Buses vs. Bikes, Downtown vs. the Neighborhood, in Minneapolis

When I first moved to the Twin Cities, one of the news stories du jour was a war going on between bike riders and bus drivers.

Both bike riders and bus drivers in the Twin Cities are different than they are were I had previously lived, in the Boston area. In Boston, bike riders are well-armored but live in abject fear, are hardly found on the road within the cities, but have reasonable options for recreational biking. Bus drivers, cab drivers, truck drivers, and car drivers in Boston are all maniacs, and it is impossible to identify one group vs. another as dominant on the highways and byways.

In the Twin Cities, bike riders are numerous (this is one of the bike-ridingest cities in the country), radical, and fearless, and bus drivers drive as though there was no one else on the road. And that behavior by the bus drivers is matched by the behavior of the car drivers…buses always have the right of way, and you always let them go, move aside, and avoid them. Or they crush you. Since everyone does get out of the way, there are few problems.

Except for the bike riders, of course.

So one of the man news stories du jour in the Twin Cities was this battle between bus drivers and bike riders. The official news reports don’t tell the full truth. What was happening was this: The recently modified Nicollet Mall, a major downtown street closed to regular traffic…was open to buses, cabs, pedestrians, and bikes. But the bus drivers were annoyed at the bike riders, because the only people on the Mall exhibiting more hubris than the bus drivers were those bike riders. The bike riders would drive as though they were the only people on the road, and so would the bus drivers.

The bus drivers asked the city to exclude bikes from the Mall. Bike friendly, the city refused. So the bus drivers simply started running into bikes. Or so it would seem. Right after the bus drivers complained and help was refused, slam, a bike went down. More discussions, more negotiations, another refusal. Slam, another bike went down.

Now, it is possible that this was all a coincidence, but I did not get that sense at the time. The sense got was that buses kept slamming (gently) into bikes until the bus drivers got what they wanted and bike riding was restricted to specific times on the Mall.

Now this is all changing, with new rules.

…starting Monday, bicyclists will be able to ride along it on weekdays for the first time in 12 years.

In 1997, the city banned bicycles from the mall between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays, after Metro Transit drivers complained of close calls between their buses and bikes.

the story is here

There is also to be a free shuttle service up and down Nicollet. This is being touted as a “long asked for” service, but that is not true. Well, it is partly true. But what many people have actually been asking for all along is a service that would ALSO connect Nicollet Mall with Eat Street, the part of Nicollet to the south that is a self-organized neighborhood phenomenon that puts to shame the high-volume, hyper-consumeristic, downtowney development we see along the Mall. I mean, the Mall is nice and all, but Eat Street is Minneapolis. A shuttle that brought downtowners to Eat Street would help ensure long-term stability in that neighborhood. The down side, I suppose, is that it might bring brown poor people into more direct contact with the downtowners, who we all know live in the suburbs and commute to the city to make their living.

This seems to be a case of city tax money subsidizing the suburbs. And that’s okay, because suburban tax money subsidizes the city as well. But I think the lack of a shuttle to Eat Street is highly questionable.

I hope we can see an Eat Street shuttle some time in the near future.

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