Hennepin County Plan Aims for Four-Fold Increase in Bike Commuting

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By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

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If you currently bicycle in Hennepin County, or would like to someday, you will want to review the recently released Hennepin County 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan: Safety and Comfort for All Ages and Abilities. The draft plan has ambitious goals for increasing the percent of trips by bicycle, for getting more women riding, and for reducing crashes. We urge all our readers to review the plan and support the county in this effort to increase investment and support for bicycling. The draft is out for public review and comment through December 5.

The focus of the plan is roads and trails in Hennepin County and also the trail systems owned and operated by Three Rivers Park District. The plan proposes to increase bicycle facilities by 21 miles each year: from 651 today to 1,187 miles in 2040. This annual growth would be a four-fold increase over the current level of bikeway implementation! About a third of the increased mileage is within the Three River’s system.

Currently 2.5 percent of trips taken in Hennepin County are by bicycle. This is twice the national average. In the last decade, trips by bike on the Three Rivers Park system trails doubled to 2.3 million trips in 2012. By building new facilities, providing better signage and lighting, and increasing education and enforcement, the county hopes to quadruple the number of bike commuters from 12,000 daily in 2014 to 48,000 in 2040.

Other major goals for bicycling contained in the plan are worth mentioning and include:

• Reducing crashes per-capita by half
• Increasing the percentage of women riding to half of all riders (up from only 30% now)
• Providing a bikeway within a half-mile of 90 percent of residences in Hennepin County
• Greatly increasing winter riding

For this expanded system to become a reality, Hennepin County will need to greatly increase the amount it invests in bicycle facilities and programs. The County currently invests less than $1 million per year in bikeways and the plan proposes investment of $6 million per year. That amount compares to approximately $50 million the County spends on roads and bridges annually. The plan proposes to consider additional investments in lighting and signage (page 49), promotion, education, and enforcement, but these costs ARE NOT estimated or included in the $6 million per year Hennepin County proposes to invest.

The plan also talks about the need for funding partners—typically cities—which could be a stumbling block for implementation. Cities receive very little state transportation funding compared to counties.

Recently there has been a lot of local discussion and planning for protected bikeways and cycle tracks. The plan contains good descriptions of each on page 33.

While the plan mentions bike sharing in a number of places and also talks briefly about equity, we want to see information on the community bike centers in Hennepin County: Spokes Bike Walk Connect and Venture North. The County can have a great bikeway network, but if county residents can’t afford a bike or have never learned to ride, they can’t use the system and they miss out on the health, social, and financial benefits of bicycling. We urge Hennepin County to add a section on community bike centers and commit to some level of county funding for their operations.

TLC would like to see more counties in Minnesota develop a bicycle plan like Hennepin County has done. Ramsey County also recently issued a plan for a bikeway system.

In developing its 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan, the County surveyed 2,700 people, and held 10 listening sessions and an open house.

Two more open houses will be held this month before the plan is finalized and adopted:

• Wednesday, November 5, 5-7:30 p.m. at Wayzata Library
• Thursday, November 13, 5-7:30 p.m. at Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center

Hennepin County will review all the comments that come in through December 5. Visit http://www.hennepin.us/bikeplan for more about the plan, including information on submitting your comments.

If you have questions about the plan, you can contact Kelley Yemen, Hennepin County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, at kelley.yemen@hennepin.us or 612-543-1963.