Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cycling the Twin Cities

I've taken the opportunity of My Lovely being on a business trip this weekend to explore the city I love - St. Paul - and part of that other city - Minneapolis - on my 1986 Diamondback Momentum bicycle. My routes:
  • Friday - Starting at Dale Street, I went down Summit Avenue to the Cathedral, where it turns into John Ireland Blvd. I then wrapped around the lawns in front of the Capitol, and entered downtown St. Paul on Cedar Street. After crossing over I-35E, I scooted down 11th Street to Robert Street where I was going to go to Aroma's Art House, which turned out to be closed. I then decided to maneuver down 9th Street to Temperance to 7th Street, where I took a right on Wacouta. This took me down past Mears Park to 4th Street, where I took a left, passed the Farmer's Market and stopped in at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar. After a couple hours at Black Dog, I rode back up 4th Street, then Kellogg Blvd. to West 7th. I took 7th to Grand Avenue, crossed I-35E again, and then tackled the Grand Avenue hill (not to be confused with the suicidal Ramsey Hill).
  • Saturday - Fellow PePper Ilya and I decided to meet at the Cliquot Club, so I ventured over to South Minneapolis. I took summit Avenue, past St. Thomas, to the Mississippi River Blvd. pathways. I followed that to 27th Street, crossed the bridge (that offers a spectacular view) and then down Franklin. I met Ilya and we rode through the Seward neighborhood to Cliquot. After a chocolate chip cookie, some green mango tea, and incredibly high-minded conversation, I rode back to the Minneapolis side of Mississippi River Blvd. up to Lake Street. I crossed the Lake Street Bridge, where on the St. Paul side I carried my bike down the steps. I then retraced my route back home.
  • Sunday - After a three-egg omelet with cottage bacon, mushrooms, and pepper jack, I decided to further explore St. Paul. I rode through my neighborhood to St. Clair, and took that down across West 7th near the river. I followed the bike route to the High Bridge, and briefly toyed with the idea of going into West St. Paul. Deciding I probably didn't have the energy for that today, I kept going along 7th to the old Ramsey House, then down to the paths below the bluffs along the river. I took that to Randolph, crossed 7th again, then turned right on Victoria, where I thought I might be able to go through the Linwood Recreation Center area. Unfortunately, I never found Linwood from that route. Instead I had to turn on Jefferson (where I suffered the indignity of having to walk my bike halfway up a hill), followed by a left on Lexington, and finally a right on Grand Avenue to home.

During these journeys, while not incredibly long or extensive, I made some observations. And I'm sure you want to read them. So here you go:

  • It almost always takes a shorter time to get from point A to point B than I originally anticipated. My trip to Minneapolis took 29 minutes exactly, while I thought it would take 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Each trip left my legs less sore than I thought I would be. For example, when I biked to downtown St. Paul and then climbed the hill back up Grand Avenue on Friday, I figured I'd be finished for a day or two. The next day, however, I was reenergized and ready to go.
  • Both cities are great places to bike through, although I much prefer St. Paul. Summit Avenue makes an easy thoroughfare and because there is less traffic downtown (and more residential zoning) its less pressure. Of course, I didn't spend a lot of time cycling in Minneapolis, so my opinion may be biased.
  • The St. Paul riverfront represents decades of what must be some of the absolute worst city planning in the country. The city's greatest natural resources has been marred by heavy industrial zoning, and is now littered with anonymous vacant factories and plants. When driving down it you notice it, but when you bike down there you become appalled at the utter lack of forward-thinking.

Related Link: Map of St. Paul bicycle paths

3 comments:

MNObserver said...

Where are there vacant industrial plants along the river in St. Paul, other than (a) the Island Station site that is being redeveloped in a deal set to close mid-August, and (b) the Schmidt brewery, being held hostage by a bankrupt ethanol producer intent on making the neighborhood suffer?

The Head house is being redeveloped into a restaurant. Everything else is in use and providing jobs (Summit brewery, ADM, Thompson Bros., Xcel) or has been fixed (Science Museum, new parkland at the end of Eagle Street, Harriet Island). Unfortunately, the railroads were there first, and barge repair places need to be on the river.

Now you want the absolute worst City planning in history, I'd invite you to take a look at the Centex/Norm Coleman reemergent soviet era apartment living known as the upper landing! Now that's ugly.

Ilya said...

"Of course, I didn't spend a lot of time cycling in Minneapolis, so my opinion may be biased."

That's the biggest understatement of the summer. Minneapolis is equipped with bike paths along the river, through and around the U of MN, along the light rail, in downtown, and around the lakes. Of course, there is also the famous Green Way that now extends from uptown to the Mississippi River.

Pied, you're opinion isn't biased because you did not explore Minneapolis, for that explanation would imply that you were trying not to be biased, which everyone knows is false. You don't have to hide your love for St. Paul. Just don't let your affection blind your ability to judge the "other" city fairly.

PiedPiper said...

Ilya - Thanks for the correction, you pedant. What I basically meant was that my excursion into Minneapolis this weekend was only the tip of iceberg for judging the bikeability of that city. I know about the Greenway, and there's also the fact that Minneapolis has dedicated bike lanes downtown, not to mention the trails along the river road. I'm biased because I will always tend to view St. Paul more favorably, and thus, will never be a very good judge of Minneapolis.