In 2009, the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County installed bike lanes along First Avenue, near Target Center and Target Field. These bike lanes are designed to make downtown Minneapolis more biker friendly. The lanes are great because businesses in the area could benefit from bike traffic plus they could reduce car traffic. But, these lanes are causing a major problem. There is one word to describe how these bike lanes are affecting wheelchair-equipped vehicles: obstruction.
The bike lanes are located near the curb side, where handicap vehicles need to drop-off a passenger in a wheelchair. The lane is three to four feet wide and there is no room for the ramp to come down — a wheelchair ramp would fall just in front of the curb. This would mean a wheelchair would need to jump the curb! This maneuver would be impossible and/or dangerous if a power wheelchair was involved. The only way to remove a wheelchair from a vehicle is to park in the bike lane and move after unloading. This doesn’t seem ADA appropriate.
For example, last weekend I went to Target Field with a friend to buy Twins tickets. When we parked on First Avenue, we parked in the lane and unloaded fast before a traffic cop could yell at us. My friend then moved the van back across the line. We had to do the same thing loading me back in. Last year, the same friend and I parked on First Avenue while we went to Target Field’s pro shop and a traffic cop yelled at my friend for parking in the restricted lane. My friend ignored the cop’s warning because we couldn’t do anything different to load me into the van.
The city of Minneapolis has to change something about the lanes on First Avenue. It is not acceptable to obstruct handicap vehicles. There are two options: make a designated area for handicap vehicles on streets that have bike lanes or traffic cops could give people with handicap vehicles an exception. I hope lawmakers do this to be in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. Bike lanes should not be allowed to obstruct special-equipped vehicles from unloading and loading passengers with special needs.
In the meantime, beware of traffic cops!
Written by: Michael L. Sack