Midtown Greenway Bridge

This evening, on my way home from Cub Foods (where I bought all the ingredients for CHEX MIX, yum), I was riding my bike west on the Midtown Greenway with a backpack full of chex mix ingredients, trail mix, 30 capri suns, and other goodies when I encountered the new bicycle bridge over Hiawatha Avenue. The bridge officially opened this afternoon.

Today was the official opening of the bridge, but I rode across it once several weeks ago (bridge closed signs weren’t very effective). It is a very nice bridge, to be certain. Tonight, when I saw it in it’s full glory with the blue lights on, it was indeed a very attractive structure. But I didn’t use it.

As I approached the fork in the trail where riders must decide to make the at-grade crossing or cycle several hundred feet north to access the bridge, it didn’t even seem like a reasonable option to add the extra distance to my route – I chose the at-grade crossing. In addition to not wanting to cycle the extra distance, there is just something unappealing about this bridge. I didn’t want it in the first place, so now that it’s open, I’m not that excited to use it.

…And it’s not just about distance. On days when I don’t have 30lbs of groceries on my back, it will probably be faster to bike the extra distance to use the bridge than to wait for the pedestrian signal to cross at-grade. But if travel time is my biggest priority, I probably wouldn’t be riding a bicycle in the first place.

There are a lot of reasons to not like the bridge (it consumes a lot of land that could have been developed, it doesn’t eliminate at-grade crossings (it just moved the crossing), it creates awkward parcels west of Hiawatha that will be strange to redevelop, it won’t eliminate at-grade crossing at Hiawatha, etc.). But the truth is that I just see it as a step in the wrong direction for creating livable cities. I don’t want bridges over things that shouldn’t need to be bridged. If crossing Hiawatha Avenue is a problem (which it is), why not consider a re-design of Hiawatha Avenue rather than displacing cyclists. (Answer: because $5.1 million for a bridge is much less than a re-designed, or better yet, removed Hiawatha Avenue).

I don’t want MORE infrastructure – we can’t maintain what we’ve already got. I want infrastructure that makes sense – and to me, this bridge just doesn’t make sense.

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