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A man rides a bike on a path on the West Bank as another man walks in the distance.

In recent years the Twin Cities campus has become more and more bike friendly, adding numerous paths and doubling the amount of bike parking.

Brighter biking ahead near U

TC campus area to become even more bike friendly

By Rick Moore

July 10, 2007

As we settle into an era of $3-plus gas prices, commuting to work or school by bicycle is becoming a more lucrative path to choose. And for those in the vicinity of the U's Twin Cities campus, the number of trails and designated bike lanes is going to increase dramatically, filling in some gaps and making the two-wheel commuting option that much more pleasant.

The campus hasn't always been this bike friendly. A little more than a decade ago, there were no painted bike lanes and precious few racks for bike parking, according to Steve Sanders of Parking and Transportation Services, who assumed the new position of campus bicycle coordinator in 1996. "There are old Minnesota Daily pictures of bikes hanging on trees," he notes.

But the climate for biking around campus has improved significantly, in keeping with the broader Twin Cities area. (Minneapolis was recently ranked second among 50 American cities in the number of people who commute to work by bike--about 4,700 or 2.4 percent--trailing only Portland.)

Today, there are bike lanes painted on many of the major arteries on or near campus, including University Avenue, 4th Street, 15th Avenue, and Harvard Street. The old No. 9 railroad bridge has been converted to a quiet trail connecting the East Bank to an area just downstream from the new Guthrie Theater. In the fall and spring, students traversing the Mississippi River between classes pack the bike lanes on the upper level of the Washington Avenue bridge. And, perhaps best of all, bike parking has gone from being scarce to bountiful, with racks near virtually every building on campus.

"I think we stack up very well with other campuses," says Sanders, with "the way we've integrated [biking] into the overall transportation system."

"We're really getting tied into the city and a lot of its paths and trails," says Sanders. "Some of the critical gaps in the system are being funded through this [NTP] program."

He adds that when new buildings are being built, there are discussions about how to accommodate bicycle parking. "We work hard at trying to advise people on what they're going to need [for their building]," Sanders says.

Other improvements are just around the bend. Next year a path will be built that connects the No. 9 bridge to the Transitway--the road dedicated to buses and bikes running from the East Bank to the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul.

U students and staff will also be the beneficiaries of a number of projects recently funded by Transit for Livable Communities' Non-motorized Transportation Pilot (NTP) Program. Minneapolis and its surrounding communities are one of four pilot sites that will be receiving federal funding of more than $21 million over four years.

The projects will create bike lanes at the following locations:

"We're really getting tied into the city and a lot of its paths and trails," Sanders says. "Some of the critical gaps in the system are being funded through this [NTP] program."

Down the road, there may be other links to the Twin Cities' burgeoning Grand Rounds bike trail, the popular loop that circumnavigates numerous lakes and parkways in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In the meantime, every new path or trail helps to make for "a much more robust, seamless system" that's more attractive for potential bicyclists, Sanders says. "People can see themselves [traveling by bike]. It kind of gets people's imagination going. That's going to be a really good thing."

Discovering bike safety accessories

About 100 yards from the Transportation and Safety Building is a sidewalk "cling" that's part of the U's Driven to Discover campaign. The question on the search bar is "Where can I buy a bike helmet or headlight?" The answer? "Get bike gear at Boynton Health Services. In an effort to increase bike safety on campus, the 'Lighten Up and Use Your Head!' program was created. Students can purchase a bike helmet and headlight together for the low cost of $20 at the pharmacy in Boynton. Just bring your U Card for a great deal."

Related reading: A drive for more biking and walking options The road to biking bliss