04/24/09

State of the Art Bike Projects Coming to the Minneapolis AreaState of the Art Bike Projects Coming to the Minneapolis Area

“Minneapolis is the number two bike city in America. Portland, watch out,” Mayor RT Rybak confidently warned from the old transit waiting area in the Oak Street parking ramp on University of Minnesota campus. The Mayor was addressing an attentive crowd made up of scores of bicycling enthusiasts, elected officials, and media who had gathered to hear about two forward-looking bicycle projects that are being funded with money from the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative.

The first project is called bike sharing. 1,000 specially-made bicycles will be available at 75 kiosks around Minneapolis for users to retrieve with the swipe of a card. When the user is done, the bicycle can be returned to any of the other kiosks around the area. This system is popular in many European cities but has not yet been attempted on this scale in the United States.

Mayor Rybak expressed a combination of relief and excitement at the prospect of bike sharing coming to Minneapolis: “I am tired of people coming back from Europe and saying ‘Gee, they have this great idea in Paris or Barcelona. It’s too bad that will never happen in Minneapolis.’ It’s going to happen in Minneapolis.”

The mayor was joined at this event by University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks, who was equally excited about a project coming to the U. “I said, ‘We gotta have one of these on campus!’” Bruininks recalled to the full room of cyclists, media, and advocates. “And of course I got the standard stock answer, ‘We’re already working on it. Thanks for the great new idea but you’re about a year late.’”

The idea President Bruininks had was for a facility similar to the Midtown Bike Center he had seen on the Midtown Greenway. When the President brought it up, the University of Minnesota Bike Center had already been well into the process of applying for $524,000 in Bike Walk Twin Cities funds.

The Bike Center, which will be housed in the Oak Street Ramp’s old transit waiting area, will be a hub for bicycling activity on campus. It will also feature what is known as an RFID bicycle commuting benefits program. RFIDs are small electronic tags that are affixed to registered users bicycles and when a person commutes across campus, a series of RFID receivers, installed at locations around campus, will read and wirelessly transmit the tag information to a server accessible to users and the institution.

In addition to the RFID system, the center will include an electronic bike trip-planning kiosk, 24-hour accessible secure bike storage, changing facilities, repair service and bike retail opportunities, as well as public meeting space. Construction could start as early as next month.

These grants are the third in a series of awards chosen by Transit for Livable Communities’ board of directors since 2007, when Bike Walk Twin Cities launched.

“We’re very excited to be part of a national movement that is looking to the future and pushing for innovation in transportation,” said Lea Schuster, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities. “These projects provide Twin Cities residents with more opportunities to get around town while saving money, staying healthy, and helping to reduce global warming pollution.”

Other projects announced today that will receive Bike Walk Twin Cities funds:

  • Saint Paul – Bicycle boulevard from the Mississippi River on the west to Lexington Avenue, and continued as bike lanes along Jefferson Avenue to the Sam Morgan trail; installation of sidewalks to fill current gaps
  • Edina – Bikeway facilities for Wooddale Ave./54th Street/Valley View Road
  • South Minneapolis - Cedar/17th Ave. S./Bloomington Ave. corridor biking and walking improvements
  • Minneapolis – Pedestrian enhancements on 5th Street NE and 7th Street N