Minneapolis Advocates Brave the Cold to Plan Winning Cycle Track Campaigns

By Jeff Miller on February 14, 2013


Winter is an ideal time for planning, but I must admit that a Winning Campaigns Training in Minneapolis in early February is chillier than most.  As my plane from Washington, DC descended, the pilot broke the news: “Well it looks like things have warmed up ... it’s now 13 below with a wind chill of 25 below.”

This month, I joined Jackie Douglas of Boston’s LivableStreets at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to guide local leaders through crafting a campaign to win a network of cycle tracks, also known as green lanes or protected bikeways.  

As leaders who have worked in the Northeast for most of our careers, Jackie and I aren’t easily fazed by bitter cold. Still, though, I still couldn’t help but admire Minnesota advocates’ defiance to the cold and commitment to biking as participants rolled in sporting ski goggles and impressive layering. But we are advocates, after all, and where there is a will there is a way.

The all-volunteer Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s top priority is building a network of world-class cycle tracks. With over two dozen participants and representatives from six partner organizations — including Alliance members Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and the Midtown Greenway Coalition — the group divided into two working groups to focus on complimentary campaigns.

 

 

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The full group of intrepid Minneapolis Winning Campaigns Training participants

The first group got to work on a “Bikeways for Everyone” campaign vision: a long-term, big picture approach to plan, fund and build a network cycle tracks across Minneapolis. 

The second group worked on a campaign to build a cycle track on Washington Avenue, a major commercial & university corridor set for major redevelopment this year. Advocates scheduled an aggressive timeline to include the cycle track in construction so that the project will demonstrate how cycle tracks can benefit business, bicyclists, and the community.

Inspired by a suggestion from leaders in Kansas City and tested the week before in Atlanta, we added another major element to the weekend’s training: a community forum to share and discuss the proposed campaigns. 

 

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The Minneapolis community forum in full swing

Several of Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s leaders (and Molly Sullivan in particular) did an amazing job involving over 50 community leaders, including three city counselors and nearly a dozen partner organizations. Small group activities helped collect new ideas and galvanize participation. While a bit stressful for advocates who had only been working on developing their campaigns for the past 24 hours, it provided instant feedback and buy-in. We closed the 12 hour+ day with a celebration and fun dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

Sunday morning warmed up to the single digits (victory: no negative sign in front of the number!). We got back to work debriefing the community forum, adjusting and adding details to the campaigns, and focusing on the resources and fundraising necessary to win. 

 

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Advocates hard at work discussing winning new cycle track networks in Minneapolis

“I’ve been to numerous campaign trainings over the years, this one was the best,” said Joshua Houder of the Sierra Club.

Tami Traeger of Nice Ride, Minneapolis’s awesome bike share program, agreed. “This was not just a training — it was a campaign kick-off fueled by the talent and energy and passion revealed in the process of learning campaign building,” she said.

Both Jackie and I were impressed with the team at this training. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition was already engaging partners, but now have great plans to connect even more with the business community, their elected officials and partners in health and the environment.

Seth Nesselhuf of Quality Bicycle Products, one of the training’s business sponsors, commented, “This Winning Campaigns Training has put the Minneapolis Bike Coalition on the fast track to getting cycle tracks!”

Special thanks to Molly Sullivan, Nicole Campbell, Lisa Bender, Ethan Fawley and Hokan for all their local organizing and assistance in hosting this great training.

Going forward, keep your eyes on Minneapolis. They’ve already done a lot and are well recognized as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S., but advocacy leaders know there is more to do and they are taking action to take the city to new heights.

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