Last year, in a small and slightly overgrown garden at the intersection where Bryant Avenue South curves eastward to avoid the Hennepin-Lyndale interchange at the top of The Wedge and link up with the bicycle bridge across Lyndale Avenue South. A cold, wet wind swept south over the tangled mass of concrete and cars, but that didn't depress the crowd, who enthusiastically whooped at the official opening of the Bryant Avenue Bicycle Boulevard.
As I wrote at the time, the Bicycle Boulevard improvements were meant to provide a safer, north-south route for bicycle commuters—and get them out of drivers' hair by attracting them off other north-south streets:
The northern end of Byrant Avenue South has been formally designated a bicycle route for several years, but the newly installed signs and road markings extended the route deep into Southwest Minneapolis to 58th Street. Central to the improvements are high-visibility "sharrow" markings (short for "share the road arrows") installed at regular intervals in the pavement. In addition, the city has expanded curbs at several corners along Bryant to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, and a median at the intersection of Franklin and Bryant avenues to help cyclists on Bryant cross busy Franklin.
And now, according to the Southwest Journal, the city wants to find out how its attempted bicycle-automobile compromise is working by ambushing commuters with paper-toting surveyors (more details here).
Those of you who see me regularly know I usually forego the car, so I can't comment on the Bike Boulevard's impact on drivers. However, I'm consistently underwhelmed by the supposed boon it was intended to give to cyclists.
Maybe because I'm the kind of guy who stops for every stop sign and red light—unlike many bikers around here—but having to deal with that many mandatory halts is incredibly frustrating. To cyclists, momentum is everything when it comes to trying to ensure quick trips. Throw in the teeth-rattling state of the Bryant Avenue pavement, and I find myself hard-pressed to resist the pull of Lyndale Avenue, with its long chains of green lights and smooth ribbons of new asphalt.
I bet, though, that I'm in the minority. I hardly ever come across a fellow biker on Lyndale, but Bryant seems filled with my compatriots. So I'm throwing it out to you folks: Why is Bryant so popular with bikers? Does it still work for drivers?