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.
The June 21 storm may have scattered its damage more than the May, 2011 North Side tornado but the tree loss appears to be higher.
That's the assessment of Ralph Sievert, forestry director for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. He's estimating about 3,000 trees were lost in the public realm, which includes boulevards and parks, compared to 2,600 in the tornado. But the tornado created a more visually striking loss because damage was concentrated in strips.
Park Board tree crews are looking forward to only their third day off in the three weeks since the storm hit. That comes Sunday. They got July 4 and one other Sunday off. Sievert said 51 park employees are involved in the storm cleanup.
Meanwhile the nonprofit foundation supporting parks is dedicating the profits from its Sept. 8 5K race at Lake Harriet toward replanting tres in parks and boulevards. People for Parks hopes to raise at least $7,00, according to spokeswoman Felicity Britton.
More information about the race is available at www.peopleforparks.net .
|Politics (1)||Bridge construction (1)|
|Light rail and rail transit (1)||Property problems (1)|
|Public records (58)||Minnesota campaigns (1)|
|Minnesota legislature (1)||Minnesota state senators (1)|
|Education (1)||Minneapolis Edison (3)|
|Minneapolis Henry (2)||Minneapolis North (4)|
|Minneapolis Roosevelt (5)||Minneapolis South (1)|
|Minneapolis Southwest (5)||Minneapolis Washburn (5)|
|Democrats (1)||Morning Hot Dish newsletter (1)|
|Parks and recreation (200)||People and neighborhoods (625)|
|Politics and government (856)||Public safety (414)|
|Urban living (296)||Local business (274)|
|Minneapolis elections (6)||Betsy Hodges (1)|