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 turning lane to nowhere

What happens when the engineers designing our rural highways simply apply standards without bothering to consider the context of the space? Sadly, a more pertinent question would be the opposite: what would happen if they did bother to look outside of their right-of-way?

The following video was shot in Northern Minnesota about four miles outside of Grand Rapids. The mindless waste of money it so clearly depicts is endemic in a transportaion funding system that is rewarded for moving cars, not creating valuable places.

Next time someone talks to you about a society that is living beyond its means, be reminded of this.

Video compliments of SID.tv -- See It Differently television -- coming in 2012 from Strong Towns.

Taking local action

Minneapolis Skyline CC licensed by flickr user Doug Wallick

Over at Grist, David Roberts lays down the brutal logic of climate change:

With immediate, concerted action at global scale, we have a slim chance to halt climate change at the extremely dangerous level of 2 degrees C. If we delay even a decade -- waiting for better technology or a more amenable political situation or whatever -- we will have no chance.

And what's so special about 2 degrees C?  Well, that may be something like a point of no return.

The thing is, if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic. In fact, according to the latest science, says Anderson, "a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond 'adaptation', is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable."

Roberts is citing the work of Kevin Anderson, former head of the UK's leading climate research institution.  Other scientists are making similar predictions.  James Hanson, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says, "The target of 2C... is a prescription for long-term disaster".  Increasingly, you don't have to look far to find words like "apocalyptic" being used to describe the path we're on.

So we need to reverse course on emissions by 2015, and in dramatic fashion.  But the latest round of international talks seem to be on shaky ground.  All US climate bills have so far failed.  So what's a local planner or public official to do?  Decry the problem as global in scope and thus unsolvable? Shrug shoulders and pour a stiff drink?  While I have a healthy amount of skepticism about the ability of one jurisdiction or even one state to have a measurable impact on the global trendline, I think we absolutely must be making our best efforts now, for a number of reasons:

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Plus O' The Day: December 8, 2011

Icicles hanging from an eave

I was sitting on the corner in front of this house in morning sunlight the other day and enjoying the icicles. They catch the light very nicely.

And then one of them crashed against the ground and made a lovely tinkling sounds. Ice in its many forms is one of the nice things about walking around the city in the wintertime, as long as you don't have to walk on it!

2011 – a big year for bikes with more to come in 2012

Bryant Avenue bicycle boulevard.

by Amber Collett, Bike Walk Twin Cities

It’s no secret that folks like to bike in the Twin Cities. Every year the cycling community grows –and I’m sure this year will be no exception (stay tuned for the 2011 Count Report release scheduled for Dec. 16th!) With supportive city leadership, committed advocacy organizations, and a set of dedicated funds made available through the nonmotorized transportation pilot program (called Bike Walk Twin Cities), Minneapolis has earned it’s spot as the number one city for bicycling in the nation

As I look back on the year, I can’t help but focus on the huge stride forward our city made in building out our cycling infrastructure. More than 75 miles of on-street bike lanes have been added to our network since the start of the Bike Walk Twin Cities program–this is great news!

Here is a little bit more about some of the most innovative projects that hit the pavement this year: Read more >

Plus O' The Day: December 7, 2011

Horse Police
Two St Paul Mounted Police riding down Selby Avenue.

Unless you're a protestor, horse police are wonderful. They certainly make an impression, calming traffic and brightening people's day. I occasionally see the St Paul Mounted Police getting some exercise by riding around the city. Monday night was one of those times!

Streets.mn Podcast #3: Campuses, subsidies, W 7th Street with Nate Hood & Alex Bauman

State Street in downtown Madison. Img via Flickr.

Podcast #3 is complete. Access it here!

Nate Hood, Alex Bauman and I sat down yesterday evening at the Aster Café, a lovely place along the Mississippi River just across from Downtown Minneapolis. You can find Nate’s writing on his blog, Thoughts on the Urban Environment, and Alex’s writing is at Getting Around Minneapolis.

Nate, Alex, and I had three things on our agenda this week, and tried not to stray around too much. We chatted about campus design comparing the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Second, we discussed the role of government subsidies in cities, looking at a recent public private development in Mankato, and finally, we talked about the pros and cons of “greenway” style pedestrianized residential streets, thinking about the current greenway project in North Minneapolis. The conversation went a little bit long, so feel free to turn it off at any time by using the stop button on your audio device.

Enjoy! Read more >

The Urban Future of Hiawatha Avenue

Surely We Can Do Better Than This

There is an opportunity to create a more humane, livable Hiawatha Avenue, and, to try out a metaphor, now may be the time to step out in to the intersection and begin our journey across. Hiawatha Avenue should become an urban boulevard that unites neighborhoods rather than divides them, particularly near light rail stations where pedestrian counts have steadily increased since light rail service began and development continues to occur. What’s nice is I’m not the only one who believes this. Read more >

In defense of zoning

[Minneapolis has seen zoning constraints with the Pillsbury A Mill project, which has been downscaled both due to local complaints and market conditions].

Zoning has been criticized by many of a libertarian bent as denying individual property owners the right to do what they want with their property. It has also been criticized by densificationists who declaim the damnably high rents induced by real density caps enabled by zoning. I discussed some of these issues relating to height limits yesterday. I am of a libertarian bent and I like density, so why do I, in principle, think zoning is a useful concept? Read more >

Greenways vs. The Grid: Is Mpls' Greenways plan a good move?

A rendering of the greenway plan, via TC Greenways.

(written by Reuben Collins)

One of the more interesting aspects of the recently completed Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan is the inclusion of a long-term vision to convert some local roadways to Greenways. The master plan map lays out a network of future Greenways (most facilities we're currently referring to as Bike Boulevards are envisioned to transition to Greenways over time. Read more >

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