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Our mission is to help transform Twin Cities streets into community spaces that invite people of all ages, cultures and abilities to walk, bicycle, socialize and play.

The New Minneapolis Plan

The Minneapolis Downtown Council recently released "Intersections" a plan for Downtown Minneapolis. I had nothing to do with this plan, and so am free to comment. The plan is organized according to 10 major initiatives for 2025 Read more >

Peeve O' The Day: December 19, 2011

Second stories that aren't really second stories
The CVS Pharmacy building at the corner of Snelling and University

Continuing with the theme of fake urbanism, two story buildings that aren't really two story buildings are a pet peeve. I suppose its better than nothing, but when cities try to cultivate density they should really actually do it.

Using bikes for serious emissions reduction

Bicycles in a square - CC licensed by flickr user R Stanek

 

According to the European Cycling Federation, if the whole of the EU cycled like the Danes, they could achieve significant emissions cuts.

If the EU cycling rate was the same as it is in Denmark, where the average person cycles almost 600 miles (965km) each year, then the bloc would attain anything from 12% to 26% of its targeted transport emissions reduction, depending on what forms of transport the cycling replaced, according to the report by the Brussels-based European Cycling Federation (ECF).

This figure is likely to be a significant underestimate as it deliberately excludes the environmental impact of building road infrastructure and parking, or maintaining and disposing of cars.

These figures are for the EU’s 2050 emissions reduction target.  The figures are even greater for 2020 targets.

Bikes are not a new technology that would require long adoption periods and high initial capital costs.  Almost everyone knows how to use them, and they are cheap.  They also have myriad co-benefits, not least of which is increased physical activity.  To get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we should take a close look at the bike as a potential solution.

Using ECF’s study as a model and making some estimates, the Twin Cities metro could see some significant emissions reductions if we biked like the Danes, but getting there would be tough.  I’ll get to that, but first some initial thoughts on the Europeans.

  Read more >

What is the Constituency of a Local Land-Use Decision?

In the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, a local entrepreneur put together a proposal to develop a surface parking lot into a 5-story condo building with retail space on the ground floor. The location is a commercial node in an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood that was first developed along a streetcar line in the early 20th century.

But some residents of the neighborhood aren't taking too kindly to the prospect of change to their beloved neighborhood retail corner... Read more >

Cedar Lake Trail Speed Limit - Back From the Grave

Be careful what you promise...

In spite of City promises, a 10 mph speed limit has been signed on the Cedar Lake Trail.  This is old news - I got the picture a couple months ago and I'd guess it was added in the City's signing binge around August or September.

I'm not necessarily opposed to speed limits for bicycles but I do have some questions about this particular speed limit:

1.  How and why was 10 mph chosen?  Why not 8?  or 13?  Does it have anything to do with the number of fingers on the average human hand?

2. Since this is the only speed limit sign on the Cedar Lake Trail (that I've seen), where does this speed zone begin or end?  If the speed limit is valid for the entire length of the trail, how are cyclists supposed to know before they come across this sign?

3.  Why is it dangerous for a bicycle to go 11 mph on a facility that's seperated from all traffic except bicycles, but it's safe for a bicycle to go 25 or 30 mph in mixed traffic?

Streets.mn Podcast #4: Talking about The Starling Project with Ben Shardlow

The entrance to the Ashton Building near University and Snelling.

Streets.mn Podcast #4 is up and running over at Archive.org. Check it out.

It's a conversation with Ben Shardlow, who is involved with the recently launched Starling Project, an effort to incubate "pop up urbanism" along vacant spaces on University Avenue. We talked about the origins of the project, some of the challenges and opportunities presented by working as a catalyst with artists and landlords, and the future of the University Avenue LRT corridor. Read more >

Off Target: The Twin Cities’ cannibalistic economic development practices

[Target's Brooklyn Park suburban corporate campus mirrors a city streetscape]

Target Corp. confirmed this week that they will be moving 2,400 employees and 1,500 contractors from downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park within the next two years into a new suburban office.

 Target will be moving a good portion of its workforce out to Brooklyn Park (with the help of a large subsidy). This move, tax subsidies and all, is yet another example of regressive local cannibalistic ”economic development” policies. This situation is the worst of both worlds – it spends taxpayer money to shift jobs (not create them) AND its shifting them to a less efficient, less centralized and less environmentally-friendly suburban office park.

Read more >

Peeve O' The Day: December 13, 2011

Windows that aren't really Windows
A non-window window in St Paul's North End.

Just like doors that don't open, windows that you cannot see through provide an irksome twist to contemporary elements to add walkability and vitality to the street level. Despite cities starting toc are about the street-level environment, by passing transparency requirements for new developments, sometimes retailers (particularly chain pharmacies and big box stores) will simply make opaque glass windows that serve strictly symbolic purposes.

It's frustrating!

Rondo and I-94 vs. Central Corridor LRT

View Urban renewal in the I-94 corridor in a larger map

There are two buildings near the corner of Rice Street and University Avenue in Saint Paul that are the only remnants of a huge neighborhood bulldozed for urban renewal and the construction of Interstate 94.

Anyone who has followed the Central Corridor light-rail project has heard of Saint Paul's old Rondo neighborhood and how that community was displaced in the 1950s. The story goes that businesses and homes were torn down in the corridor between St. Anthony Avenue and Rondo Avenue (now mostly known as Concordia Avenue) in order to make way for the Interstate. The spectre of Rondo has weighed heavily on planners and transit advocates who don't want to see past mistakes repeated along the Central Corridor line. However, it's clear that many people involved have been unaware of the truly massive scale of what happened in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, did you know that all of the land in the map above had been leveled in the 1950s?

Many buildings outside of that zone were also taken down, but typically in a more fine-grained manner, one or two at a time. But Rondo got painted with a broad brush and saw block upon block torn down. Read more >

Peeve O' The Day: December 9, 2011

Doors that aren't really doors
A non-entrace to the Westin Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis on Marquette Avenue.

As businessess have expanded to occupy the footprint of multiple older establishments, some entrances and doorways get left behind in the wayside. Walking down certain of these 'megablock' streets in downtown Minneapolis, paticularly around Marquette and 2nd Avenues, you find a few entrances that aren't in use.

It's frustrating that so much of the street frontage downtown lacks vitality and pedestrian traffic. Fake doorways are one of the consequences.