have rather removed more parking on Oak to allow for 1-way bikeways on each side, but it's a big enough ask for removing 20 spaces in a high parking demand area). I still think both are a significant step forward from what they were. Personally, I would never ride on 36th before because it was scary as hell; while I find it a pain at either end now it is quite pleasant in between. I was comfortable on Oak before and I'm more relaxed on it now, which I like. And I can now imagine taking it with my son, which I never would have done before.

Experience will teach my 8-year-old daughter to take the lane?

What you describe, people becoming 'experienced cyclists' and preferring to take the lane with motor vehicles, hasn't happened with people in The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and other countries. If millions of people who have been riding bicycles every single day of their lives aren't experienced then I don't know who is. Yet all of these people avoid riding in the road with cars (except for bicycle streets with very low traffic volume and 13 or 18 mph speed limits).

I've sat at a junction in The Netherlands that wasn't properly designed and watched as over half the people who approached it on their bicycles got off and walked across because they felt it was too dangerous. People in Europe will routinely take a longer route if the shorter route includes a road they have to share with cars — they much prefer a properly designed and built protected bikeway (and associated junctions). And then they show up en mass at council meetings to complain and get these built properly.

What you are describing is not becoming an experienced cyclist but becoming a vehicular cyclist. And these two are quite different.

I agree with your complaints about our poorly designed bikeways. Many are quite horrid. The solution though is not to teach 8-year-olds to take the lane in front of fast moving cars as Safe Routes To School does and tell 80-year-olds to get in the left lane to make a left turn but to encourage cities and counties to build bikeways that work well for everyone. If Dutch engineers can do it, why can't our engineers and planners do it?

Road debris and splush

One very critical benefit of curb separation rather than just white plastic bollards is that curbs eliminate road debris and winter splush from getting on the bikeway. This makes them safer and reduces flat tires during summer and perhaps most importantly keeps them very ridable all winter.

Planters, k-rails, or parked cars help even more by providing protection from the wake of passing cars when roads are wet or filled with snow.

As a winter commuter, this is

As a winter commuter, this is polar opposite of my experience. Separated lanes, which require an entirely separate plow crew, are never scraped down to the pavement. Regular bike lanes get hit by the heavy plows, and worst case at least you can use the farthest reaches of the car passenger side tires.

Perhaps the difference is

Perhaps the difference is potential? Summit Ave is unridable most of every winter as is Grand Ave (St Paul) and many other streets. No matter how well the plows do their job the cars driving by throw splush in to the bike lanes and parking cars only make it worse. Some winters the snow piled to the side builds up and forces cars farther and farther in to the bike lane. As well the paint is hidden under snow so cars can't tell where the bike lane even is.

While I'll ride on these during spring, summer, and fall, I'll not do so during winter. Take the lane on these roads? With cars sliding all over? No way.

Contrast this to the paths in Shoreview. They keep them fairly well plowed all winter. Most years there are only two or three days that I can't or don't ride because of snow and many years there's not a single day that riding is a problem. I'm not worried about cars because there's a curb to help protect me. I don't get splushed by the wake or passing cars because there's some distance between us. And it's not just me but gobs of people. Except on the most fearsome cold days there are still dozens of kids who ride their bikes to school along these paths as well as people of all ages riding for recreation or to lunch at Paninoes.

Cities in The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, and elsewhere are able to keep their paths very ridable every hour of every day of every winter. You can't do that with painted bike lanes next to 50 mph cars throwing splush all over you.

http://streets.mn/2014/11/13/snowlessons/

that would be too bad

Plowing bike lanes with traditional STP plows is not working. My one hope was that protected bike lanes plowed by separate equipment (with lanes that do not ever see car traffic) might actually get plowed enough to be safely rideable.

I was in Montreal recently

they had a mixture of lanes, one of which was a two way protected bike lane. There was a curb between cars and you and bikes going both directions. I happened to be riding out of the city at rush hour. It took some getting used to, people were passing slower bikes, so you had to watch for them coming at you and I believe there were bike specific lights at intersections. I say this because I went on a green and a woman made a turn right in front of me. She screamed something at me in French while pointing up toward the traffic light. I was too busy trying not to hit her to look up and see what she meant. Overall I did like the two way lane. I saw families and children riding along with the commuters. It all flowed pretty well.

Bicycle facility desgn

1. Bicyclists should never ride in the opposite direction of the adjacent car traffic no matter what the separation because of the conflicts and confusion at the intersections.

2. Side paths are inherently dangerous because drivers are less likely to see bicyclists at the intersections. They are only suitable for pre-teen children who come to a full stop and look in all directions, especially to the rear, at the intersections.

3. I always feel safer in s striped, one-way bicycling lane or a wide curb lane because the drivers are more likely to see me.

4. Bicyclists should always be super-defensive and assume that drivers do not see them.

5. I do like the Park and Portland Avenue lanes. I also like the First Avenue protected lane.

6. The experiment on Hennepin Avenue of a shared bus-bicycle-turning vehicle lane is not working.

The Oak Street Cycletrack

The selection of Oak Street between East River Road and (ultimately) University Ave for a protected 2-way cycletrack is puzzling to me. Was there evidence of need here? Or was it just low-hanging fruit to try something new? In any case, its addition is in all ways worse than what was there: nothing. Cars here already tend to drive slowly and carefully because there is so much bike and pedestrian activity, as well as the fact that drivers are usually looking for parking and confused by the light rail/pedestrian mall situation at Washington. Moving all bike traffic to one side of the street also limits cyclists from accessing the businesses on the east side of Oak.

The design of the 26th St and 28th St lanes are what I had in mind when I vocally supported protected bike lanes. They give bicyclists the ability to more safely use busy arterial roads as a visible part of traffic. Shouldn't that be the number one goal when planning this infrastructure?

P.S. Something is missing from the map of planned protected bike lanes. We need a protected stretch on Cedar Ave through the Minnehaha/Franklin/Cedar/20th Ave interchange down to 24th St with signage directing bikers right on 24th St or left to the Little Earth bridge.

Streets that have slow moving

Streets that have slow moving car traffic along with pedestrians and cyclists are what we should be aspiring to, not mucking up with weird backwards-moving bike traffic.

Can every road be so slow?

I agree. But can every road be so slow?

We still need a lot of 35 or 45 or 50 mph roads for people driving to get places efficiently and I'm not sure we can clog these up with a bunch of people riding bicycles and taking or blocking the lane at 11 mph. As well, bicycle riders shouldn't be shunted off to side streets. They should be able to ride to destinations efficiently without having to stop at every junction and they should be able to ride safely to any destination not just those on side streets.

It's more than just speed though, it's volume and type of driver as well. Slow speeds (typically 18 mph) combined with very low traffic volumes and drivers who are going to or coming from local destinations works well. High traffic volumes, even at low speeds, is still quite uncomfortable for most people. Drivers who are at the beginning or end of their journey are also more patient and cautious.

Re: "We still need a lot of 35 or 45 or 50 mph roads..."

Re: "We still need a lot of 35 or 45 or 50 mph roads..."
No, we don't. Those are stroads. The futon of transportation alternatives. They fail to create place (as a street) and they fail to move people truly fast (as a road). While I agree with you on the value of good separated bicycle infrastructure, we really ought to eliminate the vast majority of stroads with speed limits of 35 to 50 MPH. We need to figure out what they truly are - a street, or a road - and then let them be that.

Chuck Marohn has an excellent post about this, "A 45 MPH World."

"In the United States, we've built a 45 mile per hour world for ourselves. It is truly the worst of all possible approaches. ... Between our neighborhoods, towns and cities we have built STROADS that are encumbered with intersections, vehicles turning across traffic, merging cars and people taking routine local trips. These are not fast, safe and efficient corridors." (I may add- even for motor vehicles)

Not necessary?

I don't think we can slow that many cars down that much nor should we nor is it necessary if we build reasonably well designed protected bikeways.

Suburban to Urban biking

Agencies responsible for promoting bicycling need to start informing the first ring suburban residents about developments. I live in Fridley. I had to intuit what a bike boulevard was when I came upon my first signage and do not know where they exist. (These boulevards are needed in the suburbs to bike into the Twin Cities and their bike lanes. I had to figure out my own boulevards to get down Central Avenue to where the bike lanes begin.)

Before reading this article, I would have had no idea of the function of the green stripes if I came upon them.

I will not use any bike path that places me riding in the left lane opposing traffic. I have had too many close calls with drivers pulling into an intersection after looking left for oncoming traffic and overlooking that a bicyclist might be coming from the right. I've even done this and I am an avid bicyclist.

It seems that Minneapolis,

It seems that Minneapolis, where it snows in the winter, might begin its program of establishing protected bike lanes with the question of how do we dispose of the snow on the bike lanes? And, what protections fit? is the second question.

This article says there's a problem with plows damaging the flexible bollards, so that's a No Go, apparently, for a snowy city. A solid anything--concrete barrier, planter, curb--between right-side bike lanes and cars flowing along with them, would be problematic for current plows. Will there be a whole new platoon of tiny plows just for protected bike lanes? It seems that the new lines on Park and Portland--if you can fix the turning/intersection issue--is the way to go: You can plow clean, and the lines provide nice buffering for bikes.

What do they do, with snow, in Montreal, Oslo, Stockholm, parts of Germany, and so forth?

Great points. Most snowy

Great points. Most snowy winter environments do have smaller plows/blowers for bikeways, paths, sidewalks, etc. I believe Shoreview has 3 of them, Vadnais Heights has one, Minneapolis I think has 15, etc. Amsterdam has something like 40.

What people in northern Europe seem to have found is that curb delineated cycletracks work best. When possible they'll keep enough separation to allow some piling of snow between the motor lanes and cycletrack but if that's not possible they'll follow the motor plows with cycletrack plows. Stockholm has been experimenting with using the heat from sewer systems to warm the cycletracks. Interestingly, Finland will often pack snow in to a rideable surface instead of plow or blow it.

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/clearing-the-streets-of-sn...
https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/how-to-make-cycling-possib...

BTW, The Winter Cycling Congress 2016 will be held in Minneapolis: http://wintercyclingcongress2016.org

You forget an important

You forget an important point: plastic delineators (not bollards) don't protect anything--they just delineate slightly better than paint. And as many have pointed out are ugly---and do we really believe they will be replaced in a timely fashion? Particularly as we add 30 miles(!) of these useless eyesores to our fair city????

Minnesotans need to learn to live in cities

Most of the complaints about the protected bike lanes are less about their design and more about their location in some of the densest, most urban parts of the city. MN's roadway system is designed to allow drivers to not look before turning, so of course they fail to yield to bikeway traffic. They fail to yield to bike lane traffic too. Similarly, cyclists who are annoyed by pedestrians straying into protected bike lanes or motorists pulling through them or parking in them need to understand that this is typical urban behavior - it happens in painted bike lanes downtown, and in Holland, too. There's never going to be a bikeway on a downtown street that is like biking on the Midtown Greenway.

Isn't it mostly design?

Painted bike lanes are indeed a problem in The Netherlands, though not nearly so much as here. Even so, this is why they have moved away from painted bike lanes to protected bike lanes. Drivers are usually hesitant to mount a curb to park or drive in one. Wouldn't designing with cement curbs or planters instead of paint work?

What if junctions were designed so that when people had a green (or white, so confusing) to cross then motor traffic had reds that prevented or at least told them not to cross?

This seems a huge difference in U.S. traffic engineers and those elsewhere. Here they say that if only people obeyed all of the regulations and always looked where they are going and looked for people walking or riding bicycles then we wouldn't have the highest road fatality rates of all developed countries. This is very true. Every crash and fatality report I've read except one (brake line broke) was caused by someone disobeying a rule or not paying attention.

In Northern Europe and elsewhere the engineers say that we're designing a system for humans. Humans are quite fallible and make lots of mistakes and do stupid s... things. We need to design a system that accounts for human fallibility and doesn't rely on human perfection.

What to do about the cars?

Most of the people on the road today haven't looked at a driver's manual in many years. I am a cyclist and I sometimes ride on the roads but more often on trails in the park system. When I first saw these strange new lines appearing on the roadways, I was very confused about how -- as a driver -- I was supposed to respond. I've figured it out now, and am very careful to watch for cyclists. But there is a need for drivers to be informed and educated about bike lanes and what to expect from cyclists and what drivers are supposed to do. Yah, I know, many drivers can't even handle a simple 4-way stop intersection, let alone an "uncontrolled" intersection. But it does help to at least be told what the proper behavior is; right now many drivers just don't know.

If drivers can't figure out how to navigate roundabouts...

...I have little to no confidence in their ability to properly decipher the multitude of bike lanes we're throwing at them. Maybe more consistency about how the bikes lanes are protected and marked? More green paint would definitely help - especially in DT Mpls.

Good point

It seems like these various and sundry lanes just appear and we're supposed to "know" how to drive around them, there's ZERO introduction or educational outreach. For instance over by Lake Harriet these chevrons with bicycles appeared on some of the streets and frankly I still don't know what the point of that is. Presumably it means cyclist can ride there as if it's a lane of some kind but we've always been able to ride our bicycles on the streets, and in these locations the traffic levels don't warrant any special designation, I've never even seen a cyclist on some of these streets. And from a safety perspective you don't want to put cyclists going 16 mph in front of cars going to 30 mph in any event so I just don't get it. I mean, does this mean if I come across a cyclist in the middle of a street that has no chevrons painted on it I can go ahead and run them down?

One advantage to the physically separated lanes is that they require little interpretation, it's pretty obvious to everyone where they're supposed to be and how to drive around them.

Kind of interesting window on US cyclist attitudes

This article provokes a conversation that give us a little window into the unique character of US cycling. You see tensions between cyclists and drivers that simply don't exist for the most anywhere else.

We have a significant number of cyclists who mistake attitude for experience or expertise. Vehicular riding, "taking" lanes etc. tells us more about attitude and personality than safe or even reasonable cycling. My experience is that these riders are in more frequent conflict with traffic and drivers yet seem to think they're the only cyclist in America who know what they're doing. I'm not saying no one should ever do some of the things these riders do, but they have no monopoly on experience or expertise and frequently appear to go out their way to ride problematically.

The character of riders in the US is also quite different, for the most part for a variety of reasons I won't go into, US cyclists are preoccupied with speed. We had a young woman comment here that she almost got hit by a car making a left hand turn, she saw a green light and kept flying in her bike lane. Stepping back from this specific anecdote cyclist in America have to approach every intersection with caution, either slowing down or being prepared for the unexpected, you can't ride a bike the same way you drive a car. Cars and truck collide with each other by the thousands in American intersections every day. It's simply unreasonable to expect that bicycles will be less inclined to collisions no matter what kind of lanes or designs we build, meanwhile the consequences for cyclist are far more severe. A fender bender in car can be a fatal encounter for a cyclist, in other words, it will never just be about a green light for a cyclists, no matter what kind of lanes build... unless we start installing special lights for cyclists, and even then, drivers will always run lights.

I'm also puzzled by all the experimentation when there are multiple examples of good cycling infrastructure around the world but one thing we have to keep in mind is that the Netherlands for example a very very different physical environment. The cars and cyclists there all drive in a very different culture on different streets. Some of their designs may not transfer to US streets and intersections. If you look at this video for instance you a dramatic difference between a Dutch intersection and any intersection anywhere in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqwDVaIbjbo

Note: You don't see a single road bike (bike with drop down handles), stitch of spandex, or a bike helmet. EVERYONE is going slower, every cyclists enters the intersection with caution, no one just blows through. AND note the traffic mix, just when you think it can't get more diverse a street car pulls up with no bells or alarms or traffic barriers. There are a variety of reasons for this, for one thing the streets in Europe tend to be hundreds of years old, they haven't re-built them to specifically to accomodate cars.

You can look at a different intersection on a more modern street and you find the same characteristics:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XoATxJ-Qcg

The cars are driving faster but you don't see a single American style cyclists, the cyclists have a place to ride, and they ride where they're supposed to, following the rules. You don't see anyone even attempting to ride out in traffic, "taking" or "defending" lanes etc., and again, they're all riding at much slower speeds than you typically see in the US.

Good to know about protected lanes!

Well I would like to say this is just a beginning of a great start! Bicycling has been an enormous demand for cyclist for safe riding. Now the street bike lane in the winter season may be not remains 100% up for riding, and I think Minneapolis needed to come up with a better solution regarding this issue.

Other than this I admire the effort they are putting to make a very protected cycling riding path. Okay, now check this page- http://cyclingninja.com/bicycle-safety-tips/

In the visual first few stats are all about unprotected cycling caused huge amount of accidents every year, so I hope this protected lane will make a difference.

Safe is always very important.

I think protected bike lanes always are very important for the cyclist. So the actions of Minneapolis is a great idea. When the idea is successful, I think many cities will do and especially bike community in
Minneapolis will proud of this idea.
Besides, everyone should be aware of safety when riding, you can read some tips by check this page
http://www.coolcycling.net/tips-better-cycling/