When it comes to bike-friendly rankings, Minneapolis has long outperformed our climate, even before we began serious investment in safe spaces to bike. That’s a result of the incredible Minneapolis Park trail network. The Park and Recreation Board got an early start building bike trails along Kenwood Parkway in 1895 and along Lake Harriet in 1896. (Check out more of our city’s early bikeway history in this chapter of the Minneapolis Master Bike Plan.)
The Grand Rounds was created as a recreational network. Because it circles the whole city (save the unfinished section in northeast/southeast) and connects to Downtown along the river, it puts most Minneapolitans close to a continuous protected bikeway with access to every corner of the city. When I moved to Minneapolis in 1996, the parks were great, and the streets… well, while rideable, they weren’t for the timid.
Since Our Streets Minneapolis was founded almost a decade ago, there’s been a small but persistent crowd asking us us to work with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB). The significant turnover of park board commissioners, the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan (NPP20) investments, the clear link to racial equity, growing capacity at Our Streets, and a bigger crowd bringing it up again means Our Streets is considering whether now is the time to start a Park Board work group. This spring, I’m exploring that suggestion.
First, I confess I’ve been part of that crowd. I’ve written public pleas for better winter maintenance for people walking and biking (highlighting the day I decided to shoveled an MPRB-maintained trail myself). I’ve shared the challenges of one-way trails for people riding with kids. I’ve asked MPRB candidates how we can better connect Park Board trails and City of Minneapolis bike routes. I’ve highlighted inequities in park access and maintenance and programming living a Southwest neighborhood and having worked in North.
But that’s my list of wishes. This is an invitation to think bigger, to learn what other people imagine is possible. I’ve had several short (and a few long) interviews asking people what would be possible if Our Streets Minneapolis invested time and resources in an MPRB work group?
I want to be clear. Starting a Park Board work group is not a foregone conclusion. It has to fit with our mission and vision, and it has to help build a city where biking, walking, and rolling are easy and joyful for people of all backgrounds and identities in all parts of Minneapolis. It has to be something enough people will be excited about that they (you!) will come out and help make change. It has to proactively address the inequities our city is wrestling with.
Ideas I've heard
In interviews, and I’ve heard some big and exciting new ideas. They’ve challenged my imagination, and I hope they’ll invite you to imagine transformation, too. For example:
- Let’s re envision what a trail is, what completing the Grand Rounds might mean. Could a parkway include space for trails but not cars? Could low-traffic streets become parks with linear trails to connect parks to neighborhoods to parks?
- When we rebuild our parkways, could we reclaim some of the space from cars to make more space to plant trees, capture rainwater, and make space for trails where we don’t now have enough?
- While Our Streets past focus has been on the things we build, Minneapolis Parks provide programming. Could parks have bike parks, and could park buildings have bike rooms, the way they have computer rooms and art rooms? Could they have walking clubs, biking clubs, learn-to-ride and skills-building classes, and bike maintenance classes?
- What ideas are truly transformative? Parks and Power has highlighted the MPRB policing budget is $5m a year, much more than is spent on youth development. We fund our priorities. They advocate shifting MPRB's funding priority from policing to youth development.
What are YOUR ideas?
I want to hear from you. I have three questions, and I welcome any and all thoughts beyond these questions, too.
- First, join me in taking a step back. What would be possible if Our Streets Minneapolis started a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board work group? With our support, what could the MPRB accomplish? Where could they improve? Where can we make a difference?
- Second, what will people, and what will you care about enough to come out and volunteer?
- Why should Our Streets do this now?