Word on the Streets

Minnehaha Creek

Last Saturday, my partner Jessica and I took a people-powered bike-canoe round trip up to the top of the Minnehaha Creek and back.

We left the house at about 11:30 with the canoe on its Wike bike trailer, me on a folding bike towing the canoe, and Jessica on her regular road bike. Here's the setup:


We're fortunate to live within half a block of the Brackett Park entrance to the Greenway. We took the Greenway west, all the way to where it transitions into the Cedar Lake LRT Trail. Just before Hopkins, we passed over the creek. That was the furthest upstream we'd ever been (on a trip last year). We pushed on. In Hopkins, we turned right onto 8th Ave S, looking for a connection to the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail. They've got great signage, directing people right to it.  In this one on-street portion of the trip, I was right hooked verrrrry slooooowly by an elderly couple in a van, but managed to avoid a collision.

The Minnetonka trail is gravel, but fairly ridable. Many fewer users, which was rather nice - it's complicated to pass and be passed when towing a canoe. However, a few of the intersections leave a lot to be desired, especially the one at Shady Oak Road, which forces bicyclists to go down a steep slope around a sharp turn, before making a right-angle turn onto a tiny curb cut to cross. Unable to navigate such a convoluted mess, I went down the curb instead.

We crossed Minnetonka Drive to Burwell Park, where we found a lovely place to put in. A woman was eating a picnic with her daughters, and volunteered to take this picture of us in front of the canoe.

And here’s Jessica ready to get into the boat. The folding bike is in the bottom, as is the disassembled trailer. That's Jessica's bike with its front wheel taken off, strapped to the top of the canoe.

Minnehaha Creek is a challenging paddle. There are many class-I rapids, especially near bridges (which narrow the flow, speeding it up). This year, there were also many more trees down in the water than there were last year. The creek whipsaws back and forth, requiring constant steering. Further complicating matters, certain portions of the creek were filled with tubers (not potatoes - people in inner tubes), who can't really control where they're going.

We had a lovely picnic at about 5pm at the old Edina Mill.  Those are the old mill stones!

A couple of scares: A large tree, fallen all the way across the stream, with its trunk beneath the surface and its upper limbs too low to get under. We tried to go over the trunk and got stuck, nearly tipping in to our left. We had to lean far to the right to not go over, and I ended up having to climb into the tree, wrestle the canoe over the trunk, then clamber back in. And bridges with such incredibly low clearance - at Hwy 169 and the Minneapolis golf course - that we had to sit in the bottom of the canoe and still duck in order to make it, with the handlebars of Jessica’s bike making it with scant inches to spare.

Just like every time we go on a bike/canoe trip, we got constant comments and exclamations. Bicyclists on our way there complimented the trailer, asked where we got it, etc. Kids pointed and yelled. On the creek, many people commented on the bikes in the boat. One woman sitting on her private dock noted that she'd seen a lot of things on the creek, but this was her first bike. At the trip's end at Longfellow Lagoon, a couple of kayakers watched us reassemble the trailer with great interest, and took a picture once it was all put together.

A quick ride over Hiawatha at about 8pm brought us to some well-deserved beverages at Sea Salt.

I like to think we’re helping spread a concept of self-sufficiency: you don’t have to get in a car to get in a canoe. There are plenty of beautiful adventure paddles right here in the metro, and they’re accessible by bike.

Zig Zagging on Hennepin

It is my contention that poorly designed bicycle lanes are worse than no bicycle lanes at all. A case in point is downtown Hennepin Avenue with the freshly painted green stripe bike lanes. Because Hennepin meanders ( I understand it was originally a trade route from Lake Calhoun to the river) with varying widths, the bicycle lanes are at times on the right of 2 full width car travel lanes and at other times sharing a car travel lane. I am not against bicycle lanes as I recognize it encourages bicycle ridership on streets, especially with new riders. But I do object to the zig zag. When cars and bikes go from the 2 full width travel lanes and bike lane to the shared bike lane situation, there is a conflict. And this conflict further aggravated by the speed of traffic on Hennepin. My suggestions for improvement: A) Remove all of the bike lanes (covering the green paint) and put in place signage that encourages bikers to take the center lane; B) Remove the bike lanes (covering the green paint) on the narrow blocks only; or C) Paint the entire right travel lane green on the narrow blocks. I am curious as to what others think. Which option do you prefer and why? Or, do you like the current arrangement? Or do you have other ideas for improvement?

Bill Dooley

Nice Ride Group Ride?

Yesterday I noticed HUGE Nice Ride group ride on the Hiawatha Trail. There had to have been at least 30 riders. Anyone know what this was about?