Two New Bike Infrastructure Projects Open in the Twin Cities

From Joan Pasiuk, Bicycling and Walking Program Director

Part of the fun of having so much money invested in our bicycle infrastructure is seeing the finished projects open. I attended two such openings recently.

On Saturday June 6th, dignitaries and residents gathered to celebrate the opening of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the Twin Cities. The MRT Web site describes the picturesque project:

The Mississippi River Trail, coursing along America’s backbone, the Mississippi River, from its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bicycle trails and pedestrian pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation.

It is exciting to me first as a local transportation resource. Although many users will be recreational, it offers lovely routes to many destinations – both downtowns, U of M, many commercial areas. Bike Walk Twin Cities helps more people accomplish short trips without a car, and such incredible scenery along the MRT draws me pleasantly out of my way, adding an extra mile or so for a trip to the hardware store, garden center, farmers’ market or community event.

And the trail is a destination in itself. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, 72 miles of the river through the Twin Cities, has a planning grant to plan sustainable transportation options to the river. Hmmm – instead of driving to a trail to get exercise we could actually walk, bike, or use transit to get there! Watch for more to come on this dimension. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club organizes car-free recreation — Transit to Green Space Outings in the Twin Cities.

But I must admit, the MRT to me is as much about long trips as short trips. My dream has always been to bike along the river to New Orleans. And the sign says it all – 10 states, 1 river. Wanderlust may seize me one day, luring me beyond the hardware store and farmer’s market to those nine states downriver.

The other event was on Sunday, June 7th. City of St. Paul officials and Grand Ave Business Association members cut the ribbon on a blue bike rack, one of 150 new bike parking spaces spread throughout 40 locations along Grand Avenue. The occasion marks a city/business cost sharing program of bike parking, part of a $30,000 city allocation dedicated to a range of bicycle facilities. Good to see St. Paul – business, government, and neighborhoods — expanding its commitment. When I have been on Grand Ave, I have locked my bike to sign posts, tree guards, and gas meters and will certainly relish more convenient facilities.

Bike Walk Twin Cities has funded approximately 4,000 additional bike parking spots in Minneapolis, through its long-standing cost-shared bike parking program.

Research has begun to assess the economic development benefits of bicycle and pedestrian patronage. A recent study in downtown San Francisco indicated that only 17% of customers drive there to shop. A complementary study found that 72 percent of business owners surveyed in commercial districts thought their customers drove alone to shop. “While commercial districts in high car ownership neighborhoods like West Portal in San Francisco see up to 41 percent driving shoppers, nothing comes close to the near 90 percent perception among business owners.”

Do bike racks promote good business? Talk to us – tell us about how access to bicycle parking affects your travel and shopping patterns.

Assumptions about travel patterns are worth challenging. Businesses, ever so eager to add car parking, would do well to consider more seriously their appeal to non-motorized traffic. You are part of the equation:

  • Bike, park or take transit to shopping destinations
  • Thank businesses that have provided adequate bike parking

Where you have to chain your bike to a sign post or railing, encourage businesses to make the investment in bike racks.