I attended the RiverLake Greenway grand opening last Saturday, helping with an activity site and checking out the new route.
First: What is a Bicycle Boulevard?
Wikipedia offers a good working definition of bicycle boulevard:
A bicycle boulevard is a low speed street which has been optimized for bicycle traffic. Bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic, but typically allow local motor vehicle traffic.
A boulevard can include formal bike lane striping, sharrows, or just traffic-calming to discourage through traffic. The new RiverLake Greenway offers all of the above.
One thing to know about this Greenway is that the whole route has not been subject to traffic calming. From West River Parkway to Nokomis Avenue, the Greenway follows 42nd Street. This route has long been a popular bike route, with some caveats. Sharrows have been painted along the way, with a few sections of striped bike lane. However, 42nd Street is what it has always been: A residential through-street where trucks are allowed. The street is a major truck route, and the traffic along the way reflects this.
Some snappy new signs have been added along 42nd, including signs at Minnehaha directing cyclists to Minnehaha Falls and Park, as well as the Midtown Greenway — which is a protected bikeway.
Past Nokomis Avenue, the route jogs over to 40th Street, where many more traffic calming measures can be seen.
New concrete barriers direct local traffic off 40th Street onto cross-streets, and eliminate the use of 40th as a through street:
Where concrete barriers exist for vehicles, curb cuts allow bicycles to use 40th as a through street. Pedestrians are also accommodated, with the concrete sections allowing refuge when crossing busier streets, like Chicago, Nicollet and Portland.
The Greenway goes through to Kings Highway, where it connects to the Minneapolis Lakes Area paths and bike routes. Users can also turn onto the Portland and Park Avenue bike lanes if those routes are desirable for their final destination.
Via the RiverLake Greenway, many connections can be made to neighborhood businesses, schools, churches and parks.
Community Impact of a Bicycle Boulevard
Some of the neighbors are delighted by the traffic-calming impact on the street. One group decorated their home and set up out front to celebrate the grand opening. I spoke to them for a bit, and they said that the impact on the street was nearly magical — no more drag racing, no more people trying to use 40th as a through street at higher speeds. The boulevard is calming their neighborhood.