County’s commitment to biking earns silver

League of American Bicyclists adds Hennepin County to its list of Bicycle Friendly Communities. Also: Midtown Greenway enters the hall of fame and a "green" holiday gift fair

Bicyclists on the Cedar Lake Trail, part of a 651-mile network of bikeways and off-street trails in Hennepin County. Credit: File photo
Bicyclists on the Cedar Lake Trail, part of a 651-mile network of bikeways and off-street trails in Hennepin County. Credit: File photo

The League of American Bicyclists named Hennepin County one of 18 new Bicycle Friendly Communities on Nov. 16.

Hennepin County earned a silver rating, the second level in a five-tier rating system and an upgrade from the honorable mention previously awarded by the league. It is the first Minnesota county, and the largest community in the state by population, to earn the recognition from the League of American Bicyclists.

Minneapolis is a gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community. None of the nearly 400 Bicycle Friendly Communities across the country has earned the highest ranking, diamond, since it was added in 2012, and there are just five platinum-level communities.

The league rates communities based on the “Five E’s”: engineering of bike-friendly infrastructure; education to improve riders’ skills; encouragement of bicycling; enforcement of laws that keep all road-users safe; and the evaluation and planning of a regional bicycling network.

Communities have a chance to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community award or advance in the rankings every four years. Since earning that honorable mention from the league, Hennepin County hired its first bicycle and pedestrian coordinator to oversee non-motorized transportation projects and just this spring completed a bicycle transportation plan that will guide bike planning through 2040.

The county’s network of bikeways and trails currently extends 651 miles, including on-street bike lanes. Hennepin County reports that 1.8 percent of county commuters mainly biked to work in 2013, more than double the statewide rate for bicycle commuting.

Minnesota is the league’s no. 2 ranked Bicycle Friendly State after Washington.

Midtown Greenway rides into hall of fame

The Midtown Greenway earned a place in the Rails-Trail Hall of Fame in September.

The 5.5-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail south of downtown Minneapolis was created out of a former railroad corridor. It was the 29th project of that kind to receive the highest honor from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

The Washington, D.C., based organization described the Midtown Greenway as a “premier commuter rail-trail.” Also inducted into its hall of fame this year was a 44-mile rail-to-trail project that connects parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The Midtown Greenway was completed in phases, with the first section opening in 2000. The route was mostly complete by 2006, and the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge over Hiawatha Avenue was completed in 2007, the same year the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame was created.

According to the conservancy, new inductees into the hall of fame are evaluated on “scenic value, high use, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, community connections and geographic distribution.”

Green gifts for the holidays

Do it Green! Minnesota hosts its 10th-annual Green Gifts Fair featuring organic, sustainable, fair-trade and eco-themed gifts Nov. 21 at Midtown Global Market.

More than 80 vendors plan to attend, according to the non-profit organization. They include area artists and local businesses.

In addition to shopping, attendees can watch an eco fashion show, get a free bike tune-up from Recovery Bike Shop, participate in a silent auction or learn how to make “seed bombs” that will produce butterfly-friendly flowers. Activities also include a demonstration on using furoshiki, or Japanese wrapping cloth, a low-waste alternative to wrapping paper.

There will also be music, holiday food samples and cooking demonstrations.

About 6,000 people are expected to attend. Arrive by bus, bicycle or on foot to be eligible for a free gift from Metro Transit.

The fair runs 10 a.m.–­5 p.m. at Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St.

A $1 donation will be accepted at the door. Go to doitgreen.org for more information, including a full list of vendors.