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When the pedal beat the metal

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: June 18, 2014 - 3:05 PM

NOTE: You read earlier this week about the car beating the biker, the bus and the Green Line train from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis in a playful test of speed involving several Star Tribune staffers. The car was aided by the time trail being run at the tail end of rush hour, when traffic was smoother.

There's precedent for such a race from the opening of the first phase of the Midtown Greenway. That morning rush hour contest went to the bike.  Here's a reprinted time capsule of that contest written by Stribbers Steve Brandt and Mark Brunswick after their epic duel in late summer of 2000.:


It was no contest. Put a bike on the new Midtown Greenway against
a car on nearby Lake Street and two wheels beat four.

That's what we found when the Star Tribune pitted pedal against
metal in a race to test the efficiency of the newest commuter
bikeway in Minneapolis.

The car took 21 percent more time than the bike over the same
distance. The driver was limited to Lake's speed limit. The biker
kept his speed between 20 and 25 miles per hour for which the
greenway was designed, averaging 20.9.

The contest originated with a claim made two years ago by Tim
Springer, the Midtown Greenway Coalition's executive director.
Looking ahead to the greenway's completion, Springer boasted that
bikers would be able to travel faster on the 2.8-mile greenway than
on Lake for the same distance.

He pointed to the numerous traffic obstructions on Lake. They
include stoplights, traffic volume, holdups in the left lane from
turning cars and holdups in the right lane from buses. Bikers must
stop only for the greenway's three intersections with city streets,
just west of Hennepin Avenue S.

Although Lake Street traffic flowed relatively easily on the
morning of the test, it wasn't fast enough. The greenway's fresh
asphalt is a fast riding surface. But it wasn't as fast as it could
have been because dirt had washed onto the paving from the
shoulders of the still-unfinished project. The fit was tight in
spots, especially at bridges over Dean and Lake Calhoun Parkways,
where the bike and pedestrian trails are combined, squeezing down
to 10 feet. In fact, one attempt at a time trial had to be
postponed because the path was completely blocked by a contractor's
truck. It's going to be downright crowded in these sections,
although striping to separate bikes and bladers from walkers and
joggers will help.

Besides speed, there were other advantages to biking. As the
Isuzu Trooper in our test motored down Lake, it passed the garage
where its owner had just paid $692 for an exhaust-brake repair job.
That's almost as much as the the bike cost.

Lake gets its greatest use at rush hour. The greenway is far
busier in the evening and on weekends than during the day. Use is
noticeably higher in the half of the route that is west of Hennepin
than in the trench east of Hennepin. Some of that reflects spinoff
from the adjacent Chain of Lakes, but it also reflects ease of
access. The bikeway has eight access points west of its Hennepin
Avenue midpoint, but only four to the east, where the trench makes
ramps more expensive.

There's more graffiti on the east end, where bridge abutments
offer handy surfaces, and a trash dumpster recently was pushed
through a retaining fence, falling to the paths below. But the
eastern end is better protected from wind, and offers handy
commuter access to such employment centers as Norwest Mortgage and
Abbott Northwestern Hospital. In fact, hospital workers can be
spotted riding down the greenway in their scrubs.

When this part of the greenway is done later this year, sod will
diminish dirt runoff, security features such as call boxes, lights
and cameras will be operational, and striping will separate users.
Trimming a few branches that project onto the path would help.

But this is only the first phase of this ambitious project. The
west end, which now ends abruptly at Chowen Avenue S., is only a
short distance from the end of the suburban trail system being
developed by Hennepin Parks. Officials of that park system hope to
pave that gap this fall.

On the east end, the path ends at 5th Avenue. The Sears tower is
just a short distance down the tracks, and beyond that the Hi-Lake
shopping area. Plans call for an extension from 5th to the
Mississippi River in 2003. Don't hold your breath; any trail
projects in Minneapolis that involve negotiating with railroads
have taken far longer than anticipated.

But when that extension is finished, give us a call and we'll see
if a car fares any better in a 5 1/2-mile contest.


TALE OF THE TAPE

The men:

Steve Brandt/ Mark Brunswick
48 Age 44
5 feet 8 inches Height 6 feet 2 inches
158 lbs. Weight 230 lbs.

The machines:

1996 Bianchi Eros/ 1988 Isuzu Trooper
25 lbs. Weight 3,549 lbs.
24-speed manual Transmission 5-speed manual
9,222.7 Mileage 119,458
Aero bar Modifications/ New brake and exhaust systems
Water (rider) Coolant Water
.
The results:
.
7:50 Time 9:31

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