Minneapolis was recently recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau as having the second-highest percentage of people who bike to work in the nation, ranking behind only Portland, Ore. A staggering 4,600 Minneapolitans bike to work on a regular basis (this number does not include students, who are not accounted for in census data). Minneapolis supports its bikers via special funding set aside to create and maintain the 34 miles of Minneapolis streets that have dedicated bike lanes, in addition to 56 miles of off-street bicycle trails.
So it is astounding that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board would agree to close down a biking route as crucial as the Stone Arch Bridge for a corporately sponsored event.
The Stone Arch is the symbolic centerpiece of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. It is also a major biking artery, offering one of the most direct routes into downtown Minneapolis from the Northeast side. While I appreciate the park board's promotion of art in open spaces, it made a grave error in judgment by allowing the 10-day Red Bull Illume event to be held on the Stone Arch Bridge.
The Red Bull Illume display consisted of 25 8-foot cubes that display the winning photographs of a competition honoring extreme sports photographers. These enormous cubes were placed directly on the Stone Arch's two central lanes, which are designated bike paths. Ironically, the exhibit forced Minneapolis bikers themselves to become extreme athletes who had to dodge pedestrians, runners and Segway scooters on their daily commute. This was not fair to anyone who uses the Stone Arch for its intended purpose. It was a dangerous situation that threatened the safety of both pedestrians and bikers.
The Stone Arch is spectacular on its on merits. It does not need an art display to enhance its beauty. With the end of the exhibit this past weekend, the Minneapolis biking community finally gets back a bridge that should not have been taken from us in the first place.
Sky Christina Satterstrom, Minneapolis, recently graduated from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.