Opening & inaugural group ride of new bike/ped route from U of M to Roseville
By Bri Whitcraft, Special Projects Coordinator
On November 1, Bike Walk Twin Cities/Transit for Livable Communities celebrated the opening of a new walking and biking route connecting Roseville, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, and the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This new route expands options and enhances safety for bicyclists and pedestrians alike with improvements including on-street bike lanes, new sidewalks, a shared path, and new signal systems with countdown timers. Two Nice Ride MN bike-sharing stations are also accessible from the route (April-November season).
Over thirty people attended the opening event, including many partners instrumental in making the project a reality, as well as local community members. All can now use the route to reach nearby destinations and connect to the growing network of bicycle and pedestrian routes in the area. The sun came out just in time for the project opening ceremony, held in the U of M's Department of Horticultural Science Display and Trial Garden, adjacent to the new bike lanes and sidewalk on Gortner Avenue.
Project partners and community members gather for the opening ceremony
Barb Thoman (Executive Director, Transit for Livable Communities) opened with thanks to project partners and to everyone in attendance. She introduced the route as the latest Twin Cities project funded by the federal nonmotorized transportation pilot program, administered locally by TLC. As Barb noted, the same program has also funded the U of M Bike Center (on the Minneapolis campus) and more than 75 miles of new routes across the Twin Cities. Dan Roe (Mayor, City of Roseville) also thanked the many organizations, agencies, and individuals involved throughout the planning and implementation of the project. Peter Lindstrom (Mayor, City of Falcon Heights) then emphasized that "biking makes people happy and cities want to make residents happy," before sharing that he is a real-life example of someone whose health has dramatically improved because of bicycle commuting. The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting held between two bikes-very fitting!
L to R: Jamez Smith (TLC, Program Assistant), Steve Sanders (U of M Parking and Transportation Services, Alternative Transportation Manager), Debra Bloom (City of Roseville, Engineer & Assistant Public Works Director), Barb Thoman (TLC, Executive Director), Dan Roe (Mayor of Roseville), Peter Lindstrom (Mayor of Falcon Heights)
Following the ceremony, ten people participated in a group bike ride to experience the new route firsthand. We set out from the corner of Gortner and Folwell for a seven-mile ride, stopping at several destinations along the way. Biking north on Gortner and west on Larpenteur, our first stop was the Gibbs Museum (at Larpenteur and Cleveland) where Terry Swanson greeted us with wonderful stories of the past and taught us the Dakota word, "Toksta" which means "See you again."
Our next stop was a quick and easy jaunt from Fairview to Erik's Bike Shop via quiet, residential Skillman Avenue. Once inside, we browsed great gear for winter riding, and one cyclist even got a quick bike tune-up.
A fun history lesson from Terry Swanson at the Gibbs Museum followed by a group visit to Erik's Bike Shop.
Our excellent League-certified cycling instructor (and BWTC colleague), Jamez Smith, lead us back to Fairview, where we made a quick stop at Evergreen Park and then continued north toward Hwy 36 and Rosedale Center. We were lucky to have Debra Bloom (Engineer & Assistant Public Works Director, City of Roseville) join us on the ride and she highlighted the many improvements along the route. Bloom, who played an integral role in the completion of this project, described that in the past the only option pedestrians and bikers had to navigate under Hwy 36 was a dirt track, but now there is a shared path on the west side of the roadway and a sidewalk on the east side for people to use. (See full route description, here.)
Cyclists utilizing the shared pathway along Fairview Avenue during the inaugural group ride
We followed the shared path and then crossed Fairview into Rosedale Center, stopping briefly at Metro Transit's Rosedale Transit Center, and our group of cyclists discussed transit options and bike parking. I learned after the ride that one of our ride participants, TLC member Steve Gjerdingen, first called for better bike parking at the Rosedale Mall in 2009. Thanks to his tenacity, and a responsive Rosedale management team, there are now 44 bike racks located around the mall. Congratulations, Steve, for making positive changes in your community!
On our way back to the University of Minnesota via the new lanes on Fairview, several riders peeled off to easily head home or back to work. Thanks to everyone who joined us on the ride! It was wonderful to see the new route in action-a route that, with so many accessible destinations and connecting routes, represents a significant and exciting expansion of our growing Twin Cities bike/pedestrian network. Worth celebrating indeed!
Thanks to Peace Coffee for generously donating the coffee served at this event! Attendees enjoyed their afternoon cup o' joe along with some delicious food from nearby Mim's Café and Saint Paul Classic Cookie Co. BWTC/TLC event held in collaboration with the City of Roseville, City of Falcon Heights, City of Lauderdale, and University of Minnesota.