The Metropolitan Council and MnDOT are undertaking a regional Bicycle System Master Study to improve the region’s network of on-road and off-road facilities. The study, scheduled to conclude in early 2014, will provide the technical basis for updating the region’s Transportation Policy Plan bicycle chapter. The three main products from this study will include:
A proposed set of regional bikeway corridors and regional critical links
A proposed update to the Regional Bicycle System map.
A defined methodology and framework for monitoring the performance of the regional bicycle system.
The Minneapolis Saint Paul region is fortunate to have a large and well-developed network for bicycling. The Twin Cities has embraced bicycling to a greater extent than similarly-sized cities in North America; Minneapolis has been ranked consistently at first or second in the nation for its bicycle-friendly culture, infrastructure, and innovation. Despite its harsh winters, the city has about a 4% commute mode share for biking, which has been found to be as high as 10% in some neighborhoods. The state and region have made investment decisions that reflect relatively strong levels of support for a safe and usable bicycle system. The system consists of an expanding network of off-road trails, as well as a growing network of on-road facilities that include dedicated and advisory bike lanes, bike boulevards, and signed bicycle routes.
In looking at the bikeway system today, a clear pattern emerges with fairly well-connected bicycle trails in the newer suburban communities that developed since the 1980s, several important regional trails that connect regional parks as well as destinations in the urban core (e.g., Midtown Greenway, Cedar Lake Regional Trail, Luce Line Regional Trail, Mississippi River Trail) and an expanding network of on-road facilities in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Edina. The first suburbs, settled between 1950 and 1980, are the least bicycle-friendly areas because trails were not built when the streets were developed and street networks were designed with little consideration for bicycling or walking. The region also has numerous barriers to bicycle travel such as rivers, major arterials, freeways, and active rail corridors.
The Metropolitan Council plays a primary role in policy development and planning for the regional system of bikeways and trails. Council policies influence the development of regional trails through the Parks Department’s coordinating role overseeing the regional parks system. The Council, together with its Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) of elected officials, citizen representatives, and modal advocates, make up the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The MPO is responsible for long-range transportation planning and programming of federal transportation funds for the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan region. The Council has a limited, yet influential role in bicycle system implementation through the biennial regional solicitation for federal funding of locally-planned bicycle facilities.
The goal of this study is to develop a better understanding of the bicycle component of the metropolitan transportation system and to use this improved understanding to more proactively guide its continued development in the next update to the region’s long range transportation plan (Transportation Policy Plan) beginning in 2013.The current Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) is primarily focused on increasing connectivity and removing barriers for bicycle travel. However, the region lacks a baseline understanding of the current bicycle transportation network and how it functions. As a result, it is difficult for planning agencies to evaluate the potential effectiveness of proposed investments to improve the network by providing safer and more user friendly facilities.
The purpose of this study is to develop a more complete understanding of the regional bicycle transportation network and how it functions, particularly with respect to on-road routes and facilities. The focus of this study will be on the bicycle transportation commute, but recreational cycling trips will also be considered. The study is using a newly developed inventory of regional bikeways to:
Evaluate the connectivity of the existing bicycle transportation network
Define the role of regional bicycle corridors and regional critical links
Define a set of proposed regional bikeway corridors
Evaluate the relative importance of regional bikeway corridors, including network barriers and missing links
Develop a methodology framework for monitoring the performance of the regional bicycle transportation system on an ongoing basis.
The Bicycle System Master Study is being advised by a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) comprised of local experts in bicycle and general transportation planning. This PAC includes bicycle planning professionals from MnDOT, Metropolitan Council, University of Minnesota, several city and county representatives, bicycle advocacy group members, and one or more members of the Transportation Advisory Board’s Technical Advisory Committee or subcommittees. A Project Management Team (PMT) consisting of staff from interagency partners oversees the technical details and work tasks of the study consultant team. Feedback from the public will be solicited at key decision points during the study period.
The Master Study is jointly managed by Met Council and MnDOT Metro District planning staff. A series of technical memoranda will be developed that identify regional bicycle travel corridors and provide an analysis of barriers, connectivity, and bikeability along those corridors, as well as a framework for measuring the performance of the regional bicycle system over time. The analysis and recommendations that emerge from the Master Study effort will inform the development of a Metropolitan Bicycle System Plan for inclusion in the next Transportation Policy Plan; the TPP update process began in early 2013 and will continue through 2014. The recommendations from the Bicycle Master Study will also inform the development of MnDOT’s Metro District Bicycle Plan which will commence in summer 2013.