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Posts from the "Minneapolis" Category

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More Mayoral Results: Minneapolis, Houston, Boston

This week’s mayoral elections yielded good news for transit and safe streets in both Houston and Minneapolis. In Boston, meanwhile, the results are less straightforward.

Annise Parker, right, won her third term as Houston's mayor this week. She has been a proponent of safer streets. Image: Houston Tomorrow via Culture Map Houston

Transportation reformers in Minneapolis are generally pleased about the election of City Council member Betsy Hodges (runoff votes are still being counted, but the second-place contender has conceded). Hodges is a strong smart growth proponent and a supporter of the city’s streetcar plans. Some transit advocates are concerned her strong support for rail will mean less investment in buses. But she definitely speaks the livable streets language.

“In my vision of Minneapolis,” she told Streets.mn this fall, “our streets are for all residents of Minneapolis regardless of the mode of travel they choose. Our neighborhood commercial corridors should not be [our] raceways out of town, but vital destinations — in and of themselves.”

In addition, Minneapolis City Council candidates with strong transit bona fides also knocked off a few incumbents. Sam Newberg wrote today in Streets.mn that “now is the time to make some very real and meaningful changes to the development of our city.”

Meanwhile, Houston incumbent Mayor Annise Parker fought off two relatively conservative challengers to win her third term in the nation’s fourth-largest city. Parker, one of the country’s first openly gay mayors, recently instituted a complete streets policy in Houston by executive order. She has also helped move forward the city’s light rail system, building a diverse coalition around transit. Parker has been ranked as one of the country’s top 10 “green mayors.” She has promised to help make cycling safer in the city and joined in on some group rides.

In Boston, labor leader and state lawmaker Martin Walsh scored a surprise upset over City Councilor John Connolly in the race for mayor. Advocates in Beantown report that Connolly was clearly the more progressive choice on transportation. Connolly’s campaign featured bike rides around the city to highlight his complete streets plans; Walsh’s campaign focused more on bread-and-butter economic issues. Only three of the 12 mayoral candidates skipped a forum on transportation held by the nonprofit group Livable Streets in the run-up to the election, according to Boston Streets. Walsh was one of them.

While he’s not expected to be a visionary leader on transportation issues, there’s reason to think he’ll move the city in the right direction. He has stood for lower speed limits in urban areas. In his transportation plan, Walsh said his priorities include dedicated bus lanes in underserved areas and making neighborhoods more livable by improving conditions for walking and biking.

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Portland Back on Top in Bicycling Magazine’s City Rankings

Minneapolis versus Portland: This is shaping up to be quite a rivalry.

Portland rules in Bicycling Magazine's 2012 bike-friendly city rankings. Photo: Cycloculture

Today, Pacific coast sustainability standard bearer Portland topped Midwestern standout Minneapolis in Bicycling Magazine’s bike-friendly city rankings, bi-annual source of bragging rights or shame, depending on your locale.

The top-two results were a reversal of the 2010 rankings. Bicycling Magazine did not explain what boosted Portland but did mention the city’s stature as the only large city to receive the League of American Bicyclists’ “Platinum-Level” Bike Friendly City Award, as well as its tendency to be the earliest of early adopters when it comes to innovations like bike boxes (Portland had the nation’s first).

Meanwhile, Minneapolis recently snagged national bragging rights with its Bike Score — the new bikeability scoring system that the creators of Walk Score unveiled last week.

Overall, big cities enjoy a growing prominence in Bicycling’s top ten, reflecting a trend in bike-friendly political leadership in America’s major metropolises.

Read more…

StreetFilms 17 Comments

Minneapolis’s Midtown Greenway: Good for Bikes, Good for Business

In the increasingly heated competition to see who deserves the title of America’s most bike-friendly city, Minneapolis has plenty going for it. Last year Bicycling magazine anointed the city tops in the nation, knocking Portland off its long-held perch.

The Twin Cities are undergoing a steady transformation into a more bike-oriented region thanks to nearly 100 miles of greenways and off-street paths, giving residents safe and quick travel options. By far the best-known of those paths is the 5.7 mile long Midtown Greenway, which connects cyclists to destinations through the heart of Minneapolis, from east to west. As you’ll see, the path isn’t just giving people a great place to bike, walk, and run — it’s attracting development and new businesses as well.

Thanks to the Bikes Belong Foundation for funding this Streetfilm, our third in a series on innovations in Minneapolis.  Check out the Nice Ride MN and Sabo Bridge Streetfilms if you haven’t already!

StreetFilms 24 Comments

Breathtaking Bike Infrastructure: Minneapolis’s Martin Olav Sabo Bridge

In 2007, in order to route cyclists away from a challenging 7-lane crossing on busy Hiawatha Avenue, Minneapolis built the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge.

The first cable-stayed bridge of any kind in the state, it’s breathtaking, even to the people who have been riding it for years. It provides a safe, continuous crossing and offers up a glorious view of the downtown skyline (especially at sunset!). The sleek Hiawatha light rail line runs beneath it, and there are benches to sit on and take everything in.

Used by an average of 2,500 riders a day, peak use can hit 5,000 to 6,000 per day on some gorgeous summer weekends, according to Shaun Murphy of the Minneapolis Department of Public Works.

The bridge was named in honor of Minneapolis’ Martin Olav Sabo, a former U.S. Representative from the 5th District who helped secure much of the $5 million needed to build it. Thanks to the Bikes Belong Foundation for enabling us to feature this majestic piece of bike architecture and to show that investing is cycling and walking is well worth every penny for our communities.

StreetFilms 16 Comments

Nice Ride MN: Bike Share Expands in the Twin Cities

Nice Ride MN is a hit. The Twin Cities bike share recently celebrated its one year anniversary in June.  And in July they started an expansion by adding more stations and bicycles to the network.

We talked with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak about the decisions that went into getting Nice Ride MN off the ground:

You gotta go big or go home. You can’t put a few around. You’re hopping on that bike, it’s like a trapeze, you’re not gonna swing on that trapeze unless you know there’s another one to grab. You’re not gonna hop on that bike and cross town, unless you know there’s a place to go.

Thanks to the Bikes Belong Foundation we’re able to provide this short snapshot of the Nice Ride MN system, how it works, and where it’s headed.

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From London to D.C., Bike-Sharing Is Safer Than Riding Your Own Bike

Bike-sharing users might be safer because they take fewer risks while riding. These two women trying out Boulder's new bike-sharing system don't look like daredevils. Photo: dgrinbergs via Flickr

People riding shared public bicycles appear to be involved in fewer traffic crashes and receive fewer injuries than people riding their personal bicycles. In cities from Paris and London to Washington, D.C. and Mexico City, something about riding a shared bicycle appears to make cycling safer.

Paris’s Vélib’ is perhaps the most iconic bike-sharing system in the world. Launched in 2007 with 20,000 bikes, its widespread popularity not only transformed how Parisians traveled across their city but set off an explosion of new bike-sharing systems worldwide. With a few years of practice at this point, the Parisian experience is particularly telling.

“The accident rate is lower on a Vélib’ than on ‘normal’ bikes,” a spokesperson for the office of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë told Streetsblog. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, Vélib’ riders were responsible for one-third of all bike trips in Paris but were involved in only one-fourth of all traffic crashes involving a bicycle.

The numbers are if anything more striking in London, where the Barclays Cycle Hire system — or “Boris Bikes,” to borrow the phrase locals have adopted in honor of their mayor, Boris Johnson — opened at the end of last July. Though the London government didn’t track the relevant safety stats of bike-share users compared to other cyclists, they provided us with the data to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

So far, after 4.5 million trips, no bike-sharing user in London has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash, according to Transport for London. Only 10 bike-sharing users were injured at all in the first 1.6 million trips on the system, a statistic that was compiled earlier. A spokesperson also told Streetsblog that they estimate that half a million bike trips take place across London each day, 20,000 of which are on Boris Bikes. Finally, during 2010, 10 people were killed, 457 seriously injured and 3,540 non-seriously injured while cycling in London.

Crunching those numbers, no people were seriously injured or killed on the first 4.5 million trips on Boris Bikes, while about 12 people are injured for every 4.5 million trips on personal bikes. And over 1.6 million trips, ten bike-sharing users received non-serious injuries, compared to an average of 35 such injuries for the same number of trips on personal bikes.

Stateside, transportation officials are seeing the same effect.

Read more…

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Twin Cities Rein in Highway Expansions, Tame Runaway Transpo Spending

The Twin Cities region is reassessing the role of highways in its transportation system.

TransitwaysSummary800

Minneapolis-St. Paul is investing in a new system of transitways and priced traffic lanes instead of traditional highway expansion. Planners there say the region will never be able to build its way out of congestion with highways.

Like many communities throughout the country, Minneapolis-St. Paul is moving beyond the decades-old assumption that the only way to eliminate congestion is with more outward-stretching asphalt. This fall, officials in the Twin Cities voted to roll back highway expansions and increase access to transit options instead.

Local planners say it’s time to acknowledge that the region simply can’t afford to accommodate growth by building new highways.

“We couldn’t keep going on acting as if we were going to get money to build our way out of congestion,” said Arlene McCarthy, Director of Metropolitan Transportation Services for the Twin Cities Metro Council, which drafted and approved the new plan. “One county alone could easily consume all the money the region has. That’s the reality.”

With vehicle trips expected to increase 35 percent by 2030, regional planners estimate it would cost approximately $40 billion to even attempt to tackle congestion with traditional road projects. But only about $8 billion is expected to be available to the regional planning agency over the next ten years.

The goal of the Twin Cities 2030 Transportation Plan is to maximize the use of existing freeways by adding bus lanes or priced traffic lanes in shoulders wherever possible. The new framework will require increased emphasis on transit and other non-automotive modes.

Read more…

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Theft and Vandalism Just Not a Problem For American Bike-Sharing

Minneapolis' bike-share system has only had __ stolen bike, but it's not just because they're Minnesota nice. Theft and vandalism haven't been a problem for American bike-sharing systems. Photo: __.

Minneapolis's bike-share system has only had two stolen bikes, and not just because people there are Minnesota nice. Theft and vandalism haven't been a problem for any American bike-sharing system. Photo: Kevin Jack via Flickr.

Even as bike-sharing spreads across the United States, it remains dogged by one persistent doubt. Critics, and even some boosters, fear that the bikes will be routinely stolen and vandalized. It’s time to stop worrying about crime, however. In America’s new bike-sharing systems, there have been essentially no such problems.

Fears that public bikes will be abused can be traced to Paris’s Vélib system, which while wildly popular has struggled with high levels of theft and vandalism. Take Michael Grynbaum’s write-up last week of New York City’s bike-share plans in the Times, where crime is portrayed as the only downside:

In Paris, the pioneer of bike-sharing, the bikes are used up to 150,000 times a day. But there has also been widespread theft and vandalism; bicycles have ended up tossed in the Seine, dangling from lampposts and shipped off to northern Africa for illegal sale.

The scenes of Vélib bike abuse replicate descriptions widely circulated in a 2009 BBC story about the system’s troubles. The problems with Vélib are real, if overhyped by the media. In 2009, JCDecaux, the advertising agency that runs Vélib, estimated that over 8,000 bikes were stolen and another 8,000 rendered unrideable and irreparable. It was a problem that had to be addressed.

Luckily for the rest of the world, it seems to have been an easy fix for other cities. Many now believe that the locking mechanism at Vélib’s stations was poorly designed. Systems that use a different method have successfully controlled theft to the point where the cost is negligible.

Vélib bikes lock on the side of the frame, as seen here. Other operators, including ClearChannel, B-cycle and the Public Bike System, have had dramatically lower rates of theft and use a different locking method, explained Bill Dossett, who runs Minneapolis’s new NiceRide bike-sharing system. “The ClearChannel systems had the locking mechanism built into the headset,” where the handlebars meet the bicycle frame, “and just has never had the same problems,” he said.

For example, Barcelona’s Bicing system, run by ClearChannel, has had about one-fifth the rate of stolen public bikes as Vélib, despite higher theft rates citywide, according to the New York Department of City Planning.

Stateside, the problems with crime have been smaller still.

Read more…

StreetFilms 23 Comments

Major Bike Mojo in Minneapolis

In a surprising choice, the May edition of Bicycling Magazine named Minneapolis America’s best city for biking. The city still trails Portland, Oregon in the percentage of commuters who bike to work (4.3 percent to 5.9 percent, respectively, according to the most recent American Community Survey), but Minneapolis has been gaining momentum.

Next month, Minneapolis will launch the largest bike-share program in the country, building on a strong foundation of extensive bike trails and a thriving bicycling community. They're also using federal funds to double the mileage of on-street bike lanes, build more road diets, introduce bicycle boulevards, and more. Have a look and see how Minneapolis has shot to the top of America's best bicycling cities.

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April Madness: Minneapolis Tops Portland in Bicycling Mag’s Rankings

Butler may have come up short against Duke last night, but there's a Cinderella story sending ripples through the livable streets blogosphere today.

golden_gopher.jpgGoldy Gopher is psyched about Minneapolis's first-place finish in Bicycling's city rankings.
In a decision that upsets the entrenched order of America's urban bicycling universe, Bicycling Magazine just awarded Minneapolis the title of America's best city for biking. Portland, coming in at number two, can no longer take its pre-eminence for granted. The center of bike-friendly gravity is shifting.

New York was named one of the most improved bicycling cities in the magazine's 2008 listings and got the number 8 spot this year, behind San Francisco and Seattle, ahead of Chicago, and barely edging out Tucson.

The semi-regular rankings, out in the current issue, are based on several factors, with some intangibles mixed in. Portland still has the objective edge in bike commute modeshare (5.9 percent to Minneapolis's 4.3 percent, according to the most recent American Community Survey), but the Bicycling editors say Minneapolis has the momentum. Bike commuting in Minneapolis is on the rise at an impressive rate, and the city is on the verge of launching what will arguably be the nation's most ambitious bike-share program later this spring.

If you'd like to see this nascent intercity rivalry turn into an extended Jay-Z vs. Nas-style beef, that makes two of us. But BikePortland's Jonathan Maus seems to be taking the news in stride, writing that "this is more likely a sign that bike-friendliness is on the rise in cities across the country and Portland simply isn't as far out in front as it once was."