Lately, a few major streets in downtown Minneapolis have undergone changes and some travelers are having a difficult time getting used to the new layout.
About a month ago, Hennepin and First Avenues were converted from one-way, to two-way streets. The city made the switch on a weekend morning in order to minimize problems. City officials say so far the conversion has gone well, with a few exceptions.
"At first the cars were all parked, basically in the bike lanes," said Sophie St. Jacques on her bicycle as she prepared to continue north down First Avenue.
The new bike lane lies between the curb and a row of parked cars, so drivers have to get used to parallel parking several feet from the curb. St. Jacques, who lives downtown and frequently uses her bike to run errands, is hoping drivers catch on to the new layout soon.
"There's only a few signs saying there's a bike lane," she said. "So probably a lot of cars are not even aware, really. It's such a new change and cars are used to not having a bike lane."
At the Block E Jimmy Johns sandwich shop, several bicycle delivery guys loaded their saddlebags before hitting the streets.
J.D. has been delivering sandwiches for six months and he said the First Avenue bike lane brings him dangerously close to people getting out of cars and trucks loading and unloading.
"I hit a guy walking and almost ran straight into a van today," he said. "Yeah, it's tough. I think it's maybe not the best idea."
Project engineer Jenifer Loritz said the old bike lane that ran right down the middle of Hennepin Avenue was clearly not safe for cyclists.
"There was a lot of data showing that bicyclists were being hit by left-turning vehicles," Loritz said. "The bike lanes were in a location that wasn't the norm and wasn't expected, so there were some safety concerns."
City officials believe the new layout is safer - but realize it will take some getting used to. Loritz said traffic officers issued 274 citations in the first three weeks of the switch - mostly to drivers blocking bike lanes.
"We figured it would take a good month for people to really have this sink in and for them to understand it and for traffic to settle into new patterns, and that's about where we're at," Loritz said. "That's why we have slated for the next couple weeks; we've got staff members who'll actually be out along both of these corridors doing traffic counts and observations."
Loritz said the change was not designed to cut down on traffic jams along Hennepin and along First Avenue. The switch was initiated by downtown business owners and managers who wanted to increase access to the many restaurants and nightclubs located on First and on Hennepin.
A few blocks to the east of Hennepin, work is almost done on the redesign of Marquette Ave. and 2nd Ave. south. The project began last August and has been a major disruption for auto and pedestrian traffic.
Project manager Bill Fellows said construction crews widened the sidewalks, narrowed the streets and added more than 200 new trees. He said bus commuters will benefit the most from the project.
"Prior to this project buses had to move in single file, so the fastest bus was only as fast as the slowest bus," Fellows said. "Now, with two lanes, buses will be able to pull out around buses that are stopped."
The two-lane bus ways are for buses only. So they will not have to compete with auto traffic - which should make rush hour a little easier on people who drive their cars along the two streets.
Fellows said bus commuters will also enjoy the addition of 30 heated shelters that will also feature displays with real-time arrival and departure schedules for buses.
Fellows said the shelters should be complete by the time the buses start running along Marquette and 2nd Avenues in mid December.