May 16, 2010

Stood Up at Art-a-Whirl and Chatting with NIce Ride

MPLS Skyline
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Yesterday took us to Northeast for Art-a-Whirl and Hooliefest. Is it the same thing? Is it two different things happening at the same time in the same place? Hoolie is music and Art-a-Whirl is art, I guess, but after going to them, I am still not sure...

I rarely make it to Northeast, my bike routes generally take me south of downtown, over to St. Paul or west and south into the 'burbs. On ancient maps, cartographers would add illustrations of sea monsters and such lurking in the regions the regions they didn't know much about as a caution to the user - that was pretty much what Northeast was for us.

It turns out that we actually knew Northeast better than I thought we did, however, and avoided navigational catastrophe entirely. We made the scene at 13th Ave to check on some records Molly is trying to sell at Shugga, hear some music and look for a co-worker that was selling prints behind the 331 club (no dice - either she wasn't there or we were looking in the wrong place). I was also eager to try the fish and chips at Anchor, but they were still serving breakfast (at 11:40 AM). This always irrationally pisses me off when it happens, but I sucked it up and had second breakfast, which was not bad, I must say.

The real eye-opener of the day was the Northrup King Building; I had no idea it was so large and housed so many studios. We stopped in Bicycle Theory for some free coffee, looked at the Adam Turman prints and got eye tracks all over the Speedhound Cycles, but the more interesting stop for us was at a map place down the hall.

Inexplicably, Nice Ride had a booth set up in a map production studio, so we chatted with the intern/organizer for Nice Ride at some length. The Nice Ride representative (I forgot your name, sorry) was very knowledgeable about the program, other bike sharing programs, and their effect on downtowns. He made the point that the presence of these bikes on the streets and in the kiosks can help to sensitize drivers to the presence of bikes in urban areas, and they can actually have traffic calming effect on their own.

Interesting, because I did a fairly extensive post on Nice Ride awhile ago, and while am impressed with the background work and funding behind the program, I was skeptical that this would work because I felt that many less experienced rider would be intimidated by the relatively poor bicycling amenities and high traffic volumes in downtown and uptown. Nice Ride's approach is that the first phase of the program will plant a seed, and "bike-friendly" will grow as the program takes root (hmm... lots of botanical metaphors this morning). The bikes get deployed on June 10, so soon we'll find out how this really works.

I missed the best photo opportunity of the day when Molly borrowed the Nice Ride demo bike and took it for a spin around the Northrup King hallways. She reports that the Nice Ride bikes are very heavy but are comfortable and well-made. They certainly are going to be hard to miss as well.

We finished the Tour of Northeast with a ride over to another co-workers house to swap her broken cranks for some gently used ones and then turned south for a stop at Pracna before returning to friendly So. MPLS.

A beautiful day and a very pleasant ride in an area we don't get too as often as we should.

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