Green digest // Adding bicycle parking, one meter at a time

Adding bicycle parking, one meter at a time

The city’s ongoing effort to upgrade its metered parking system could have an upside for bicyclists, especially in places like bike-crazy Uptown where it can be tough to find an open bike rack.

Coin-operated machines still control most of the city’s 6,800 or so metered parking spaces, but those are beginning to disappear. Starting last year on a few streets Downtown, Public Works crews replaced the old machines with numbered posts, each with a five-digit code for the corresponding parking spot.

Drivers park, take note of the number and then walk to a nearby electronic kiosk where they punch in the code and make their payment. One advantage of the new system is it takes not only coins but also cash and debit or credit cards.

As the old coin-operated machines disappear, though, bicyclists are losing out on some convenient, if not necessarily legal, parking spaces, noted Janne Flisrand, a volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

To be clear, city code prohibits locking bicycles to parking meters. But they’re often used for locking up bicycles anyway, and sometimes — especially in busy commercial districts that draw large numbers of cyclists — they’re the only safe, convenient parking spaces to be found, Flisrand said.

The new parking signs may be just as convenient, but they’re not safe. A bike secured with a traditional U-lock could simply be lifted up and off one of the skinny posts.

In February, Public Works crews began testing several different designs for bicycle hitches that slide over the numbered posts and hold locked bicycles safely and securely in place. As the multi-space parking system expands to the Uptown and Cedar Riverside areas this year, so too could the hitches.

Robin Garwood of Ward 2 City Council Member Cam Gordon’s office said Public Works set aside about $5,000 of its annual $40,000 bike parking fund to add hitches to the new parking signs. The city typically offers business and property owners a 50–50 cost share on new bicycle rack installations, but it was unclear in February how that program might apply to the hitches, Garwood said.

Flisrand said the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition was leading an outreach effort to make Uptown property owners aware of the new opportunity to expand bicycle parking. For more information, contact the coalition at 568-6227 or mplsbikeracks@yahoo.com.

So, why does the old ordinance about locking bikes to parking meters not apply to the new posts?

Traffic engineer Tim Drew said the ordinance was written so that motorists wouldn’t have to climb over bicycles to plug their meters. Now that motorists walk down the block to a kiosk, instead, the city has decided to treat the numbered posts like any other street sign — which is to say, a legal parking spot for your bike.

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Metro Blooms announces 2012 rain garden workshops

It’s a sure sign of spring when Metro Blooms posts the schedule for its spring rain garden workshops.

The nonprofit is once again offering its two-part course in planning, designing and planting a rain garden. Classes begin in April for those interested in learning about how the gardens help to clean and control storm water.

Rain gardens are planted in shallow depressions that collect storm water runoff. That storm water then soaks into the ground slowly over a day or two instead of rushing into area waterways, a process that limits stream bank erosion.

Rain gardens also help to filter and purify storm water with deep-rooted native plant species like prairie grasses and flowers that channel rain into the soil.

The two-part rain garden workshop is scheduled for five Minneapolis locations, including the Lynnhurst Recreation Center at 1345 W. Minnehaha Parkway in Southwest. That location hosts part one April 25 and part two May 9. Both sessions run 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. and the cost is $10 for each class.

Part one of the workshop covers the basics of rain garden design as well as a wider variety of less-toxic lawn care practices. In part two, participants draw up plans for their own rain garden with help from a landscape designer and master gardener.

Participants can also register to have a landscape designer visit their property for an on-site consultation or even draw up specific plans for a rain garden. Both the on-site consultation and the design session cost an additional $60.

Metro Blooms also offers a combined session that includes parts one and two of the workshop in one three-hour class. The combined session will be offered only once in Minneapolis this spring: 1 p.m.–4 p.m. April 28 at the North Regional Library, 1315 Lowry Ave. N.

Find more information and a complete schedule of the rain garden workshops offered in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the metro area at metroblooms.org.