Friday, May 4, 2012

Bicycle Infrastructure In Minneapolis

Minneapolis is at the forefront of creating a safe city for cyclists to ride.  This has come in the form of off street bicycle trails, bicycle share lanes, and more elements that make cycling safer and easier for citizens to use.
Minneapolis has made significant investments into its infrastructure, which has gotten the city to the point where it is today.  In 2010, Minneapolis spent $15 million on bicycle and walking amenities in throughout the city.  This was the largest investment in this kind of infrastructure in the US. 
These kinds of large investments have made cycling a much more popular form of exercise and transportation. For instance, “From 2000 to 2009, total bikeway mileage in the city increased from 95.5 miles to 127.8 miles, contributing to bicycle commute work trips doubling from 1.9% in 2000 to 3.8% in 2009 based on Census statistics,” according to the Minneapolis Master Bicycle Plan.  
The city has also put together the Minneapolis Master Bicycle Plan to help guide future investments in the system.  This plan has a wants to add to the current 166 miles of designated on and off street bicycle infrastructure, by adding 183 more miles.  This could cost as estimated $270 million over 30 years.
Minneapolis’s current funding structure is pretty good.  They have a mix of federal, state, and local revenue sources it puts together to finance projects.  But to reach the goals of the Bicycle Plan, they are going to need $9.8 million a year.  While the city has been able to raise the money for the projects so far, a lot of the funding has been through one-time funding sources, or there is a competitive bidding process, or through grants requiring matching funds.  Minneapolis needs a more secure revenue stream to ensure future success.
Minneapolis could look to one of its rival bicycle cities for ideas for funding a bicycle transportation system, Portland, OR.  Portland and Oregon in general has been creating bicycle infrastructure since the 1970s.  In that time, Portland has created a strong mix of funding.  They use federal, state, and local sources for money, but they have a distinct advantage – dedicated bicycle infrastructure funding.  For instance, in 1971 the Oregon legislature passed the “Bicycle Bill” which dedicates 1% of highway funds for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.  Further, Portland itself has dedicated city revenues for bicycle expenditures, and Mayor Sam Adams created a $500,000 fund for bicycle improvements.
All of these dedicated funds put Portland at an advantage because it means there is a degree of predictability.  They can adapt to changing economic times.  They can apply for grants knowing there will be funds to cover the match requirements.  This may be part of the reason for its aggressive goal of potentially adding 600 miles of bicycle infrastructure (on top of its 274 current miles) outlined in the Portland Bicycle Plan 2030.

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