Green digest // City bicycling up 15 percent in 08

City bicycling up 15 percent in ’08

The number of bicyclists on Minneapolis streets and trails rose 15 percent from 2007 to 2008, a study released in August found.

Volunteers monitoring 30 locations across the city noted the increase. They also found a 3 percent increase in pedestrian traffic at 27 locations.

The result of a partnership between the Department of Public Works and Transit for Livable Communities, a nonprofit organization advocating transportation reform, the study and future bike and pedestrian counts will be used to guide city transportation policy, city bike guru Shaun Murphy said.

“We have a real good idea of what our auto counts are, but we don’t with bikes and pedestrians,” Murphy, coordinator of the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, said.

“We’re trying to get an idea of what their traffic share is, what load they carry,” he said. “That’s one of our short-term goals, and one of our long-term goals is to understand what the effects of some of our improvements are.”

Those improvements include additional signs and street markings scheduled to go up next year along Bryant Avenue South, one of the city’s designated “bicycle boulevards.”

Last September, a volunteer was stationed on Bryant Avenue between Lake Street and the Loring Bikeway Bridge that carries bicycle and pedestrian traffic over Lyndale Avenue. An estimated 500 bicyclists passed the location in one 24-hour period, up from 310 bicyclists in 2007.

Counters will return to the site in a few weeks. The samples will help set a baseline for bicycle activity on the street so that city planners in 2010 can determine how effective the Bryant Avenue improvements were in encouraging more bicycling.

Murphy said studies in other cities show improvements that make biking or walking safer or more convenient encourage those activities. Examples include bike lanes, wider and more visible crosswalks, bike trails and shared lane markings.

“What we’re doing here is we want to see if we can replicate it,” he said.

The study didn’t look into why people were choosing to bike or walk more than before, but Murphy suggested several possibilities, including a developing bicycle culture in Minneapolis and concerns about the environment and personal health.

The top three busiest biking areas noted by observers last fall were all around the University of Minnesota campus. The fourth busiest was the Midtown Greenway at Hennepin Avenue.

Pedestrian volume was high near the U of M, as well as on Nicollet Mall.

When walking was compared to other modes of transportation at a location, the intersection of Upton Avenue South and West 43rd Street, in a popular Linden Hills business district, placed among the top 10 locations in the city for pedestrian traffic.

Future studies may expand to include more sites in Southwest.

“I think it would be interesting, also, to count around Lake Calhoun,” Murphy said. “I don’t ride there enough to know this personally, but I have a hunch that would be a really high number, as well.”

The 2008 bicycle and pedestrian count report can be found on the city website (ci.minneapolis.mn.us/bicycles/news.asp).

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Low wattage, high savings

By now, nearly everyone has heard that swapping traditional incandescent light bulbs for lower-wattage compact fluorescents is an easy way to cut down on household energy consumption.

Switch a few bulbs, save a few bucks on the electricity bills. Switch a lot of bulbs and the savings begin to add up.

In the case of Minneapolis Central Library, the savings are expected to reach about $8,800 a year.

Hennepin County recently reported the results of an effort last year to replace about 6,400 32-watt fluorescent lamps with similar lamps rated at 25-watts. In addition to the lower energy bill, the county earned a rebate from Xcel Energy for cutting 135,780 kilowatt-hours per year.

Next up was the library’s parking ramp, where light fixtures often remain on 24-hours a day. That switch was expected to save 152,000 kilowatt-hours and about $8,200 per year, the county reported.

Test fixtures were scheduled to go into county parking ramps at the Government Center, Property Services Center and Century Plaza soon.