Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Biking in Indianapolis and Minneapolis

Dateline: 8:40 pm May 23, 2008 Filed under:

Last week my son Ellis started daycare at Jardin Magico, a bilingual daycare located near our house in Minneapolis. They teach kids in English and Spanish, serve organic foods, use cloth diapers and make sure kids get time outdoors every day. Perhaps best of all, we can get there by bike. I got the bike bug last year after visiting and biking around the Netherlands, and I am happy to be able to use my bike for everyday needs at home. I’m not the only one – every day there are are several bikes parked outside the daycare, with parents dropping off or picking up their kids.

The short bike commute to Ellis’s daycare is not pretty. In fact, it is a lesson in urban history and fraught with plenty of obstacles. I ride out my alley, up one street, into a driveway and on to a sidewalk, turn right, slow down to watch for trains, then stop at Hiawatha Avenue, a big highway that runs parallel to the light rail line. It is busy and imposing. At least you can push a button and get a walk signal, but is is not a comfortable crossing and there certainly isn’t a formal place for bikes. Once across it is again up on the safety of the sidewalks, if you can call them that, for they are a combination of crumbling concrete and asphalt adjacent to a former mill that is destined to become a nice TOD if the Gods cooperate. Then I cross four sets of active freight rail tracks and if traffic is light, I then descend down in to the street and continue the next two short blocks to the daycare, aware the entire way that cars coming from every direction may not see me. And all this towing kid in a trailer. It isn’t far, but it cuts through a swath of old and new (and future) Minneapolis. Nonetheless, it is the journey that counts, right? And beleive it or not, it is easier than driving!

Changing gears (no pun intended) from Minneapolis to Indianapolis – My friend and colleague Adam Arvidson, a Minneapolis-based landscape architect and writer, recently wrote in Metropolis Magazine about the new urban bike trail in Indianapolis. Read his article here. It seems as though the fair city of the famous car race is leading the pack in terms of urban biking. I’m sure the Dutch aren’t envious…yet, but be sure to bring your bike next time you are visit Indy.

Improved bike lanes and bike access in our cities is one of many keys to their livability and sustainability. It can’t just be recreation trails, either, although that is certainly important, as we Minneapolitans know. The entire city needs to be accessible on foot, by bike and by transit. The new path in Indianapolis will certainly be one to watch as it evolves and connects more of the city together.

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