In the last year, bikers on the Midtown Greenway in South Minneapolis have been attacked, robbed — and one man even had a Molotov cocktail thrown at him from an overpass.
With the Dinkytown bikeway set to open near the University of Minnesota campus in early July, city officials are taking safety precautions before the public is free to ride.
The path, which will run from TCF Bank Stadium to the pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River near campus, will mainly rely on a high volume of riders and trail lighting to create a safe environment, said Stephanie Malmberg, the project’s construction engineer.
Malmberg said she anticipates the path’s ridership will be high, which could deter crime.
“It’s not the right environment to commit a crime,” she said. “There’s more people watching.”
Soren Jensen, executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, said a group of volunteers patrols the trail every night to monitor for safety concerns and added the path also relies on lighting and high traffic.
Bikeways have set standards for lighting, but the Coalition has found some darker spots on the Midtown Greenway that still need better lighting, Jensen said.
“The real question is,” he said, “is it light enough to make the bad guys feel uncomfortable?”
Similar to the Midtown Greenway, the Dinkytown path runs along an old railroad corridor, which partially runs through a trench below street level.
To address this potential issue, engineers added an exit at 17th Avenue Southeast, near the path’s midpoint.
“Anytime you’re in a railroad trench, it’s always good to have a few different opportunities for getting out,” Malmberg said. “You can never guarantee 100 percent safety.”
Don Pflaum, a city transportation planner, said designers for the Dinkytown path considered installing emergency phones and surveillance cameras on the path but couldn’t justify the high cost.
He added that most trails in the Twin Cities don’t use phones or cameras, but the Midtown Greenway has them because of the corridor’s more crime-ridden history.
Jensen said bikers should use their senses and call 911 if they see suspicious activity along a bikeway.
“Don’t try to just power through it,” he said.
Workers are currently putting the finishing touches on the Dinkytown Greenway, installing lighting, signs, striping and some landscaping.
The path is expected to open in the first week of July.