Portland to Portland
By Prescott Morrill, Nonmotorized Transportation Research & Evaluation Specialist
More than 30 days into a cross-country trip focused on bikeway design, English cyclists take to the streets of Minneapolis with TLC/BWTC's Prescott Morrill. Photo credit: Grant Smith.
Over the past six years, the infusion of federal funds from the nonmotorized transportation pilot program (NTPP) administered by TLC/BWTC has enabled Minneapolis and surrounding communities to accelerate their walkability and bikeability progress. While there is still more work to be done, Minneapolis now has a myriad of bike facilities that are starting to link to each other, and can functionally move a cyclist around the city. These growing connections have played a big role in garnering our well-earned reputation as a bike-friendly city.
That bike-friendly reputation is exactly what drew a group called Portland Oregon to Portland Place (P2P) to our fair city this spring. In late April, P2P set out from Portland, OR, to cross the US and the UK to research case studies in good bikeway design. With stops in 12 cities, including Minneapolis, along their route, it's an impressive undertaking! And TLC/BWTC was honored to receive P2P's call while they were planning their trip. Their hardy group-consisting of 16 English architects, urban planners, and urban designers shares that the research they collect on this journey "will provide comparative data and successful solutions which [they] hope will assist politicians and planners in instituting improved cycling conditions in cities around the world." P2P plans to present their findings at the World Cycling Summit in London later this summer.
In context, this effort is part of a big move for London: Mayor Boris Johnson recently announced that, in conjunction with Transport for London's new business plan, the City will be investing almost ₤1 billion in cycling infrastructure over the next decade.
Back in the US, on the afternoon of Friday, May 31, after rolling through the intermountain west and the vast northern plains, the Portland to Portland riders arrived in Minneapolis. Over the following 48 hours, hosted by Transit for Livable Communities with help from Simon Blenski from the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program, they met with a number of local advocates, business leaders, and elected officials. They also experienced firsthand some of the best examples of bike infrastructure that Minneapolis has to offer, including the innovative advisory bike lanes on South 14th Street, the Bryant Avenue Bicycle Boulevard, and the Midtown Greenway, as well as the East and West River Parkways .
For many years, planners and designers working on bike infrastructure from all across the US have constantly been looking at examples from Europe. Hardly a public meeting goes by where someone doesn't cite some example from across The Pond. With this visit, that narrative is changing; and it's changing thanks to the continued efforts of city- and agency-staff, community leaders, dedicated transportation advocacy organizations and bike/walk programs combined with many innovative and strategic investments in active transportation. Today I can just imagine any one of these leaders in English cycling best practices standing up in front of a blue-collar crowd in East London saying, "Well, if we look at this great example of what they've done in Minneapolis . . ."
For those of us who are lucky enough to live in this velo-tropolis, we can look forward to ongoing improvements, such as the soon-to-open University BikeTrail, connecting the Campus Transitway to Bridge 9. Also, we can all continue to watch and learn as other major cities of our world find innovative bike solutions of their own.
It's been a long time coming, but our community is finally starting to be paid its due not only as a national front-runner, but as a world-class, bike-friendly city. Ride on, Minneapolitans! And best wishes to the Portland to Portland crew as they continue their journey!
More photos of Portland to Portland's pedal-powered journey, including their tour of Minneapolis: http://www.flickr.com/photos/p2pcycle/sets/
Portland to Portland interviews with Prescott Morrill and Simon Blenski featured by MPR: http://mntoday.mprnews.org/2013/06/minneapolis-bike-advocates-call-for-more-routes/
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