Board nixes Eighth Street bike lane
It appears that bicycle lanes won't be coming to Duluth's East Eighth Street any time soon.
On Friday morning, the Duluth Parking Commission rescinded an authorization to eliminate parking on the lower side of East Eighth Street between 19th Avenue East and the Chester Creek bridge near 15th Avenue East.
City staff had proposed to lose the parking to make way for dedicated bike lanes on Eighth Street, but they backed off that plan in the face concerns raised by local businesses and residents.
In a letter, Project Engineer Patrick Loomis informed people along the recently reconditioned street that striping for the bike lanes has been called off, at least for now.
"As Duluth continues to develop a comprehensive bike plan and network, there was concern that this striping layout may be premature in that bike plan process. As a result, the city will be returning to the existing layout as it is today — There will be one driving lane and one parking lane on each side of the street from Sixth Avenue East to Woodland Avenue. Bike lanes will not be installed at this time," he wrote.
In response to the city's change of course, parking commission members voted Friday morning to once again OK parallel parking on both sides of East Eighth Street.
Commissioners earlier had approved plans to eliminate the parking spots on the lower side of the street, but City Parking Operations Specialist Mark Bauer said they did so with the understanding "that this was really going to happen either way, as it was part of the larger bikeways plan."
That plan is being refined with help from the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council, said Jenn Reed Moses, a planner for the city of Duluth.
"We learned through the public meetings last year that everybody — from the businesses to the bicyclists that use the corridor — has questions about the plan that the city adopted a few years ago. A lot of the questions at that meeting focused on: Where does the bike route go to the west of the creek? And then, how does it cross Sixth Avenue East?" Reed Moses said.
"We would have been putting four blocks of bike lanes in, with nothing on either side." she said.
Moses Reed explained: "We want to make sure when we put bike infrastructure in that it's done with the right plan and in the right context, so that it really provides the facilities people need."
Bauer told parking commissioners Friday that public feedback likely played a role in putting the bike lanes on hold, too.
"City administration and the planning department have now changed their opinion on where to go with this, due to the rather robust negative feedback from the neighborhood, particularly the business owners in the area who claim that their opinions really weren't asked for or heard on the subject prior to the planned implementation of the plan. So they reversed direction," he said.
Bauer recommended to the commissioners Friday they reverse their prior approval of bicycle lanes on Eighth.
"It's really a formality on our part to do this, because basically it's just not going to happen," he said.
The commission concurred, passing a motion to rescind the bike lane plan without dissent.
Reed Moses said the matter of how to better handle bike traffic passing through the area still will need to be addressed, and she wouldn't rule out the possibility of revisiting the idea of bike lanes on East Eighth Street.
"We know that something is needed in that stretch of the Upper Hillside, and we know that it's going to need to connect from Sixth Avenue East all the way towards UMD. So this is still a contender. It's a popular street, and it connects to a lot of destinations, and it's on a transit route. So we always like when we can connect bike routes to transit routes and give people lots of choices when it comes to transportation," she said.