Minn. bicycle route planners seek public comment

Bicycle commute
Jana Velo bikes from her home in south Minneapolis to the Midtown Global Market in January 2014.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News File

A workshop Wednesday in St. Cloud kicks off a series of nine statewide meetings that will allow Minnesotans to share their experiences on bike routes on state roads, and what improvements they need.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will collect information for the Statewide Bicycle System Plan and take it into consideration when starting a road project, according to Greta Alquist, transportation planner for MnDOT's bicycle and pedestrian section. That could include things like making a more bikeable shoulder, or painting lines to better accommodate bikers, she said.

"One of the really important pieces of the plan will be to create maps, available to all MnDOT staff, to identify what we heard from the public workshops and from the online survey and map," Alquist said. "So that when we're getting ready to do a project, we're at least aware, early enough in the process, of what the needs or wants are in terms of bicycling."

The idea of developing this statewide bicycle plan came out of a recommendation from a 2012 MnDOT bicycle planning study. That study involved looking overall at what's working and what's not in integrating biking into transportation, and for MnDOT to work with its partners to identify what resources are needed to make improvements, Alquist said.

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The statewide bicycle plan is expected to collect more detailed information -- on where people want to add bike routes, see improvements on current routes, and what their experience has been biking on state roads.

The four components of the workshops will aim to determine where people want to see longer-distance bike routes, what improvements can be made on their local bike network, what types of facilities do people feel comfortable biking on, and where to prioritize funding, Alquist said. The goal is to also learn what destinations people want to reach on their bikes, and what highways affect their biking experience.

MnDOT's has set aside $15 million a year for bike improvements over the next 10 years, according to Alquist. That doesn't include other funding sources, she added.

Other workshops are scheduled for Granite Falls, Fergus Falls, Mankato, Bemidji, Duluth, Rochester, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Along with the workshops, people can fill out an online survey, or map problem routes.

A draft of the plan is expected near the end of the year, Alquist said.