We biked to the State Fair yesterday, incorporating the bike- and transit-way that runs between the U of M Minneapolis campus and the fairgrounds. I don't recall much bike traffic last year on that route, but fair-bound riders were visible all along the route.
We parked in a designated bike lot manned by friendly folks who checked us in and out. It reminded me of the densely packed bike corrals I've seen in other countries, except this is for a special occasion, not a normal state of life.
Looking at an aerial view of the fairgrounds, the space for parking about 300 bikes used approximately the same footprint as a 12-car section of a nearby parking lot. Given that ride sharing is more likely at the fair than for daily commuting, that means the bike space had about six to seven times the parking capacity of the car lot, plus the surface was a lot cooler, with trees and grass.
And the bike parking area felt far safer — from being run over, mugged or otherwise imperiled.
Apparently, the Eco-Experience Building at the fair had a demonstration of a bike share kiosk from Montreal’s BIXI, one of several potential vendors to Nice Ride Minnesota.
Nice Ride plans to put 1,000 bikes into 80 secure, self-service kiosks throughout Downtown, the U of M Campus and Uptown starting next May.
Cycling lovers should not get their hopes up. Public bike sharing is nice, but it has its issues. Shared bikes are clunky. They have to be bulletproof to survive the abuse, ugly and non-standard to foil thieves, and awkward to meet the spec of one-size-fits-90-percent. Here in Minneapolis, the bikes will only be on the street April-November.
Public bikes are also often rolling billboards. That's how the programs get funded, and I have no problem with that. Blue Cross Minnesota is the main underwriter here, and for once, that's a very good match of brand with cause marketing.
Back to parking. Twin Cities Streets for People asks, Is Parking the Problem?
Running a community development corporation I am always engaged in the conversation of what makes and maintains a vibrant commercial corridor. The conversation usual stops and starts with parking. Merchants always say that the lack of parking is the problem. I am usually arguing that the lack of a good streetscape, a safe and clean sidewalk, and window display are the bigger culprits. I am of the mind, if I can't see into the store, I won't be entering your store.
There may be good reasons why merchants think a shortage of parking is the main reason their businesses are suffering — especially if there are disruptions of existing parking by construction. But according to the linked post, one consultant found residents and business district employees were more deterred by trash, litter, unappealing storefronts and 'grimy' interiors of stores — all things that were the business's responsibility.
On my trip to the fair, I noticed the marked bike lanes on Como next to the fairgrounds had been X-ed out with black tape. (I wanted to survive the traffic, so I didn't get a photo.) Presumably, this was to indicate that it was okay for vehicles to drive in the lane and keep traffic moving.
But since bike traffic was also heavier than normal, it raises the question of whether such markings are really necessary. Ask the Wisconsin cyclist nailed (and recorded on video) by a car running a red light whether he'd have entered the intersection the same way if there'd been no traffic lights at all.
The concept of shared streets relies on design and social signals rather than regulatory controls that govern how drivers, cyclists and pedestrians behave. This article touts the greater efficiency of traffic flow in the low-speed, shared streets environment. (h/t Twin City Sidewalks)
Finally, Cyclopath offers a Mapquest-like route finder for the metro area that looks at travel from a cycle-centric point of view.
Suppose you wanted to plot a crosstown ride that was reasonably car-free, but still got you to your destination efficiently. Mapquest (call it Carquest) would assume you'd head for the freeway; bike paths don't compute. Cyclopath allows you to select for directness vs. bikeability, calculates distances and provides a map as well as detailed directions.