Mar 31, 2010

Bike Lanes Downtown!

A positive outcome from the I-35W bridge collapse is coming to our downtown! See the press release below for the details:
MINNEAPOLIS -- Several Minneapolis streets that served as detour routes following the Interstate 35W Bridge collapse are being resurfaced.
The City of Minneapolis will receive $2.3 million in federal funding to restore the streets.
The detour roads sustained extra wear and tear during the 13 months the new 35W Bridge was being built.
The streets being rehabilitated include: 3rd Street South, 6th Street South, 7th Street South, 4th Avenue South, 5th Avenue South, 10th Avenue/19th Avenue, 15th Avenue SE, 18th Avenue SE, Industrial Boulevard and 25th/26th Avenue South.
In addition to this roadwork, bike lanes may be added to 3rd Street South, 6th Street South, 4th Avenue South, 5th Avenue South, 10th Avenue/19th Avenue, and 8th Avenue NE/Plymouth Avenue.
The city plans to hold two open houses about the '35W Detour Rehabilitation Projects.'
The first one is Wednesday, April 7 from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Main atrium, Central Library, 200 Nicollet Mall.
The second open house is Wednesday, April 21 from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. at the Doty Library Board Room in Central Library, 200 Nicollet Mall
Many thanks to the people of Minneapolis Bike Coalition and the City for seeing an opportunity to improve our downtown bike infrastructure. This will be a significant improvement over our current state of affairs downtown.

Mar 30, 2010


Sunrise at my house
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Every morning when I get up, I look out the balcony door on the landing to see if the sun is going to rise for yet another day. So far, it has, so I dress and go to work.

Mar 24, 2010


I signed myself up for Do.Cycle in mid-July and have been steadily chipping away at my mileage awards during my commutes. It now appears that I am at the end of my awards - they seem to turn off the swag tap at 775 miles or so.

Fair enough, I guess. I've got a 20% off coupon hanging on my fridge right now and I'm not sure what I am going to do with it - maybe a new helmet for the season? Those Lazers are so comfy...

I am trying to get my company to embrace the Do campaign, and to start a Do.Cycle team at my office, but the program seems to be fairly Minnesota-specific, and we have offices in several states. HR is working the issue and I have no doubt they'll come up with a good solution to making this inclusive and fun.

If you have not enrolled in the Do.Cycle program, it's worth it. Any miles count, you get a free water bottle just for signing up, and it's fun to get the awards, even if you don't use them. My favorite award is my free socks that cost $50. I got an award for a free pair of Do.Cycle logo socks (which I really wanted because I have a slight fetish for bike socks) but the hitch was that I had to buy $50 of other stuff. I wondered around Freewheel picking up patch kits, pin spanners and other garf until I hit the magic amount.

I think Freewheel made out better on that deal than I did,  but then I wore those socks today, too.

Mar 23, 2010

Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Summit

I got an invitation to participate in this year's Downtown Transportation Summit, which was today on the 31st floor of the U.S. Bank Building. The reason for the invitation was that my company won an award for having a high percentage of participation in the Twin Cities Bike/Walk week last year. It turns would we had a respectable 24% of our staff participate in Bike/Walk week last year (despite the fact it was really pretty cold most mornings that week).  We were given a certificate recognizing our participation level and a shiny new Dero hitch bike rack. Sweet.

The main thrust of this event was commerce and business, and how transportation impacts commerce. The opening presentation was made by Todd Klingel, President of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. He made the point that the Chamber is pro-transit and pro-bike commuting because they are concerned about congestion downtown, which can hinder commercial vehicle movement. An interesting perspective but one that makes sense. 

Dan MacLaughlin of the Downtown MPLS TMO got up and talked about the upcoming Commuter Challenge and Bike/Walk Week 2010, and urged participation (you can win prizes!). The TMO has several other interesting programs running, including assistance to companies seeking to develop a telecommuting policy, resources and assistance for employees and employers on transit issues, and recognition programs for companies that support transit,

Nice Ride gave a presentation on their bike sharing program and they had one of the actual bikes that they will be using for the program at the event. These are... striking. I hope that program works out well for them and us. They have a lot of money and have done a lot of homework, but I still remain a little skeptical that this will take off.

We were then subjected to a long presentation assuring us that the new Twins stadium would not make any more of a mess of downtown than the old one did, and we got a run down from Metro Transit on what they've got up there sleeve. The most interesting bits there are that they are planning a new transit stop at 46th Street and I-35W to enable rapid transit stops in Minneapolis for buses coming up I-35W (that's interesting, but not very interesting). The really interesting bit is that David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) will be coming to Minneapolis' Uptown Theatre on June 17 to give a talk based on his recent book about bikes and cities.

Best of all, I got a free pant-cuff retainer from our friends at Dero Bikes as well. It sounds like Dero may have had a fire last night, so we hope they are doing well and will be cranking our more racks in the very near future.

Mar 22, 2010

Nicolet Mall, March 22, 2010

Nicolet Mall, March 22, 2010
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
This evening I exercised my newly-granted right to ride my bike on Nicolet Mall. It is better now that the express buses have been pulled off of Nic and directed on to Marquette and 2nd Ave. This evening I was keeping pace with a taxi, a police car and only one bus. It still seemed a little slow, but it's fantastic people watching, so I might do this route more regularly.

Mar 21, 2010

Southern Connector Tour

The Southern Connector tour/recon went off without a hitch today. The weather and the turn-out was fantastic - I bet there were about 40 people that came and reviewed the route this afternoon.

The Southern Connector project seeks to improve north-south routes between I-35W and Cedar Ave., which is something we sorely need in MPLS. The options to do this are fairly limited because very few streets stretching between the Crosstown freeway and Franklin without a park or something interrupting them at some point; 17th, 18th and Bloomington are the few (other than Park and Portland) that meet this criteria.

The project is still in it's early phase so we are still playing the "we haven't decided anything game" at this point, but the concepts they are working with include either bike lanes on Bloomington Ave. or a bike boulevard on 17th or 18th Ave. The bike lane on Bloomington seems like a difficult option - north of 38th Street there's heavy street parking on both sides of the street, so they would have to take that away to make room for a bike lane, and that would be controversial. 17th seems like the best option because it's a little wider than 18th and there's an existing traffic light to get us all safely across Lake Street.

I am excited by the possibility of a bike boulevard nearby to see how much better these things are to the typical city street. Additionally, I am past ready for a more pleasant alternative than Park and Portland for my commute. The City has apparently been doing some pretty heavy outreach with the neighborhood associations and there seems to be support for the project, so that bodes well.

Stay tuned...

Mar 19, 2010

Lifeboat Ethics

We live in harsh, harsh times. The continued bad economy and relentless bad news in the papers has me thinking about lifeboat ethics once again.

Environmental disasters (like fashion) change with the times. In the early 1970's it was DDT; Silent Spring became a national best-seller and Rachel Carson was a household name. In the 80's, the alarm bells were ringing over global population growth, and concepts like the Tragedy of the Commons and Lifeboat Ethics came into vogue in Geography Departments around the world. In the 1990's, it was acid rain. Now it's the demonization of carbon. As so it goes...

When I was in college, the Big Issue was population growth; Ethiopia was starving, India and China were growing at an alarming rate, and the third world in general was going to be the downfall of us all. Geography Departments were preaching Zero Population Growth (ZPG), carrying capacity was the big buzz and students, including yours truly, were assigned alarmist reading by Garret Harding on this topic, including the aforementioned Lifeboat Ethics.

In a nutshell, Lifeboat Ethics is a rhetorical argument that the earth is a self-contained "spaceship" with finite resources that have to be managed because they just won't cover it all. Harding uses a lifeboat as a metaphor to make this point - we are all in a lifeboat with capacity for 60 people and we have 50 people in the boat. Meanwhile, there are 150 people struggling the water. What do we do? If we take them all on board, the lifeboat sinks and we all drown. If we only let 10 more on then we have to choose which ones can come.

This concept got legged out into many political and philosophical debates about whether or not we should help the poor and how we as a first world nation should address third world issues, but we don't really need to go there for this post to make sense - the simple concept of lifeboat ethics is sufficient for now.

The lifeboat metaphor, which I have not thought about since the late 1980's is apt today but for a different reason. With the recession continuing and companies struggling to match revenue to expense, the finite resource of operating capital limits the carrying capacity of many, many businesses. Lifeboat ethics kicks in at this point because the problem is the same; managing a finite resource for the benefit of the whole.

Unfortunately, to the people in the water, there is nothing fair about the logic or rationale of the people in the lifeboat as they make their decisions. To make matters worse, it's not much better for the people in the boat, who are confronted with horrible choices and guilt about making those choices (or being in a position to make a choice, for that matter). If the people in the boat don't like it, the only real option for them is to hop out and give up their seat for someone else (not much of choice for most of us).

There's no closure to this post - it's more of a meditation than an editorial. Yet, getting this down feels like some sort of resolution. If we can define it, then perhaps we can begin to understand it.

Mar 18, 2010

ESPN and the Wrath of Wheelmen

ESPN's Tony Kornheiser made some unbelievably stupid statements recently about running over bicyclists because "the last time I looked the roads were made for automobiles". Apparently he was let back on the air (after some sort of inappropriate comment about a woman's clothing) and began bitching about some bike lane that just got put in in his home town of Washington D.C. What he said is actually pretty bad - here's an excerpt:

"They all wear … my God … with the little water bottle in the back and the stupid hats and their shiny shorts," he said. "They are the same disgusting poseurs that in the middle of a snowstorm come out with cross-country skiing on your block. Run 'em down."Let them use the right, I'm OK with that. I don't take my car and ride on the sidewalk because I understand that's not for my car … Why do these people think that these roads were built for bicycles? ... They dare you to run them down."
Tony.... um. That pushes the line even for an edgy baby boomer guy like you.

Lance called Tony a "complete fucking idiot" (thanks, Lance!) and continued to trash him on Twitter with words like "disgusting" and "ignorant".

After reading the U.K. Guardian article (linked above) I went to Facebook tonight to see if there was a "Tony Kornheiser is a Jerk" page or something that I could "fan". Instead, I came across Tony's actual page. It turns out I am late to the dance on vitriolic anti-Tony rhetoric - here's what's currently up on his page:

Ouch - that's pretty harsh, and I am guessing it's only going to get worse until the page ultimately comes down. I bet this also might signal the closing of Tony's career at ESPN as well. Unless he's the token "bad boy" and this part of his contract or something, in which case he'll probably get a bonus for this.

Mar 13, 2010

Southern Connector

On Sunday, March 21, The City of Minneapolis will be hosting a working group tour for bicyclists to experience and discuss the proposed Southern Bike Connection. This would be a great improvement in our current bike infrastructure - check out the maps.

In the interest of full disclosure, this project would be an absolute God-send to me, personally. I generally yo-yo up and down Park and Portland on my commute for lack of a better alternative, and I have wished for a more laid back north-south route since moving back to the Twin Towns in 2006. The side streets are okay, but the busier streets (such as Bloomington), can feel pretty bike-hostile as you get further north, and the side streets can be pretty slow due to stop signs on ever corner.

Hop on you bike and meet at the 18th Ave. bridge over Midtown Greenway on Sunday, March 21 at 1:00 to join the group. I will most definitely be there. Please, please support this project!!

Mar 11, 2010

The Great Cyclopath Vs. Google Controversy

When Cyclopath came onto the scene I thought it was a great leap forward for cycling route-finding. This tool was developed by Group Lens Research, a "human-computer interaction and social computing" research group at the University of Minnesota.

If you are not familiar with Cyclopath, it's a WIKI based knowledge aggregator - bicyclists can rate sections of road for cycling suitability, enter landmark data like coffee shops, bike shops, etc. and generally contribute to the body of knowledge in the Cyclopath database. Because it's always updating, it could even be used to keep current on temporary route problems such as trail closures or ice roads (assuming we all keep it up to date, that is). Like Google Maps, Cyclopath will let you find a route as well, but what's more, you can weight the results by ranking bikeability, speed, distance, etc. as you prefer, so it's really a pretty amazing tool.

In the early development of Cyclopath, I and many other Twin Cities cyclists contributed information to the WIKI to get better and more complete information into the WIKI. I still contribute data when something new comes up, and I use it if I have to find a route to or from some place I have never ridden before. I have had really good luck with it and appreciate the service (in fact, I stuck a link to Cyclopath on the right side of this page as testimony to this endorsement months and months ago).


Google Maps was petitioned to developed a "Bike There" option for it's route-finding tool by many, many cyclists. I think I signed some electronic petition to that effect last year, as a matter of fact. On March 10, Google, um... uncovered their tool with great fanfare.

Today Cyclopath published a pretty persuasive counter-offensive treatise on why it's superior to the Google Maps tool. Cyclopath points out, for instance, that Google Maps has some errors, like omitting the Sabo Bridge and LRT trail and makes mistakes like routing cyclists onto the Hiawatha Ave. - I-94 interchange(!).

I have not fooled around with the Google Maps tool much, but I am very confident that Cyclopath is superior to Google Maps. That said, I am concerned that this could become yet another Wal*Mart-like tragedy where a massive corporation uses its scale and capital to strangle a smaller, higher quality competitors, and we all end up with some inferior product in the deal.

Mar 6, 2010

Playing in Traffic

I was looking at traffic statistics for this blog earlier today and concluded that it's good I have a day job.

If you are viewing this site from Garland, TX or Hinckley, IL, I have a Minneapolis Bike Love spoke card for you in appreciation of your viewership. Shoot me an email with your address and I'll toss it in the mail for you.

Perfect From Now On

The cumulative effect of my life is nudging me toward some sort of health and wellness make over. Believe it or not, having a brain that doesn't shut off and a tendency to put a little too much on yourself can make things start to wear thin after awhile. Who'd a thunk it?

I had a bodywork session on Wednesday for the first time in years and will be doing more of that to get the knots and kinks out of my back and neck. I am also supposed to find a yoga class and maybe a meditation class as well. Fortunately the weather is better for riding, so some physical activity will only help.

There is a delicious irony here because all of this will help to manage some perfectionist tendencies that make it difficult to find peace. Accepting that things can be less than perfect will actually make me more perfect from now on.

Roll that around in your brain for awhile.

Mar 3, 2010

A Sign of Spring

Two signs of spring, actually.

1.) For whatever reason, ducks sit on the roof of a house near my bus stop on Bloomington Ave. It's the strangest thing. The ducks are up there every freaking morning in spring and summer. Today they were back. They might have been there Monday or Tuesday, but I don't know because I rode my bike rather taking the bus. All I know is that today the ducks are here. WTF?

2.) Tonight walking home from 48th and Chicago I saw a big raccoon crawl into a tunnel in the snow and disappear down a storm drain. I've seen these f'ing things before around the neighborhood and they kind of creep me out; at first you think they are cats, but as you get closer you realize they are raccoons. Ick.

Two signs in one day. I took the Nokians off and mounted the Big Apples tonight in response to these omens. Let's hope I am right.

Mar 2, 2010

A Few Goals

Locking Up
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Every now and then I put a few personal goals out here as a way to dare myself into doing something. I did well on most of my cycling goals in 2009, so I'll look to extend that behavior in 2010. Rather than set a mileage goal, I have opted instead for some more performance based metrics, I guess. My base commute is only 10.4 miles or so round trip, so unless I take the long way home and do some serious distance on weekends, I won't be a high-mileage guy, most likely.

I think rather than setting a mileage goal I am going to focus on having more fun this year. I have caught myself racing to and/or from work when I don't really need to, or fussing over the fact that I am feeling slow or that my legs feel heavier on a given day than they did previously. This season, one of my big goals is to simply RELAX AND ENJOY THE RIDE. It wouldn't kill me, for instance, to stop at Calhoun on the way home and watch the water for a little bit, or stop for a beer at Sea Salt if I ride the River Road home. Or to just slow down and look around rather than bombing along in defensive rider mode. That's not my default personality type, so it's not going to be an easy goal for me, but it's one I am going to work on, both in the cycling and personal world this year.

Okay - I guess I do have a mileage goal, but it's not a number. It's "as many miles as I can reasonably get in". To me that's going to mean taking my bike to work every day I can and doing as much errand running and recreational rides as I can fit in. We'll see what the mileage adds up to, but since I haven't really tracked this before I doubt I'll be disappointed by the result.

Another goal would be to do a few more group rides. I have done a variety of group rides, ranging from organized tours to Saturday shop rides, to TCBC club rides and even Critical Mass style beer-drinking meanders. I am not a naturally out-going person but I learn something every time I have done one of these things, so I am going to challenge myself to do a few more this year.

Final goal: Commute season from March 1 through Nov. 30

That's enough goal setting for now. Don't want to jinx anything.

Mar 1, 2010

Hunger Moon

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Molly took this lovely photo of the full Hunger Moon when she was down at her Mom's house in rural Minnesota this weekend. Beautiful.

2010 Commute Opener

I decided that March 1 would be the kick-off for my 2010 bike commutes. I picked the date partly because it's earlier than I started riding to work regularly last year, partly because I am sick of the bus, and partly because we had a really nice weekend and the weather looks pretty good this week as well. I have ridden to work a few times in January and February, but enough to really count, so this is "the opener".

We have lost a lot of ice and the road conditions were generally good except for the locations where day-time melting has refrozen over night, which can make for some slippery patches. Surprisingly, pot holes weren't as bad as I expected, but it seems like there a lot of little micro frost heaves making for some humpy riding.

It felt very good to get back on my bike, and the ride both ways was quite enjoyable except for the very last stretch on Marquette Ave. on the way in to the office this morning. These clowns (see photo above) were loading scaffolding on to a flat bed truck. As I approached from the south in right lane, two of the scaffolding decks slipped off the truck as they tried to jam some more on the truck, and they crashed off the driver's side of the bed and into the traffic lane just a few feet in front of me.

Here's to defensive riding; I saw what was happening, knew there was no traffic behind me, and I saw the scaffolding slip and come crashing down, so I was able to swerve, brake and avoid the accident. Still, it was quite startling and I did swear pretty loud when it all happened.

The most enjoyable part of commuting is how good you feel when you get home - it was a pretty stressful day and the ride home at dusk was a great discharge. That's what I like the most about commuting.