Green Digest: Non-motorized investments still paying off

Plus: Creek cleanup delayed; county recognizes restaurant recycling; and compost bins for sale

Minneapolis's bike-share program launched with the help of Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program grant. Credit: File photo
Minneapolis's bike-share program launched with the help of Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program grant. Credit: File photo

A follow-up report on the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program finds Minneapolis and three other communities are still feeling the impact of a major federal investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

The four pilot communities reported a 23-percent increase in walking trips and a 48-percent increase in bicycling trips between 2007 and 2013. That overlapped with a decade-long decline in injury rates for cyclists and pedestrian in those communities going back to 2002.

Barb Thoman, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities, the nonprofit that administered the pilot in Minneapolis, said the infusion of federal funds accelerated the build-out of the local bikeway and shared-path system.

“What we learned is if you have the infrastructure, you promote the infrastructure and then you measure the results, you can see people will use these facilities and then biking and walking both become safer,” Thoman said.

Approved by an act of Congress in 2005, NTPP dedicated $100 million to non-motorized transportation programs and infrastructure improvements divided evenly between the four pilot areas: Minneapolis; Columbia, Mo.; Marin County, Calif.; and Sheboygan County, Wis. A final report on the pilot program was issued in 2012, but the update released in June adds data collected through December 2013.

Thoman said the program ran nearly twice as long as the four years originally intended, and some infrastructure projects are still in the works. The communities also received additional funds that brought the total closer to $28 million apiece.

Former U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, the long-serving 8th-district DFLer who died in May, was a co-author of the legislation that created the pilot program. One of its main goals was to increase the so-called “mode share” of non-motorized transportation in the four pilot areas, or the proportion of all trips made on foot or by bicycle.

It worked. The pilot communities saw walking mode increase nearly 16 percent 2007–2013, and bicycling mode share was up 44 percent over the same period. In just four of those years, 2009–2013, the shift saved an estimated 85.1 million motor-vehicle miles on streets and highways.

The shift to non-motorized forms of transportation has environmental benefits, too, conserving an estimated 3.6 million gallons of gasoline 2009–2013 and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 34,629 tons during that same timeframe, according to the report.

In the Minneapolis area alone, walking increased an estimated 14 percent and biking increased an estimated 60 percent 2007–2013.

When the bill that created NTPP passed in 2005, Minneapolis had 38 miles of bike lanes and 57 miles of paths shared by bicycles and pedestrians. Pilot program funds added 66 miles of on-street bicycle lanes in the city, 29 miles of bicycle boulevards and 3 miles of new shared-use paths.

An NTPP grant contributed to the launch of the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing program, which currently operates a fleet of 1,550 bikes and a network of 170 bike-share stations.

The economic impact of increased bicycling and walking isn’t examined in the latest NTPP report, but that’s one area of further research suggested by its authors. For more information, or to download a copy of the report, go to smartmobility.us

High water delays cleanup

June rains filled Minnehaha Creek to record high levels and forced organizers of an annual spring cleanup event to reschedule.

The date of the Minnehaha Creek Cleanup was pushed back to July 27, but the goal remains the same: collecting a record 3 tons of trash from the creek and the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. Now in its eighth year, the cleanup aims to draw 2,000 volunteers.

For more information, or to RSVP, go to minnehahacreek.org/CleanUp. Those who already RSVP’d for the June event but can’t attend the make-up date are asked to contact cleanup@minnehahacreek.org.

Stickers recognize recycling

A new Hennepin County program aims to alert diners to restaurants that recycle and compost by awarding window decals and listing in the businesses in an online directory.

Uptown’s Barbette, operated by restaurateur Kim Bartmann, was the first Minneapolis restaurant to display the new “We Compost” and “We Recycle” decals on its window. The county also aims to recognize restaurants that donate leftovers or send scraps to area farms for animal feed.

Business owners can apply online for the decals. Hennepin County business recycling staff members visit each site to verify the recycling efforts before adding restaurants to the directory.

To apply, or to view an interactive map of the businesses recognized so far, go to hennepin.us/environmentalpartners.

County selling compost bins

Hennepin County is selling compost bins made by workers in its Sentencing to Service carpentry training program.

The bins are sold as a kit. Once assembled, the wood-frame and wire mesh bins hold up to a cubic yard of compost.

The bins cost $45 each and are for sale at the Hennepin County Drop-Off Facility located at 8100 Jefferson Highway in Brooklyn Park.

For more information on the bins and tips on composting, go to hennepin.us/composting.