Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BOD (Bicycle-Oriented Development)

I recently heard a presentation form Dr. Billy Fields of the University of New Orleans' Center for Urban and Public Affairs on the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, which is a 5.5 mile bike/ped trail along an old rail alignment in South Minneapolis. 
Photo courtesy of the City of Minneapolis
It certainly looks like a great rails-to-trails conversion.  But what really piqued my interest was the trail's BikeCenter, which includes parking spaces, shower facilities, and a repair shop, as well as the headquarters of the Midtown Greenway Coalition.  These are all useful facilities, but even more remarkably, the BikeCenter has no parking spaces nor street level access.  Instead, as you can see in the photos below, it fronts on the trail:
Photo courtesy of Thinking Outside

Photo courtesy of Thinking Outside
Dr. Fields also mentioned that the land use plan for the Greenway Corridor states that buildings adjacent to the Greenway should have adequate setbacks so that they don't block the Greenway's sun--an important consideration given Minneapolis' cold winters (the Greenway is plowed during the winter, so it gets year-round use).

Transportation departments normally have sole domain over bike facilities, so it's exciting to see a city thinking outside of the box, and considering both development opportunities adjacent to these facilities and land use guidelines that keep conditions pleasant for cyclists.  The Greenway provides a good example of the type of holistic thinking that is necessary in order to fully integrate bicycles and other sustainable transportation modes into a community.  Granted, situating a bike shop along a bike path in one of the nation's most bike-friendly cities is a bit of a no-brainer, and given that bikes account for under 10 percent of trips in even the most biketopian cities it's unlikely that we're going to see full-blown cyclo-mall districts popping up any time soon.  Still, Minneapolis' Greenway raises some good questions about land use decisions in areas where a lot of people ride bikes. 

Photo courtesy of BikePortland.org
For instance, if a city is willing to allow businesses to convert a parking space to a bike corral, as in the photo above, shouldn't it also be willing to lower the parking requirements for businesses on the assumption that customers are going to visit by bike rather than on foot?  We're not going to see real change in the way people travel until we start treating bicycles, transit, and feet as primary modes of transportation rather than treating them as an afterthought.  Converting old rail lines and underused space in the right-of-way to sildewalks, lanes, and trails is a necessary first step; now we need to start thinking about how to re-orient our cities around these facilities so that they become thoroughfares for everyday travel.

1 comment:

  1. Bicycle oriented development began to emerge around the city as seen from housing projects and businesses near popular cycling, Green Street, and the cycle track.

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