The Twin Cities was one of four metro areas in the country to receive a sizable federal grant nearly seven years ago for promoting non-motorized transportation — an initiative that is finishing its final lap.
Bike Walk Twin Cities, the resulting $28 million pilot program, will officially end in December. But unfinished projects, like promoting bicycle safety and opening new bikeways, will continue throughout next year.
Bike Walk Twin Cities director Joan Pasiuk said there are about 10 projects left throughout the metro area, mostly opening new bike boulevards, which are low-speed streets where bicycles have priority over other traffic. She said some will connect the University of Minnesota campus with other areas in Minneapolis.
The program, which began in 2005, has spent nearly all of its grant money, Pasiuk said, but the program’s effects will continue.
The Bike Walk Ambassador Program, a subcommittee composed of four Minneapolis residents, received a one-year extension Nov. 19 from a City Council committee to continue its community outreach efforts.
The ambassador program received about $1.2 million total since BWTC started and has about $35,000 left to spend on bike safety campaigns and the production of city bike maps, said Jon Wertjes, director of traffic and parking services for the city.
David Peterson, staff of the city’s bicycle and pedestrian section, said in an email that the contract will allow the committee to spend leftover money from 2013 but doesn’t grant additional funds. The extension is pending the approval of the full City Council.
Since 2007, BWTC has allocated funding for more than 75 miles of new bikeways and sidewalks in the Twin Cities area.
“We knew that it wasn’t just about putting facilities on streets. … It’s about helping communities really embrace these investments as social assets,” Pasiuk said.
Bicycling increased by about 50 percent and walking increased by about 23 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to a Bike Walk Twin Cities report released last spring.
Pasiuk said Bike Walk Twin Cities boosted community and local government acceptance of alternative transportation.
“More elected officials know they have to pay attention to this as part of getting into office and as part of completing their service to the community,” she said. “They have to pay attention to this.”
U: ‘Where the bikes are’
The BWTC program has had a “tremendous impact” on the University’s bike culture, said Steve Sanders, head of the University’s bike program.
Cycling projects around the University might not have been completed without the federal funds, he said.
The University Bike Center, the Dinkytown Greenway, the University’s Zap! program and others were finished with help from Bike Walk Twin Cities, he said.
“One of the beauties of this program was the time that it takes to build the projects was lessened quite a bit,” he said.
Bike Walk Twin Cities has increased accessibility and provided more resources for student cyclists, he said.
The Dinkytown Greenway connects University transit ways to downtown Minneapolis bike paths, and the University’s Zap! program incentivizes cycling on campus.
“[Bike Walk Twin Cities] really did a lot to improve both on-campus facilities and facilities that directly impact the University,” Sanders said.
Pasiuk said Nice Ride Minnesota and the more than $500,000 grant to build the Bike Center on East Bank were two of the most popular Bike Walk Twin Cities projects at the University.
“The University is really reaping a lot of this comprehensive investment as well,” she said.
The bike center is located in the Oak Street Parking Ramp and offers bicyclists repair services and secure parking.
Sanders said the University received the federal funding because it has one of the highest concentrations of cyclists in the state.
“This is kind of the epicenter of biking in the Twin Cities,” he said. “Things that you can do here can have an immediate positive impact.”