One thing the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition hasn't focused on much is Minneapolis Park Board infrastructure. As I ride, I wonder why they make some of the choices they do - am I the only one?
Maybe the best place to start is to explain who builds/runs what. Riding around, I have a mental map of "Bike Routes," but it's not actually a unified whole. There are three different governments building and maintaining cycling infrastructure in Minneapolis:
City of Minneapolis, generally Public Works (most on-street facilities)
Hennepin County (think Greenway and Cedar Lake Trail)
Minneapolis Park and Rec Board (including anything around a lake or along the river, Grand Rounds)
I know I seldom go anywhere very far from home, either for errands and meetings or for pleasure rides, without spending at least some time on an MPRB trail. It's a great street-separated system, and some have argued it's the reason Minneapolis has such high cycling rates, or that the ratio of women:men is more even than anywhere else in the US.
Although I love those trails, some things about them puzzle me.
First off, why is there a 10 mph speed limit on trails? My less-than-10 friend, Isaiah, rides 11-12 mph on average, so it can't be about kids. I once heard an MPRB staffer acknowledge it was too slow, so why does it stay?
What's with marking hazards but not fixing them? Anyone else seen the white/orange squiggly warnings of deep cracks around the Lake Calhoun trail?
I'm happy to see that they've shifted their bike rack standards to more modern, functional designs. I hope they systematically switch out all the old, wheel-bender racks still found at beaches and rec centers around the system.
Hennepin County and the City seem to adopt traditional road design standards for striping and signing. MPRB seems to have their own system - that I don't understand.
Why do they sometimes paint trails with green, sometimes with white, and once in a while with yellow? (The yellow seems to be reserved for very special situations, like where they accidentally painted the trail so lampposts are in the middle of one lane, and they repainted striping in yellow to highlight the danger.)
Why do the width of cut-outs along the trails where they cross driveways or intersect with other trails vary in design? Some are as wide as the path (ideal) and others throat down so narrowly that only half the width of the trail is usable at the intersection? It's fine if you don't meet another cyclist, but when my 9-year-old niece met an adult at one today, the adult had to stop and wait. When you meet someone hauling a trailer, it's best if you know how to hop a curb.
For an overly-specific gripe, but as an excuse to include a pretty picture, the planking by the Mill City Museum is downright irksome. I noticed that it was annoying enough for drivers, they removed all but a crosswalks worth, though I find it worse on a bike than in a car.
In the winter, I puzzle about maintenance. I usually commute through Loring Park. Am I the only who has been trapped in three inches of crusty snow where the plow missed the trail? And there is an incredible amount of gravel and sand and rocks on the path parallel to Lyndale (across from the Walker and Loring Park). I don't think it's from winter, but I'm not sure.
Finally, something that seems small but I find big. Where are you supposed to report things that need fixing? 311 won't take park concerns. I found this most frustrating last summer when construction equipment was parked - for weeks at a time - along the West River Road trail creating blind, forced, wrong-way riding in the street. When I called 311 to report the danger, they told me to call the Park Board... which was closed.
I'm starting to feel like a whiner. I guess when you have it as good as we do with the incredible MPRB trail system, it's easy to focus on the small things that could be better.
What do you wonder about when you ride the marvelous MPRB system? Or, am I the only one?
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