Motors for Minneapolis pedicabs: Would they bring business or broken bones?

Imagine a vehicle with a souped-up electric motor and weighing over 750 lbs. barreling around downtown at 20 miles per hour, operating in bike lanes and narrowly dodging bicycles and pedestrians.Now picture a pedal-operated vehicle that has an enclosed cabin, keeping the passengers warm as they traverse the cold Minnesota winter all the way from downtown Minneapolis, up the big hill on Hennepin, to their home in Uptown. FULL DISCLOSURE: The author is a bicyclist and occasional pedicab driver.Opponents say changing Minneapolis City ordinances to allow electrically-assisted pedicabs would make the first scenario possible, while supporters paint the second picture. Pedicabs are three-wheeled, pedal-powered taxis that in Minneapolis currently mostly operate downtown. Electric-assist pedicabs would have an electric motor on the bike, but the motor only adds power, or assists when the driver is pedaling. The motors are designed to help more at low speeds, and cut off completely at 20 mph. The City of Minneapolis currently does not allow electric-assist pedicabs.At a July 20 City Council meeting, Ward Two council member Cam Gordon introduced the subject of changing city ordiances to allow electric-assist pedicabs. Continue Reading

Bike lanes in Minneapolis: Everybody’s got an opinion

“It’s awesome.”“They’re totally useless.”Two cyclists’ diverging opinions about the system of bike lanes in Minneapolis exemplify the varying opinions that go with the variety of bike lanes. Minneapolis is home to nine distinct varieties of on-road bicycle routes, not including off-road cycling paths, such as the Greenway. Not only are there many kinds of bike lanes: cyclists legally can ride on all roads in Minnesota, except on limited access highways where bikes are specifically prohibited, and they can ride two abreast.  State law requires that bicyclists ride as close as practical to the right side of the road except when passing, making left turns, and to avoid obstacles.  This law means that cyclists can ride in the same lane as cars if that is the safest place to be or in order to ride side-by-side.Editor’s note: Yes, this is one more story that focuses on the bigger city west of the Mississippi, and almost ignores St. Paul — but there’s a good reason. Jump down to the end of the article to find out why.With such a complex subject, I found equally complicated opinions. Continue Reading

City of Minneapolis evicts Occupy activists at foreclosed home but tells Freddie Mac, “the City is not in the foreclosure business”

Mayor R.T. Rybak appears to have told Freddie Mac that the City of Minneapolis is done evicting Occupy activists from a foreclosed home owned by government enterprise. On May 29, Minneapolis Police evicted Occupiers from the house at 4044 Cedar Ave. S. and boarded the house up. Acting on Rybak’s direction, City Attorney Susan Segal wrote to Freddie Mac that same day saying, “The City plays a limited role to protect public safety. The property is the responsibility of its owner.” The Mayor’s office added, “the City is not in the foreclosure business” and “the City has fulfilled its obligation to secure the property.”

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Amy Brendmoen wants to build an army

Amy Brendmoen is 42, lives at the south end of Como Lake, is married with three kids, races in triathalons, and can do 210 pushups. Brendmoen also just got elected to the Saint Paul City Council from Ward 5, and wants to build an army of problem solvers.Brendmoen says her compulsion for problem solving led her to run for office. For her, the government is a “vessel” for solving problems, and she already has her sights set on addressing problem properties and landlords. She will not be going it alone, rather, she hopes to use her position on the city council to get more people involved in government, creating what she called “an army of problem solvers.”Brendmoen attributes her compulsion to her mother’s influence. Growing up with a single, teen mom, “We were really poor,” said Brendmoen, “but my mom was a really resourceful person. Continue Reading

Hawala update

Somali people in Minnesota who send money to east Africa are still concerned that the method they use to transfer funds to family members in Africa will soon shut down. Earlier this month, the Franklin Bank in Minneapolis announced it would stop working with “hawalas” on the fund transfers. The deadline was this week. Franklin Bank is the only local bank currently willing to make these transactions.But Wednesdays deadline passed without incident and the fund transfers are still going on. KFAI’s Eric Blom explains. Continue Reading