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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!

[music] 

R T Rybak:  [00:15] Well biking is a huge part of what we are in Minneapolis and, you know, I think that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  For some it means it’s a very economical way to get around, for some it’s really about health and fitness, for some it’s time, that it’s actually quicker.

 

[music] 

Jay Walljasper:  [00:34] Minneapolis is a good place to bike I think because (a) there’s a strong biking culture.  People are passionate about biking here and it’s something, you go to a party and people talk about where they’re going to bike the next day, so it’s become a part of our DNA.

 

[music] 

Shaun Murray:  [00:47] You don’t really need to be on the street with cars if you don’t want to.  If you stick to our off street path system, which is about 100 miles and in a city that’s about six miles wide by 10 miles tall, that’s quite a few miles of paths.

 

[music] 

Shaun Murray:  [01:08] They go around all the lakes, they go along the Mississippi River, they go along our creek, they go along our parkways and then they also cut through our old railroad corridors.

 

S Scott Dibble:  [01:18] So one of the exciting developments in Minneapolis of course is the Midtown Greenway corridor, which is an old industrial railroad trench that was cut straight, right through the centre of Minneapolis on east/west access and the industrial use became obsolete in the last couple of decades. 

 

Louis Moore:  [01:36] Which a train came down maybe every two or three weeks just to pick up grain, and it wasn’t really used for anything else.  And then there was a determination that the grain elevator needed to come down so that’s when the negotiations started happening to build a bike/walk corridor through there. 

 

Ben Cherland:  [01:52] It’s 20 feet below the city grade, so that means it passes underneath all the north/south avenues, which makes it the fastest way to get across town, I mean including public transportation or driving. 

 

Louis Moore:  [02:04] The numbers of people who have ridden on it and who walk on it and rollerblade on it has just grown steadily for the many years it’s been open.  So it’s just been a real asset to the city. 

 

Joan Pasiuk:  [02:14] You will see families on the trail, you will see grandparents on the trail, you will see kind of lots of urban hipsters on the trail, everyone in between, commuters.  It’s for everyone. 

 

Jay Walljasper:  [02:27] You see I think nearly as many women as men.  That’s a big difference.  When biking began to take off in the city you began to see just a lot more females out on bikes and I think just simply because they feel safer, there’s a lot of bikers on the street.

 

[music] 

Ben Cherland:  [02:44] Some of the results from studying the census last year revealed that a lot of people are moving into these neighbourhoods along the Greenway.  And the Greenway’s a big draw for those people.  There’s a lot of development going on in terms of like apartment buildings and new businesses in the uptown area. 

 

Jay Walljasper:  [02:59] When you have a bike trail that the community embraces, then suddenly there’s a lot of development along there, it becomes a desirable place for people to live, you start to see property values go up, what was maybe once an old abandoned warehouse now suddenly becomes a young graphic design firms, you have all sorts of cutting edge businesses going in. 

 

Mario Macaruso:  [03:16] People that take the Greenway come in here to, you know, if they have a flat tyre or they want some nourishment, some food.  And then along the Greenway there’s all these ramps and the ramps provide people opportunities to tee off of the streets on top and also to go and use businesses and uptown along the corridor.  There’s been a resurgence in the quality of life for these neighbourhoods and I think it directly related to the creation of the Greenway. 

 

Kate Wolford:  [03:41] This is a city where people want to get out, you want to take advantage of the seasons and we have great bike paths throughout, so people are out but our leaders are out too.  I see Mayor Rybak, the Mayor of Minneapolis, on his bike cruising down the city, Mayor Coleman as well, and we have legislative leaders who are also real champions for the whole idea that you need to have city streets that’ll allow pedestrians, bikes, as well as other forms of transportation.

 

S Scott Dibble:  [04:07] I have to say in the last few years it has been just a transformative and to be able to get around on your bike gives you a connection to the place where you live that’s very different than moving around in your car.  You can see the people along the streets, other bicyclists, you can see all the shops, all the houses, all the activity that’s going on in a much more connected fashion. 

[music]

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Soren

    Wow -- this is an amazing video!   Thank you, and thanks to everyone who supports the Midtown Greeway!   Soren Jensen, Executive Director, Midtown Greenway Coalition.  http://www.midtowngreenway.org

  • Mkenneyharken

    What about in winter? Do they keep the paths clear of snow like in Europe?
    Very cool!

  • http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/ Karen Lynn Allen

    Looks great!  I am envious.

  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    Yes, MPLS city policy is to have snow cleared from bike paths within 24 hours of snow storm.

  • bluffcitycommuter

    Totally envious as well.  As a year round bike commuter in Memphis I'm curious about winter riding as well.  Are the paths cleared, etc.?  Around here people start putting on the winter coats when the temp. hits 50 - wondering how they deal with winter riding up there?

  • MplsBikester

    A fairly large amount of people bike year round. I started biking in the winter in Minneapolis about 4 years ago not sure what to expect. For me, winter biking is easier than biking in the rainy times of spring or fall because the snow doesn't penetrate in the same way. Dressing for cold is a matter of layering and selecting the right clothes.

    Usually the trails are plowed about the same time the major streets are plowed, in part because if they wait people walking on it make it difficult to plow later. Very seldom are trails not plowed in a reasonable amount of time. I've only once in four years had any substantial difficulty biking home on a trail due to snow...and in that case, I took major streets and eventually a sidewalk to make it back.

    A decent pair of mountain bike tires will get you through, though many people ride with studded tires (including me). Really isn't a big deal once you dive in and just do it. I had very little guidance and figured it out. Come up to Minneapolis in the winter and the bike community would certainly get you on a bike.

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    Thanks Clarence for putting on display Minneapolis's world class bike infrastructure. 

    This video helps to validate my continued discontent with "less than optimal" facilities that continue to passed off as bicycle infrastructure here in New Jersey.

  • Barbkopietz

    The Greenway has become my home away from home.  Just love riding on it.  

  • http://twitter.com/snogglethorpe Miles Bader

    @bc71d307ae0c2baecf44741b893ca479:disqus The big problem I always had with winter biking (mostly as a student in Pittsburgh, which can get really cold in the winter) was the biting wind.  Even when it's not so windy, the bike of course makes its own wind, which seemed to find its way in every nook and cranny even when I piled on the warm (and wind-cutting) clothes.

    This was especially true for my hands, which of course you need to keep a bit free to control the bike!  I regularly ended up with barely any feeling in my hands at my destination...

    I could never find some combination of gloves/mittens that both left me feeling in control and successfully resisted the onslaught... (I dunno, maybe there's some super high-tech thing that does it, but well... as a poor student I wasn't so clued into that kinda thing...)

  • http://twitter.com/snogglethorpe Miles Bader

    ... oh, and also, my face... brrrr, red and numb, and a balaclava just doesn't cut it!

  • MplsBikester

    Miles, certainly had days like that. I've found that Lobster gloves work really well. But at $70, they're more than most want to spend unless you bike enough in cold weather. There are some cheaper products that I've heard people liking but I'm not sure what they are. For boots, I upgraded from my standard hiking boots to an insulated boot I found at REI. With the hiking boot, on the coldest days (-20f temp/-40f windchill), I put a plastic sandwich bag over my toes and that kept them toasty.

    As for face, many in Minneapolis use ski goggles when it gets below 10 or 15f out and use some sort of face mask / balaclava. I have a face mask that has a wind blocker material on it. Probably was $30 but has lasted for the last four years.

    A lot of people here have been switching to snow boarding helmets because you can often not wear a hat with it since they are lined. They also have ear covers built in. Just picked up one for this year since my little hat puts off too much static.

  • Jdhcarlson

    One of the first things they clear after snowfalls are the Bike paths, winter riding is very easy, just gotta dress for it, and have a bike you don't mind getting all covered in salt..

  • Tom Paine

    Great Now if we could just get adequete Bike racks downtown, instead tree, fences, etc, we would have a complete set up

  • http://www.facebook.com/martychicago Marty Anderson

    Great video. Shows a very active city. I have only been there in the winter, sadly. Which makes me wonder how many months you can actually take advantage of such a lifestyle... 4 months tops?

    (moved to Vegas from Chicago. Can ride all year :-)

  • http://blogs.unpad.ac.id

    Bicycling so healthy and no polution caused it. Really like bicycling.

  • Eliang317

    Oh if only Minn looked that nice and warm even half the year!

  • The_eternal_hogasin

    12 months tops.  Minneapolis retains about a quarter of its cycle commuters in the winter months.  Winter cycling is fantastically enjoyable and provides a nice alternative to shoveling out your car and trying to find a parking spot on narrowed streets and lots.