In mid-July last summer, gas prices peaked, remaining in the range above $3.50 per gallon until late September, 2008. One consequence of the spike was a boom in interest in commuter bicycling. July traffic on the Midtown Greenway, the principal bike commuter infrastructure in the Twin Cities, was 30% higher in 2008 than the previous year. An average of over 4,100 cyclists per day used the Greenway at Hennepin Avenue.
Greenway traffic diminished slightly this summer, thanks largely to a 40% drop in the price of gasoline. But interest in establishing a network of greenways has continued to rise. Two new efforts – the Twin Cities Greenways Initiative and the St. Paul Greenway Committee – suggest that the many interests who stand to benefit from an effective bike commuter system are joining together to move it forward.
The Twin Cities Greenways Initiative, inspired by the combination of ridership and development in Midtown, is working with neighbors to explore conversion of residential streets to greenways, linked together eventually in a network to link neighborhoods, schools, open space and commercial areas. “As we talk to neighbors,” said advocate Matthew Hendricks, “we find that 90% of them respond very positively to the idea of converting their streets to greenways.” Auto access would remain to homes via the alleys, as illustrated above.
The St. Paul Greenway Committee is stimulating interest east of the river in a facility akin to the Midtown Greenway – to which many in St. Paul have long sought a connection. Led by transit advocates St. Paul Smart Trips, the committee intends to begin planning with neighborhoods, to determine which connections will link high-priority destinations most effectively.
Greenways play a key role in a transportation system where implemented. They also enhance property values – a case proven by numerous studies of comparable cities. Gas prices will rise from current levels in the future, and providing affordable choices for getting around is key to our region’s competitiveness and quality of life.
Note: This post is also available at the Star Tribune, with fewer images.
All images courtesy of Michael Nelson and Twin Cities Greenways Initiative.