Get into the Loop

College classes are starting up and high hopes of a new generation are swinging like a pendulum. It could be that seniors that are finishing undergrad degrees are looking for a sign that when they graduate next Spring the JOBS situation will be better. Freshmen who have four years ahead of them are only a bit more positive in that work life is not yet on their radar. So while the brightest of our youth are attending college on campuses situated in a closed loop environment that makes living a snap albeit limiting, it is most likely upon graduation that these young people will go out into the world of open loop SYSTEMS.
Is the campus that integrates within an urban situation closer to reality than the small college town that is segregated from the campus? Creating a closed loop and open loop side by side that separates budding scholars and townspeople that host the college is fairly typical in American college towns. However, when bikes are used for transportation by townspeople there appears to be more commerce within pedestrian places such as the old main street. One example is Madison Wisconsin where State Street is vibrant beginning near the campus and finishing downtown near the Capitol.

Photo by: Jeff Miller    Date: 2009

Urban planning has successful examples from near and far places that have made bike riding an intentional alternative to car driving. What sets these places apart from mediocre places is that local policy is for encouraging residents of all economic levels to participate as bike riding residents.

So, when it appears that only hipsters are using bikes in your community then it may be time for residents to shed preconceptions of what it means to get into the loop. The open loop system puts very few demands on a person. In a open loop system the places we live and work are also the spaces we go to for entertainment or relaxation. In these places the open loop is no more than 5 miles in any direction. Putting yourself at the epicenter of your loop that would mean your loop area is 100 square miles. That sounds like a lot, but that only means you are approximately no further than 25 minutes away from everything you need to sustain your living. Putting this into perspective. The college campus in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota is integrated into the city and is part of a open loop system. Bike riders whisk by on their way to classes while townspeople use the same routes for bike rides to work. Furthermore, once the campus boundaries have been surpassed the townspeople are bike riding to entertainment and work in downtown and uptown. This open loop system provides many opportunities for loops to overlap drawing more bike riders from one loop to another and increasing commerce and street life that is creating a more vibrant city. A city that is decreasing its car use is one that leads in livability. For those skeptics who persist on driving their cars, the bike rider is not going away so get used to it.


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