Marshall opts to remove dedicated bike lanes on city streets
MARSHALL — Things can be a tight squeeze for drivers and cyclists on some Marshall streets, Marshall City Council members said. In parts of the city, traffic lanes, parking lanes and bike lanes are all present on the same road.
Council members also learned Tuesday that the arrangement didn’t meet state standards. The council voted to replace on-street bike lanes with symbols indicating a shared traffic lane for bikes and cars.
“They’re not dedicated bike lanes anymore. They’re kind of more ‘share the road’ type of symbols,” City Engineer Jason Anderson said.
Earlier this year, staff from District 8 of the Minnesota Department of Transportation reviewed plans for a resurfacing on state aid streets in Marshall, Anderson said. MnDOT staff found that Marshall’s on-street bike lanes did not meet standards for state aid routes.
“Because we get state aid funding for our state aid routes, we do have to meet certain standards for lane widths,” said Anderson. “Parking lanes, bike lanes, travel lanes, they all have written rules for widths and sizes.”
Those rules say that travel, parking and bike lanes can’t all be at the minimum width on the same stretch of street, Anderson said.
“And in pretty much all of our locations, or at least most of them, we have that situation going on,” he said.
Marshall could pursue one of a few different options to correct the situation, Anderson said. Some options, like widening the streets, removing the on-street bike routes, or reducing parking to one side of the street, weren’t recommended by city staff.
One possibility would be to apply for a variance from the state, he said.
“If we want to go that route, we need to get our application in pretty soon, he said.
Another option would be to remove the dedicated bike lanes on city streets, and instead paint shared lane symbols, or “sharrows,” to mark bike routes, Anderson said. This option would allow for driving lanes 14 feet wide and parking lanes that are generally 8 feet wide, instead of the current 7 feet. The shared lane symbols, which look like a bike and two chevrons, would be painted in the driving lane 11 feet from the curb. The symbols would be closer to the curb in places where there is no parking lane.
“Staff would recommend that we go forward with painting the shared use lanes,” Anderson said. Bike lane signs on the affected streets would also be changed to “bike route” signs.
Council members did have some concerns about the proposal.
“My only concern with sharrows is education of drivers,” said council member Steven Meister. “They’re already clueless when we have bike lanes. I mean, I’ve almost gotten hit multiple times, and I follow the rules of the road. Sharrows are going to be that much more dangerous. I would actually say do the variance, and use the sharrow as a second option,” he said.
Council member James Lozinski said the council’s public improvement and transportation committee had discussed that, as well. However, he said the option with the “sharrows” could make the streets a little more usable.
“The seven-foot parking lane is useless. You can’t put your vehicle in a seven-foot lane, and we shrink our driving lanes down,” Lozinski said. “I think this is a good option to fit in with state regulations, and give us a decent parking lane again. And it may take a couple years to educate our public, but we need to do that.”
Lozinski and Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes both agreed with Meister that more education for drivers and cyclists would be needed.
“The reality is right now, during a lot of the year and when bikes aren’t present, you do have traffic veering in or is on the bike lanes,” Byrnes said. “The shared use of that lane, with adequate marking, could even be a better situation than we have right now.”
Council members voted to replace the dedicated bike lanes with shared lane markings.