Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cable-Stay This!

OK, those of you who know me well, and especially those who know me from back in the day, as it were, or rather, my college days, know that I LOVE BRIDGES!! They are my favorite part of the built environment. I love how simple and functional bridges are, yet how unique each one can be. My favorite bridges are (in no particular order, and only ones I've been to):

and now there's a new entry to this list....

The Midtown Greenway Bike Bridge in Minneapolis!

This bridge opened within the last few weeks connecting the Greenway segments on either side of Hiawatha Avenue so that bikers/pedestrians do not have to wait at the 4 minute (literally) stop light. It's a sweeping bridge that actually adds about a quarter mile or more to a bike ride due to the site constraints of existing buildings and the light rail. One has to ride to the north 2 blocks, cross the bridge, and then travel south 2 blocks to return to the Greenway. On the west side of the bridge, one has to cross a somewhat busy 4 lane road (28th Street) with no signal. It's a slightly dicey crossing. And the bridge cost $5 million. So $5 million to create a crossing that is a longer distance and adds an uncontrolled intersection... Interesting.

I have been using the bridge for a few weeks (mostly on my early morning trips to Uptown to have breakfast with Team Whitney). So I know you're all dying to know my opinion on the bridge and whether or not it was worth the $5 million. Well, there has been a lot of chatter and blogging about this bridge for a year or more on just those issues I mentioned above. A lot of the blogging has been at the Strib's Roadguy blog. Here's his most recent post here.

While watching the building of this bridge, I was very excited. I love cable-stayed bridges for their elegance, and I was happy to have one being built right on one of my usual bike routes! So I definitely was more optimistic than most on how useful it would be. But that also means my expectations were high and frankly, this bridge does not live up to my expectations. To be honest, the extra distance IS annoying, and if I were walking, I would probably just cross at the light on Hiawatha and skip the bridge altogether. With biking, it's about the same amount of time.

And the 28th St crossing? It is VERY dangerous. It seems more dangerous than the Hiawatha crossing because there is no control. Traffic moves very quickly here and is looking AHEAD towards the light at Hiawatha, and is not paying attention to the bikers/peds in the crosswalk.

Here's what works: This bridge is gorgeous. It gives great views of downtown, and great views of the neighborhood. There was a recent Strib editorial that said the bridge was good IN SPITE of the views of the industrial area around the bridge. I think those views ENHANCE the bridge. We're talking about Midtown, you've got to love it for what it is. The view of the old water tower and Midtown Commons in the background make this trip worth it.

Case in point, this morning as I was biking to breakfast, the wind was howling and gusting to 25 mph out of the NW. So what do I do? I bike up the ramp to the bridge directly into the wind instead of the easier crossing at Hiawatha. What? Because I love the views, I love the beauty of this bridge (especially before sunrise). But maybe I bike over it because we paid $5 million for that bridge and darn it, I'm going to get my money's worth. Ever buy a bagel or a donut and it's a little dry, not very tasty. Do you throw it away? NO! You eat it because you paid for it! So I'll be biking on my new favorite South Minneapolis bridge, on good days and bad, and I'll enjoy, whether I want to or not!

Thoughts on the new bridge? Anyone else have a favorite bridge they'd like to share? A few photos of some of my favorites below (photos that I happen to have on my computer right now):

Duluth Lift Bridge...

Rail Bridge in Minneapolis

Big Sur!!!


Ed Kohler said...

Great post, dude. I hear there's talk of narrowing 28th St E to 1 lane in each direction at the crossing. That would shorten things and get drivers to pay more attention.

Tyler said...

Woo Hoo! Gotta love the bridges of the Burgh.