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New bike lane on First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis causing confusion

The conversion of Hennepin and First Avenues in downtown Minneapolis to two-way streets also brought changes in the bike lanes. And while the Hennepin Avenue lane is getting good reviews, many — both cyclists and drivers — have concerns about First Avenue, says a report from Minnesota Public Radio.

The First Avenue bike lane runs between the sidewalk curb and a lane of parked cars, so after parking, drivers have to cross the bike lane to feed the parking meters. But during rush hours and weekend nights, the parked car lane switches to a regular lane.

Says the report:

On Saturday afternoon, many drivers parked their cars partially in the bike lane. Some ignored the bike lane altogether, and parked right next to the meters. Many pedestrians stopped and looked curiously at the slew of new traffic signs above the street and on the sidewalk.

“I don’t think it’s intuitive to drivers that they can park in the middle of the street and walk across a bike lane to feed a meter,” said cyclist Bill Dooley. “It’s kind of an unusual design.”

Other cyclists expressed concern about not having enough space to avoid being hit when a passenger door opens, and about having to constantly watch out for pedestrians crossing into the bike lane.

Police started enforcing the new parking rules on Monday. So far, there have been two citations for cars parked in the bike lane and three citations for people parked during rush hour.

An unusual configuration? Yes, city officials agree.

“I don’t think that I’ve seen a street that has all those elements all together at the same time,” said Shaun Murphy, coordinator for the city’s Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program.

And he said some changes could be made, if needed.

“It’s going to take a little while for people to get used to these changes,” he said. “I would just encourage people to be patient as people get used to doing things in a new way.”

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