It is unfortunate that the Star Tribune published two anti-bike lane counterpoints (“Minneapolis bike lanes: Planning skirts one big thing: Common sense” and “Bike lane/parking tale should offer a warning”; May 16) without hearing from a different perspective. The writers insist, without proof, that they represent the majority, but numerous studies show they are wrong. In one example, a survey by Princeton University found that 83 percent of Americans support maintaining or increasing funding for sidewalks, bike lanes and bike paths.
I remember driving on Summit Avenue in St. Paul in the 1960s. It was four lanes in many places, and not uncommon for cars to reach 50 miles per hour. When bike lanes were proposed in the early 1990s, they met stiff resistance from residents citing many of the same concerns we’re now hearing about bike lanes on 38th Street in Minneapolis. The Summit lanes were installed in 1993, and today they are the spine of the east-west bike network in St. Paul with counts reaching 2,000 bikes per day in good weather. Traffic is much calmer, and many residents feel that the bike lanes are the best thing to happen to the avenue.
Proposed bike lanes are often initially opposed by residents and businesses who feel they may lose parking or be inconvenienced. They love bicycles, just somewhere else. And where would the lost customers go? Would they drive extra miles to big box retail where they might have to walk much farther?
Both bicyclists and motorists disobey traffic regulations. Studies show they do so at about the same rate, but there is a difference. Bicyclists who violate traffic laws tend not to endanger others. In contrast, drivers who speed, run traffic lights, and/or drive while distracted or impaired kill thousands of our neighbors every year.
Our roads take up an enormous acreage of public land, and they belong to everyone. They are not the property of car owners. There is no constitutional right to drive on the road or to park in front of one’s house or business. The Minneapolis Complete Streets Policy “emphasizes that planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance activities are carried out in a context-sensitive manner that is inclusive of all modes and users.” City leaders should be congratulated for carrying forward a program to make our city a safer and more pleasant place to live.
I encourage bike lane opponents to give it a chance. It is just possible that the calmer traffic and safer roadway will be seen as a benefit and attract more customers who might be more likely to arrive by bicycle. I would not be surprised. There are many examples of it.
Gregory C. Pratt lives in Minneapolis.