Mankato Irony: Now Playing

mankato-logoMankato recently released a new brand for the city called “Mankato: Now Playing.” The new branding opportunity is supposed to promote all the outdoor activities and other great tourist opportunities in the greater Mankato area.

As a graphic designer I can’t say that I’m really a fan of the logo, I think it’s kind of 90s and weird, but what bothers me more than the style of the logo is the icon that they chose to represent Mankato. A bicycle. Mankato is trying to promote its various trails that run near and through the city and to be fair, they have quite a few. There’s the very popular Red Jacket Trail that runs through West Mankato and is used as an excellent means of transportation. They also have several loops that can be accessed from Mankato totaling over 100 miles. Mankato even has a great locally owned bike shop: Nicollet South.

So, what’s the problem? Mankato has yet to dedicate a single foot of its roads to bike lanes for transportation. This to me is false advertising, why would you release a brand with the logo of a bike if you don’t even promote biking INSIDE the city? Why would we want to bring people to Mankato with the idea of biking and then not let them get around the city with said bikes?

They’ve made an OK effort to promote biking on Madison Avenue and Victory, the main economic zone of the city. They threw down some pavement on a large boulevard and called it good, but it lacks thorough consideration for bicycling as a form of transportation, although, if you’ve ever seen Madison avenue you know that there was zero planning for the entire (to borrow from Chuck) stroad.

Mankato and North Mankato were both given a “bronze” rating and title of “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, which I would say is accurate. Mankato is bike friendly in the sense that you can get out of the city and see some beautiful landscape via biking. However, if you look inward you’ll see that Mankato has a lot of room to grow. Mankato even had a comprehensive study of all forms of transportation done in 2010. You can view it at, but I’ll direct you here to their map on non-motorized transportation. It clearly outlines all the current biking opportunities, but does a horrible job of addressing future growth for biking in Mankato and leaves out most of the places where people do regular business. They give a marginal shout out to complete streets and non-motorized infrastructure on page 77 of their final study, but hardly anything to get excited about. You can view the final report here.

Mankato has a huge market for bikers—it has interesting geography, 4 colleges, and active citizens. Mankato should look to making their own mini-greenway, a cohesive artery of biking lanes and paths that zig-zag through the community. It would increase mobility, decrease traffic (which often gets clogged on our sparse, small bridges) and bring Mankato up to par with other great college towns. It would be a great leap in the right direction.

Similarly sized cities such as Greenville S.C and Burlington V.T. have been commended for their bike friendliness and the Twin Cities have already proven that the weather won’t deter people, so there’s no reason Mankato should be without a great bike infrastructure.

The only question is when will Mankato take biking seriously and not as a touristy gimmick?


After a fateful meeting with Nate Hood up by MSU, I noticed that I was wrong and that there are bike lanes up near the campus. These lanes aren’t marked with a bike or painted green, they’re just separated by a white line, which is fine, but does not lend itself to use.

I’ve also found in other places in the cities that we have bikes painted (pretty faded now) on the road, not really delineating a bike lane, but rather telling motorist to be aware that there are bikers: a small step in the right direction.

The powers that be also seem to be aware of this issue and are looking for solutions, I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

8 thoughts on “Mankato Irony: Now Playing

  1. Matt Steele

    It’s refreshing to have someone other than Nate Hood ripping on Kato. But it’s so easy! Great article.

    Now playing: Bicycles only for recreation in Mankato.

    If they were serious about bicycles as transportation, then it would be passe… almost as if they put a line art drawing of a car above the name of their city.

  2. Jeff Klein

    I tried one of the suggested loops late this fall. While the trails are quite pretty, to make a loop they need to be connected by straight, flat, farm roads, which at the time ran through manure-soaked fields. This isn’t Mankato’s fault but it’s something to be aware of and have a sense of humor about. What *is* Mankato’s fault is the total lack of bike facilities in town. Approaching the city from the near by state park via a decent trail spits you onto a nasty four-land, shoulderless, 45 mph stroad, which has to be endured for several miles before you encounter much in the way of restaurants and bars.

    It’s kinda amazing to watch clueless boosters and politicians try to be “bike friendly” while not understanding the most basic distinction between commuter and recreational riding. We’re seeing it to some degree with St. Paul’s plan too, although that one is so ambitious that if they actually do it the distinction might not matter much.

  3. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    After listening to Scott’s podcast (somewhat) about Mankato (, and talking w/ Nate and others about it, I thought should have a day trip there sometime in the “spring”…

    I can get a van, we drive down spend an afternoon / evening on a Saturday. It’d be great to set up meetings w/ some people in the urbanist community there, and have Nate give a guided tour to the sights of “urban Mankato.”

    Anyway, lemme know if you’re intrigued.

      1. Anna

        Hi Matthias,

        I was recently made aware of this piece you wrote about Mankato’s new tourism brand and the need to do more concerning biking trails/routes in Mankato. You made a great point about our community being far from perfect in what we offer bicyclists, especially for those that are using their bike for transportation/commuting. The Bike/Walk Advocates, the Cities of Mankato and North Mankato, Visit Mankato, City Center Partnership and others are working on making this a great destination for biking because it has been made a priority for tourism. I would love to chat with you about your ideas. Can we connect?

  4. Ben

    I’m a Mankato resident and invested home owner. I’d love to get together and chat. I think there is a lot of good that would come of it.

    Also, I’m working with Matthias, the author of this article, on a website It’s in the early stages, but it’s exactly where we want to take conversations like this about our city.

    Definitely make that trip happen!

  5. Nate in St. Paul

    I lived in Mankato for 6 years and bike-commuted to work there (and occasionally in St. Peter) during that time. Also, our block was pretty much directly on the Red Jacket Trail on the way out of town towards Mount Kato. I think I’ve biked every mile of every bike path in the area as well as every street. I’d be happy to be a resource for any future posts on the subject. A few thoughts:

    The big problem internal Mankato bike infrastructure has is that there just aren’t that many good ways from the top of the hills to the bottom of the hills (Madison, Main, Stoltzman and Glenwood—Lookout and Lee in North Mankato) and while lower Kato and lower North Kato are grid based, the tops of the hills are tangled messes with very few straight ways through neighborhoods. In other words, the straight points between most major points in the Mankato area are pretty full of cars and there’s really nowhere else for them to go except into residential neighborhoods, and nobody is going to go for that.

    Any greenway system that is going to be worthwhile will have to hit the Taylor Corp campus and South Central in upper North Kato, downtown Kato, MSU, upper north near the mall, and out by Verizon. That means a lot of hills and figuring out how to avoid one of the 4 main ways up in Mankato and 2 ways up in North Mankato. That leaves Adams and Marsh and Highland in Mankato and a whole lot of nothing in North Mankato.

    It’s a tough area to work with for internal bike lanes or coherent greenways for commuting. Those damn hills suck for a number of reasons. I was lucky enough to work in downtown Kato and I could avoid most busy streets. It’s much more of a bike touring destination than a commuting one.



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