Officials seek input from residents for proposed north Minneapolis trail.
A biking and pedestrian greenway proposed to run through north Minneapolis is being pitched as an amenity for a long-struggling area, but is also raising concerns from residents in its path.
City officials are seeking input on three designs, the most dramatic of which would close off residential streets with little traffic to all but the greenway.
Biking groups and other supporters say the 3.5-mile trail would encourage active living in the area, which they say has limited access to recreational opportunities compared with the rest of the city. The trail would be similar to the Midtown Greenway, a major bike-commuting route that runs through south Minneapolis.
“Green space improves your neighborhood,” said City Council President Barb Johnson, who represents the North Side. “When people complain that there’s not enough investment in north Minneapolis, this could be a significant investment.”
But critics worry how changes may affect parking and safety in neighborhoods along the route. Council Member Blong Yang, who also represents the area, said Hmong households often have several generations living under the same roof and have large family gatherings. The greenway could make parking difficult for them, he said.
The proposed route stretches about 30 blocks from Shingle Creek Trail to Plymouth Avenue, primarily along Humboldt and Irving Avenues N., both residential streets. Cost estimates are expected to be available next month.
If the full greenway option is chosen, residents’ front yards would become grass and greenway, with no street. Residents would rely on their alleys for parking.
Another option called the “half and half” would allow bikes and cars to run parallel to one another with special intersections so bicycles don’t have to stop. This may leave space for parking on one side. A bike boulevard is the third concept, which would mix cars and bikes while reducing the flow of traffic through signs and speed bumps.
Early stages of planning
Officials involved in the process stressed that they’re still in the early planning stages and expect to continue collecting data well into next year.
“No decisions have been made by the city. No decisions have been made by the elected officials or the neighborhood groups,” said Russ Adams, executive director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, a transit and affordable-housing advocacy group.
“We’re all exploring a concept — looking at an idea that would raise livability and recreational possibility.”
Adams and other advocates hope to piggyback off the success of the Midtown Greenway. Residents were initially skeptical about those construction plans in 2008, Adams said, but the trail is now busy year-round. The greenway averaged more than 4,000 riders per day last year, according to city reports.
Right now, the proposal is strictly theoretical and decisions on how to proceed will be based directly on the community’s response, Adams said. The city has partnered with several neighborhood, religious and cultural groups to help residents digest the information. Engagement efforts — ranging from doorknocking to holding formal meetings — have allowed residents to ask questions and raise concerns.
“If we can’t get a solid, core commitment — a critical mass — then it shouldn’t be done,” said Adams, who is on the project’s steering committee. “We have to be really mindful that this may not work for everyone.”
Concerns: parking, lighting
Some people living on the proposed route worry that their lives will be inconvenienced to service only a few.
Hmong residents in the area represent at least 15 percent of the population — about 5,000 people — and require different amenities than the typical American family, Yang said. Full greenways are convenient for families with two parents and two cars, he said. But in Hmong households, it’s not unusual to have three or four generations living under the same roof, which can add up to five or more cars.