Some Optimism for 2015

northside greenway

The North Minneapolis Greenway, an exciting possibility in our future (Image courtesy of Bike Walk Twin Cities / Transit for Livable Communities and Twin Cities Greenways).

I’m optimistic and excited about 2015. We have a whole new year of opportunity laid out before us and it looks to be a good year for bicycling in MN.

We’ll likely see some new and better bicycling facilities around the Twin Cities and elsewhere in Minnesota. That will mean a few more people walking and riding bicycles for transportation, and a bit fewer cars on our roads.

We’ll likely see some better mixed-use development birthed from the ground and from paper. For example, the TCAAP and the Ford Plant site plans will progress, and hopefully both with a solid human urbanist bent rather than what I call “suburbanist drivealot.”


For a few decades our civil engineering, planning, and architectural professions and  institutions have been dominated by thinking that bicycles are toys, walking is for recreation, and buildings are edifices to the glory of architects[1].

This coming year universities like the University of Minnesota will graduate civil engineers, planners, and architects who have better ideas. This year a few of the engineers, planners, and architects who continue to give us sterile car dominated cities and suburban sprawl will be replaced by those who know the value of walkable, bicyleable human scale communities.


In 2014 we saw some major and in my opinion very negative consolidation of retail with perhaps the biggest impact locally coming from the closing of numerous medium to large groceries that left consumers having to drive considerably farther to get to the local super-big-box-distribution-center format grocery five miles farther away. On the plus side we saw the opening of Lunds in downtown St Paul.


This Rainbow Foods was less than a 2 mile bike ride. We now have to drive (unless we have a fair bit of extra time to ride) over 3 times as far.

Europe was slower to the big-box concept and European consumers have been quicker to reject them. They never embraced supercenters except for durable goods (though durable might not be what we think of when we think of IKEA). European retailers like Tesco, Morrisons and Carrefour are turning from big box (60,000 sq ft) to smaller local neighborhood stores (10,000 sq ft). This isn’t expansion — they are closing big box stores and replacing them with smaller neighborhood locations.

We’ll see a bit of the same this year with Target following in Tesco’s footsteps in creating 20,000 sq ft Target Express stores (similar to Tesco Metro 11,000 sq ft stores and Wal-Mart Express 15,000 sq ft) with one of the first to open in Highland Park this July. I have a strong preference for locally owned stores and personally prefer something around 10,000 sq ft but I think for general commodities the big chains are here to stay. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a retrenchment from big box back towards smaller local neighborhood stores.


Hopefully we’ll see fewer people killed by people driving cars and trucks. I think that our roads are getting safer each year. We seem to be doing a better job of reducing death roads and even small things like eliminating a pork chop here or there will help.

One of the more encouraging posts for me on in 2014 (aside from Anne White’s and Wolfie Bowbender’s regular stream of happiness) was Sean Hayford O’Leary’s on 66th street in Richfield and the Richfield city council’s support for this project. Richfield’s solution is far from perfect and from Dutch standard infrastructure but moving in the right direction and I think we’ll move even more in the right direction this next year[2].

We’ll get a full year of Anne White’s encouraging posts.

We’ll likely see approval and beginning implementation of the new St Paul Bicycle Plan.

2015 should be a good year for bike share. Problems with Bixi and Alta slowed things down a bit the past couple of years but towards the end of 2014 things got back on track (and perhaps on better tracks). Jay Walder took over the helm at the company formerly known as Alta Bicycle Share, now Motivate and Nice Ride’s Bill Dossett led the charge on forming the North American Bikeshare Association. This should lead to improvements in the design and availability of bikes, stations, software, and apps.


A bikeway design that serves almost nobody well. It’s too dangerous for children and most adults and too close to opening car doors for faster and more confident riders. (Photo: Bill Lindeke)

For some decades there has been a bit of an ongoing battle between those who support vehicular cycling and those who want segregated paths and cycletracks. Each year, and 2015 will be no different, an increasing number of vehicular cyclists realize the benefits of segregated paths and that they’re coming. Rather than fight them they are getting on board with supporting them and encouraging good Dutch standards design that provides for speed and comfort rather than fighting them and then ending up with poor designs.

A Look Back

Most recently I was quite critical of the Downtown Council’s Christmas Market. Well, it apparently wasn’t all bad. My sister and brother-in-law gave us a couple of ornaments that they purchased at the market and they are quite nice ornaments.

I have a number of follow-up posts that I’d intended to do in 2014 that I’m working on now such as one that looks at how MN (not just the U.S.) compares to countries like Germany and The Netherlands for traffic safety. This is a follow-up to a comment John made on this.

A Good Start

Tony Desnick, Director of Greater Minnesota Strategies for Nice Ride told me that we are 40 years behind Europe, but he thinks that 40 years from now we’ll be ahead of where Europe is today. And he provided some good rationale for his thinking. That’s encouraging.

This morning on my way to meet a friend for coffee at Angry Catfish I counted over 30 people riding bicycles, presumably to work. Not bad for the middle of January. And I didn’t go near any Universities.

2015 should be a good year.


[1] Interestingly I’m moving closer each year to my bicycle being my main mode of transportation and cars edging towards primarily recreational.

[2] Personally I’d really like to see much narrower lanes, like 10’ and little to no curb reaction distance. This to slow traffic down a bit and cause drivers to pay better attention. With more efficient roundabouts I’d think three lanes rather than five would also work.

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN