A day with cooler temperatures makes the heat wave of last week seem distant. Finally, our house windows are open and we can sit out on the deck with friends for a meal and drinks. At the close of Sunday evening with the last daylight in the western sky the Monday morning bike ride looks promising.
The Twin Cities is one of the few American cities with a legacy of public space devoted to park land. Other cities on this short list are San Francisco and New York, noteworthy for Golden Gate Park and Central Park. Minneapolis has its Chain of Lakes, part of a serious 50 miles of bike trails, in the Great Rounds public space in Minneapolis. Strategic to bike transportation with link ups to two urban bike trails, The Cedar Lake Trail and The Greenway both speed cylcist to dowtown work, across town to the University of Minnesota or eastward to the Mississippi River crossing towards downtown St. Paul.
On a recent work assignment I have had the opportunity to commute by bike 14 miles to downtown St. Paul. What I have experienced while bike riding is the possiblity that Minneapolis is the most liveable city in America. Minneapolis is living the legacy of plans that took shape over 100 years ago and continues to this day. Minneapolis is a young city that values the old. Minneapolis comes closets to the walkability of Boston, but for bike riding. It has neighborhood destinations. Places to shop, eat, entertain. Think of New Orleans for the French Quarter except our destinations are G- rated. Destinations reached by bike riding are becoming easier than driving a car. Maintaining neighborhood retail, a critical element for living, storefronts continue to service dozens of neighborhoods. Most of the city of Minneapolis was built B.C. Before Cars. It was only in 1955 that the trolly system shut down. I think what we are seeing is an American city that is the blue print for city living into the 21st century. Foresight is how Minneapolis has reached its level of living around public spaces. Hindsight is is also part of the equation. If we would have kept the street car system? That is a big what if.
The city is facing the same problems as the rest of the country but is not backing off from it’s community vision. What to do with vacant office towers? St.Paul is turning theirs into living spaces. How to create living wage jobs? Remains to be developed. Falling tax revenues and infrastructure maintenance challenge investment. But, the city is still chugging along. Chugging like the new trolly line that is expected to open in 2015. This line will link both downtowns along a central corridor that is a mix of big box stores, Hmong retail, the Uof M urban campus and small craftsmen houses. It could be anyone’s guess what this corridor will shape up to by 2020 but it is my hope that people will flock to these areas using alternative transportation. The University street trolly line could become the new mainstreet that knits many cultural influences within our two communities, The Twin Cities, coming back to life before cars.