Mankato 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 www.mataps.com, 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.