Buses on Washington

Late Winter Beauty in Form and Function at the U of M

The University of Minnesota is known for its academics and beauty in all seasons. A 3rd party site did at least rank it #50 in the Most Amazing College Campuses for 2018. I usually notice the more subtle notes like the perfectly curvy bike lanes along the West Bank campus, the grand piano in Coffman and the Shoe Tree on the west end of the Washington Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, which has Nice Ride stations on each end.

I had an appointment on campus Wednesday and decided to walk a bit around campus afterwards to take in the beauty of both form and function. After all, it was 5 degrees which meant one thing: Spring is coming!

One of the first things I noticed was all the bikes in racks. There were a mixture of racks that are kept shoveled throughout the winter and some that are, well, not. The ones that aren’t certainly have a number of bikes locked up in them and once the snow thaws they will be ready to take into The Hub a block away or similar bike shop for a spring tuning.

Bikes on Campus

Bikes in the middle of residential housing

Fat Tire Bike

Fat Tire Bike in front of the U of M Health Clinic

In my experience, the drive into the lot at the U of M Health Clinic (CSC) is beyond full of shuttles, drivers pulling in to the valet and Ubers. What you can’t always see is how nice the area is kept up. There’s beauty in function of course, but it’s an awesomely pretty building from both inside and outside and nicely landscaped on the outside.

Front of CSC

U of M Health Center driveway on a not-so-busy day

A volleyball net in the middle of a few residential halls has been up throughout the winter, but when you see it late winter, it perks you up for the spring. Right now it’s in  the beauty of it in snow. In the summer the gross, coarse sand is revealed.

Snow Volleyball

Pretty in late winter. Not so much in the summer

With the exception of the Light Rail, Washington Ave. in the Stadium Village neighborhood can often look like a quaint small town street with local shops. Beauty meets function on the sidewalks. It’s (usually) kept clean from the snow making it easier for everyone to navigate around, especially when school is in session, as the pedestrian traffic can get busy. Note to photographers, on a good day there are plenty of decent photo opps. This really holds true if you can catch a moving Light Rail from a storefront window reflection.

Sidewalks on Washington

Sidewalks on Washington are shoveled regularly

I’m a huge fan of the parts on Washington Ave. that are Transit Only. Even for the areas that aren’t, I believe that it’s implied enough to where cars often just stay off of that street. As a pedestrian, this give me a sense of increased safety. On the far right in the photo below is a tall residential complex to be called Hub Minneapolis. I like it because it’s modern and I appreciate complexes that go upward instead of outward, fitting many students in a smaller amount of horizontal square feet (and from what I hear it’s a nice place). What I don’t like about it is the local business history it’s replacing such as the Espresso Exposé and Village Wok.

Buses on Washington

Buses on Washington makes it a bit safer for pedestrians

I walk in front of a society house. It’s across the street from the CSC and a half block outside of campus. Not pretty. Not safe. No one likes an unshoveled walk, especially when doctors and nurses use it daily to walk between the hospital and clinic.

Unshoveled Walk

Unshoveled walk in front of a society house

Just around the corner on Oak Street are mostly-shoveled bike lanes. They’ll hopefully be improved to protected bike lanes in an update to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan. For now, the beauty is in function of at least having bike lanes.

Bike Lanes on Oak Street

Standard bike lanes on Oak Street

Finally I ride back to Downtown West, Minneapolis. Two notable things are the shoveled platforms (I’m sure it’s a city requirement) and the station heaters that increase the temperature from 5 degrees to a good 10 degrees. Also, the East Bank Station is one of my favorite platforms, as its public art contains mathematical formulas that are over my head.

East Bank Station

Late Winter at the East Bank Station

Have areas around campus you find attractive in either pretty or function? Or maybe the opposite? Let me know in the comments!

Paul Jahn

About Paul Jahn

Ward 3 Mpls resident, virtual tours and 360 photographer, and you can find him at LocalMN, also on Twitter and Facebook. Volunteer for Streets for People and love urban walks. Music grad at Central Washington University.