Interview with U of M' Steve Sanders

Recently I met with the University of Minnesota’s Alternative Transportation Manager over coffee to chat about bicycling at the U. I was interested in learning more about his work after the October meeting of the coalition’s Bike Friendly Streets committee. During that meeting we discussed gaps in the Minneapolis bicycling network and potential areas for improvement in 2013. During our discussion connections to and around the university came up as areas where we had some concerns and saw opportunities for improvement. As a student at the U, I was excited to have an opportunity to sit down and talk bikes with Steve.

Here are some of the things I learned from our conversation:

  • He's been working on biking issues at the U for 17 years but began working mostly full-time on bicycling projects last January. Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) recognizes the growing importance of bikes on campus.

  • There is a draft University bike plan (completed in 2011) and Steve hopes it will be approved by the administration in the coming months. The ultimate goal is public review and incorporation in the University’s Master Plan.

  • There will be a reinvigorated University bike committee in the new year that he hopes will meet monthly and include students, faculty, staff, and other members from outside agencies.

Steve’s Concerns:

  • This was #1. Conflict between bikes and pedestrians in shared spaces or on sidewalks. This is huge for improving safety and bicycling’s image on campus with the entire University community, including the U’s administrators and policymakers.

  • Safety concerns when LRT opens in 2014 around cyclists turning left off of Washington Ave through campus. Cyclists will have to cross the tracks watching for trains, buses running on the tracks, and vehicles coming from the opposite direction. He is trying to be proactive but it will be a challenge to make sure all cyclists are safe with this new configuration.

  • How to get the word out to people about what's going on with bicycling on campus- people only notice when there is an issue. Like the frustrations around cyclists being ticketed for biking on Scholar’s Walk in 2011.

Overall, it was an enlightening conversation and I walked away with a lot of great information and respect for Steve’s work. He was very open to ideas, comments, and discussion and encouraged people to email him. It was also great to hear about all the work happening on the U campus. I would like to see the bicycle coalition strengthen our ties with Steve to help him get people talking and thinking about biking around campus.

Would readers like to learn more about bicycling projects at the U? Is anyone interested in hearing more about this topic by regular blog updates? Or a happy hour event with University updates from Steve?

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