The Nice Ride bicycles have left for the season, but bike lanes remain open in Minneapolis. Wide open, as cold weather and slippery conditions make bicycle commuters scarce.
During my morning commute on Tuesday, there was not a single bicyclist using the 28th Street bike lane between Hennepin and Portland avenues S. Meanwhile, vehicle traffic was in gridlock in the adjacent vehicle lanes.
A downside to bicycle lanes is that they come at the expense of existing traffic lanes, thereby increasing congestion for vehicles. This is especially apparent on 26th Street and 28th Street in south Minneapolis, where traffic slowed to a crawl on Tuesday.
These bike lanes were opened shortly before the nearby Franklin Avenue bridge was closed for construction, redirecting additional traffic onto 26th and 28th. For local Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children’s Hospital, the gridlock has major implications because patients are transported to the hospitals and clinics via vehicles including ambulances, Metro Mobility and, in the case of pediatric patients, rides from their parents.
Minneapolis is often recognized as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. We should be proud of this recognition because there are many benefits to bicycles, including better health, decreased carbon emissions and fewer vehicles if commuters use bicycles instead.
However, in reality, bicycle commuters are greatly outnumbered by drivers, and this is especially so during the winter in Minneapolis.
As traffic inched along during my morning commute this week, I wondered what would happen if an ambulance needed to get to the hospital. I suppose it could drive along the empty bike path. Even so, I believe the bike lane on 28th Street is counterproductive and should be discontinued.
There are overwhelming demands on the vehicle lanes in this area due to the Franklin Avenue bridge closure, transport to busy nearby medical facilities and reduced demand for bike lanes during winter.
Geoffrey Emerson is a physician in Minneapolis.