whiteboard rendering of design concepts near Grand Avenue

Our Streets Minneapolis has been advocating to re-shape Lyndale Avenue S as part of our new initiative, County Streets for People. We are asking Hennepin County–the entity responsible for this street–do the bare minimum: a 4-3 conversion to improve safety on the corridor. However, Lyndale Ave S is just one example of a much larger systemic issue around how Hennepin County approaches street design.

It’s not just Lyndale Ave that doesn’t put people first—it’s also E Lake Street, W Broadway Ave, Lowry Ave NE, E Franklin Ave, and many other streets owned and operated by Hennepin County in Minneapolis. To achieve our equity, climate and traffic safety goals, we need to change the entire system. Here are some major issues with how street design decisions are made today by the County.

Today, residents in Minneapolis have very little control or understanding about how Hennepin County streets are designed or operated. We don’t know if our input is taken seriously and we don’t know if our needs are being put first. 

For example—when Our Streets Minneapolis organized for narrower lane widths on upcoming plans to reconstruct E Franklin Ave, the response from the County was not to reduce lane widths but to remove all marked dimensions on concept plans so we couldn’t see what the widths were.

In their latest designs, Hennepin County didn’t clearly label the car lane widths. But, some quick math tells us many of their designs include car lanes greater than 10 ft.

Join us on March 5th as we re-iterate that 11, 12, & 13 ft car travel lanes are too wide. pic.twitter.com/3tQtWBwgtT— Our Streets Minneapolis (@OurStreetsMpls) February 18, 2020

Reducing delay for people in cars is still being used as a major guiding principle for roadway operation on Hennepin County streets. This is a problem, because that means we continue to prioritize car movement on Hennepin County streets. This means that it becomes harder to bike, walk and roll and decreases safety for these modes.

Car-centric Hennepin County streets also disproportionately cut through communities of color. Native and Black residents of Minneapolis are at much higher risk of being hit by a car. It is not clear that these disparities are being taken into account when Hennepin County designs streets.

We need to change this system. Here’s what needs to happen:

  • Hennepin County public works needs to engage communities long before plans are put forward—including using community input to shape the purpose and need of the project. How exactly community input will be used must be made clear to those participating in any engagement effort.
  • Racial disparities in traffic crashes must be acknowledged in street design, and removing those disparities must become a central goal of each project.
  • The role of driving in climate change must be acknowledged and each project needs to have a goal to reduce driving–instead of the current goals of accommodating driving demand reducing delay for cars.
  • We must move away from car-centric metrics like Level of Service (LOS) and instead focus on providing transportation choice for people.

We have seen Hennepin County move forward with excellent initiatives—for instance, recognizing that racism is a public health crisis, as well as the creation of a plan to take action on climate change. These initiatives must include changing our system of transportation decision-making so that it puts people first. Our County Streets for People campaign is organizing to do just that. Join us as we build this movement.