I am eating crow tonight. I scoffed when Bicyling Magazine ranked Minneapolis above Portland as the #1 City for Cycling in America. Yet, after a half day riding around, I am inclined to say that with their facilities they are worthy.
It's definitely not their on-street facilities. I met with one of the City's transportation planners, Don Pflaum (he's not dubbed the bicycle coordinator on his card, but he was extremely knowledgeable about the system) and he admitted as much. It was fun to hear that he watches what we do as inspiration at times.
They have tried a few things too, left side bike lanes (it seems like they use these more than right hand side ones in downtown), bike boxes, colored pavement (although the pictures don't show much tint here, and bike signage. Some of the pavement conditions were typical of a City where there's as much weather as they have here, so that was to be expected.
Some of the facilities that I ended up biking on didn't make a soft transition from the with bike facility condition to the without. A couple of times, especially later at night, I found myself missing a sign and then ending up on a street without any guidance. I guess vehicular cycling would eliminate this as an issue, but when the speeds are 35-45 mph, even I wonder where I should go next. 1,500 miles from home and I wonder if I should be on the sidewalk...
The off-street paths are amazing. As a Portlander, I am extremely envious of the facilities they built in 1915 when they constructed a ton of bridges. Perhaps they got them cheaper because they bought them in bulk, I don't know but it seems that they have a lot of them and found a way to get them built. Of course, Minneapolis had the I-35 bridge failure and in my ride around the town, I saw the bridge sections laid out as if they were still being inspected or analzyed. It was hard to think of the engineers who must have felt awful after having the bridge fail under their responsibility. Yet, no one person is really responsible for that, or rather we're all in part playing a role.