New bike lanes cause confusion, with cars parked directly in the path

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Every few minutes during his weekend shift at the Hub Bike Co-Op on the University of Minnesota campus, Anthony Ross sees a couple cyclists cruising down the new protected bike lanes along Oak Street.

And often times, he sees those cyclists have to maneuver around cars parked right in their path.

“There’s always somebody parking in the bike lane,” the 36-year-old bike mechanic told BringMeTheNews.

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Yes, even though there are plastic delineator posts and a wide double white line, drivers are pulling their car through the barriers and parking in a designated bike lane.

"We do have this issue with all bike projects that make a change to the parking, regardless of its a unique situation … or just a regular bike lane," Simon Blenski, a bicycle planner with the city, told BringMeTheNews.

Blenski, who has been with the Public Works department for about five years, is in charge of the Oak Street project, whose path stretches from Washington Avenue to East River Parkway.

He said the design on Oak Street – with "offset parking" outside of the bike lane, and the bike lane tucked right next to the curb – has been used in one other location so far, along a stretch of First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

When that went in, the city saw "a lot of violations," Blenski said.

But they eventually improved markings, and incorrect parking dropped off significantly.

Making it 'clear up front'

Having learned from that, Blenski says they tried to make the Oak Street project "clear up front."

So they included double-lines, the poles, and what he called parking "bays" – where the painted markings and bollards jut out, creating a parking lane that's separate from the driving lane. (You can see this on the right side of the top photo.)

The goal was to give people "more confidence" that parking away from the curb is indeed the correct decision, Blenski said.

But people "still just don’t get it," said Ross, who uses the lane every week.

According to Minneapolis city spokesperson Casper Hill, two vehicles have been ticketed since last Thursday for obstructing traffic along that stretch of Oak Street.

Blenski says they expect an adjustment period with this project – and are watching.

"Whenever there’s a change, it always takes people time to get used to it," he said. "But if it’s still going on after a couple weeks ... we do step up traffic enforcement."

Hill told BringMeTheNews the traffic authorities are looking at Oak Street to see if increased enforcement might be needed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7imwANUHDw

At this point, that bike lane project is basically complete, with just a couple small things to polish. So will the markings or signage change along Oak Street? Too early to say.

"The easy answer is always to put up another sign," he said, "but then we’d have a lot more signs and we already have a lot in the city."

You can see the full plan for Minneapolis' bike lane expansions here.

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