Letter to the Editor - February 2010

How do we get out of a car safely in downtown Minneapolis?  The new bike lane renovation in downtown Minneapolis is not compatible with wheelchairs, especially with side-loading vehicles. Unloading a wheelchair into a bike lane is a hazard to both the bicyclist and also the wheelchair rider. The protruding wheelchair lift is dangerous to the cyclist. After the wheelchair passenger is on the ground, without a curb cut, the person with the disability must share the bicycle lane with the bike traffic. All of this creates a recipe for disaster.

Who is at fault in the event of an accident? A bicycle officer said “bikers must be aware” but the actual fault is still unclear. The bicyclist would always have to be on alert for slow-moving wheelchairs.

Is the disabled person always in the right? Or not?

Must bicycles be required to yield to wheelchairs? As a wheelchair user myself, I felt uneasy in the bike lane. As Ron’s attendant, I too felt uncomfortable walking along sides of cars between the curb and Ron.

The officer did say it was “a work in progress” and admitted it needed modifications. As concerned citizens, we should call Minneapolis Public Works at 311 with our opinions.

Ron Franke
Rebecca Cashin
 
Editor’s note: The writers are referring to a street redesign in downtown Minneapolis, which was completed in late 2009. New bike lanes were added on some streets, including 1st Ave and Hennepin Ave.  More details about the street redesign can be found on the Minneapolis Public Works home page, at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/public-works/

 

Here is a response from Minneapolis Public Works:

First, Public Works would like to thank folks for their patience as we work to make the new Hennepin and 1st Avenue layouts as successful as possible for people. That work is ongoing and addressing access for people with disabilities is very much a part of that work.

The new layout of 1st Avenue is unique in many respects, and was designed to meet the needs of many different modes of transportation.  Because the layout is new for Minneapolis, we knew there would be challenges and recognized that following the change, there would still be issues to be resolved in the way the street functions.

Access for wheelchairs and side-loading vehicles is one key area where the new arrangement causes challenges. Making Minneapolis easy to get around for everyone is one of Public Works’ top priories, and we’re taking this issue seriously. Although there are no easy solutions, we are continuing to explore any options we have to increase accessibility on 1st Avenue.

As part of that, Public Works is planning to meet with the Minneapolis Advisory Council on People with Disabilities to discuss the extent of this problem and get feedback on how we might address it. We’ll also be doing more observation and data collection on the new arrangement in the spring.

Thanks for working with us to address this issue as we make Minneapolis a better place to live, work and play.

Steve Mosing, Traffic Operations Engineer
City of Minneapolis, Department of PublicWorks