That Dinkytown bike-ped bypass that MPLS told you about last week is now open for wheeled and foot traffic.
You can catch the new route either at the east end of Bridge 9 just off the Mississippi River, or just off the intersection of Oak and 5th Streets SE. That's not far from the west end of the existing University Transitway.
Of course a new bike trail wouldn't be official without a few politicians proving they can ride bikes. So if you want to join them for the ceremonial opening, they're meeting at noon Sunday on the mall of the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus. Meet at the corner of Carter and Eckles avenues. That's near the Transitway's east end. Other stops along the way are at 12:20 p.m. at Malcolm Avenue and 5th Street SE in Minneapolis, and at 12:45 p.m. at Oak and 5th.
If you don't like crowds, the new trail is lit so you can ride or walk it any hour.
The city is calling the new route the Dinkytown Greenway, but be forwarned that there's been no special planting along the route so far. There are some scrub trees along the path, but mostly it features views of parked railcars and idle tracks.
Steve Hankey drew lots of curious fellow bikers last year on Minneapolis streets as he hauled a covered bike trailer sprouting a pipe that extended up to his helmet level. Many assumed that he was photo mapping for Google.
Instead, the University of Minnesota graduate student was mapping one aspect of the city’s pollution—concentrations of particulates—with an eye toward improving the health of bike commuters and pedestrians, and potentially influencing public policy.
Although the health impacts of bike commuting are well documented, the downside can be increased exposure to a brew of pollutants, especially those from auto, truck and bus exhausts.
Hankey’s work could influence which routes bikers and walkers choose. Preliminary results found concentrations of particulates were about half again higher on the city’s arterial and collector streets than they were on off-street paths such as the Midtown Greenway. Moreover, those concentrations were almost twice as high in the morning rush hour as its evening twin.
Ultimately, he’ll use sophisticated statistical analysis and land use modeling to produce a block- by-block map that estimates particulate exposure across the city. He’s hoping to integrate that with online bike route finders, such as Cyclopath at the university, so that commuters have a choice of mapping the shortest route, the fastest or the healthiest.
The work could also be integrated into bike route planning, although representatives of two prominent organizations that site bike facilities say they first want to review Hankey’s work when it’s completed.
But it’s already influencing Hankey, who used to like to speed by snarled traffic on his bike, to pick less-traveled routes. His normal 100 weekly miles on a bike helped prep him for the demands of his fieldwork.
That involved repeatedly cycling three different routes that averaged close to 20 miles each, all while hauling more than 65 pounds of monitoring gear in the bike trailer. He sampled four types of particulate air pollution, including the finest particles that are associated with increased heart risk when inhaled. He accumulated more than 800 miles during his sampling runs.
The lesson of his studies isn’t that cycling is harmful. One Belgian study found the health benefits of cycling to average nine times the potential risk from higher inhalation of pollutants or accidents, when measured in years.
Rather, Hankey’s findings suggest that a biker could greatly reduce exposure by shifting over a block or two. Shifting just 100 meters (about one block) off a major road cut morning particulate exposure by about one quarter. That was the sharpest drop, although moving over another block would trim the risk by a cumulative one-third.
Hankey’s research for his civil engineering doctoral dissertation is already drawing attention. He’s won prizes for presentations at academic conferences in France and Switzerland. It grows out of dual masters he earned in engineering and urban planning.
But his real impact would be if he influences planners to shift the planning of bike route and facilities. For example, two of the higher traveled bikes lanes in south Minneapolis on Portland and Park avenues also are heavily traveled by motor vehicles.
Simon Blenski, a bike planner for the city, said the findings support the city’s efforts to add bike boulevards, which are bike-friendly streets, a block or two off main thoroughfares. But he’d like to see the final research. Ditto for Bill Dossett, executive director of the Nice Ride bike-sharing operation that sites stations for its ubiquitous lime-colored bikes. He considers it a sign that bikes are becoming mainstream as a commuting tool that work like Hankey’s is being conducted. But he considers vehicle pollution a moving target.
“We are doing things to reduce this exposure. Cars are a lot cleaner than they were when you and I started riding bikes,” Dossett said.
Photos: Above: Steve Hankey samples on the 5th St. NE bike boulvard at Broadway St., photo by Simon Blenski; Right: Hankey's bike and trailer with air intake pipe and sampling equipment.:
Two Minneapolis beaches are closed today due to high levels of the E. Coli bacteria: Lake Hiawatha’s beach and the Lake Calhoun beach at 32nd Street. (The other two Calhoun beaches are open).
The Park Board said it closed the beaches Tuesday because testing showed levels of E-Coli bacteria exceeded state guidelines. They will open once those numbers return to normal.
Officials say the high levels are most often from waterfowl and pet wastes in yards, streets and parks that wash into lakes either directly or via the storm sewers after a heavy rain.
Three other beaches are also closed due to the high levels: Excelsior Beach on Lake Minnetonka, the beach at Snelling Lake in Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul and Valley Lake Beach in Lakeville.
Minneapolis Park and Rec advises swimmers to take precautions to lower their risk of exposure to high bacteria levels:
-Avoid swimming after a rainfall.
-Avoid swimming if you or your child have diarrhea.
-Avoid getting lake water in your mouth, wash your hands before eating and changing a diaper, and shower after swimming if possible.
Standing on a tree stump off Dean Parkway, mayoral candidate Mark Andrew yesterday pledged a “Beautiful Boulevards” program to double the number of city trees planted by the park board to 10,000 a year if he is elected.
He said Minneapolis is losing trees faster than the city is replacing them – last month’s storm knocked down 3,000 more - and called for a larger “urban canopy.”
The former Hennepin County commissioner said he would add $500,000 for tree-planting from the city’s general fund to leverage financial support from private businesses and other entities, though he did not offer specifics on how he would come up with the money.
Andrew said he would work with the business and philanthropic community to add a 50 percent match to that program, and also expand an existing initiative that offers residents inexpensive trees to plant on their own property. Additionally, he said that “Beautiful Boulevards” would work with University of Minnesota to use technology that accelerates the growth of seedlings into large trees.
"We will be planting more trees than we are losing every year and that will be setting us on the right course for the future of the city," said Andrew.
Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Scott Vreeland said that Minneapolis will also lose another 30,000 trees with the onslaught of invasive beetles known as emerald ash borer.
Replacing all these trees “is a massive thing – it’s more than the park board can do,” he said.
Mayoral candidate Doug Mann (left) is going to court Tuesday to ask a judge to order the City Council to put a referendum on financing for the planned Vikings stadium on the November ballot.
Mann said he will file his petition for a writ of mandamus that seeks a public referendum on use of city sales taxes to help finance the edifice, as authorized by the Legislature.
He wants the court to order that the city follow a provision of its charter that requires voter approval when more than $10 million in city funds are spent on an athletic facility. The city is expected to note that the legislation overrides that charter provision.
The city will finance its portion of the stadium using a suite of sales taxes – a citywide sales tax, downtown restaurant and liquor taxes and a hotel tax. Those taxes currently pay for the city’s convention center, but money will be freed up when debt on that facility is paid in 2020.The total city subsidy is $309 million, or $678 million when accounting for interest over the life of the deal.
Mann has been a frequent candidate for public office.
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