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Minneapolis St. Paul Commuters: Thoughts on 1:00 A.M. - 3:00 A.M. through town?

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Minneapolis St. Paul Commuters: Thoughts on 1:00 A.M. - 3:00 A.M. through town?

Old 08-02-14, 09:27 AM
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Minneapolis St. Paul Commuters: Thoughts on 1:00 A.M. - 3:00 A.M. through town?

I'm considering commuting to work just for the fitness (ok, a little bit of bragging too) but the hold up is I start work at 03:00 over on Lexington and Energy Park Drive. Is this a really bad idea, especially for someone who rarely rides at night, and hasn't hung around the city itself much in 20 years? Who else commutes at those hours of the morning?

Lights aren't a problem, (thanks cghoward) and I'll ride the route a few times during the day first, and lastly will start at a Park and Ride in St. Louis Park for the first few rides so that distance will be 12 miles each way instead of 28 miles.

The route will be from the west on Lake Minnetonka on the Dakota Trail, pick up Cedar Lake Trail into Mpls, then south along the river, cross over on the Stone Arch Bridge, and work my way onto Energy Park Drive.
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Old 08-02-14, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
I'm considering commuting to work just for the fitness (ok, a little bit of bragging too) but the hold up is I start work at 03:00 over on Lexington and Energy Park Drive. Is this a really bad idea, especially for someone who rarely rides at night, and hasn't hung around the city itself much in 20 years? Who else commutes at those hours of the morning?

Lights aren't a problem, (thanks cghoward) and I'll ride the route a few times during the day first, and lastly will start at a Park and Ride in St. Louis Park for the first few rides so that distance will be 12 miles each way instead of 28 miles.

The route will be from the west on Lake Minnetonka on the Dakota Trail, pick up Cedar Lake Trail into Mpls, then south along the river, cross over on the Stone Arch Bridge, and work my way onto Energy Park Drive.
I've ridden on all portions of your proposed route and some of them in the wee hours but most not.

On the Cedar Lake trail in particular, even though you are within the Minneapolis city limits and close to downtown, it is like being out in the styx. From a scenery standpoint that is nice, however, it's not lit. If something happens no one's going see it and you are a ways from help.

I'm not sure what the dinkytown greenway and U of M transit way are like at that time. There have been muggings on some Mpls trails but that has died down over what it was a few years ago. I don't know if it was every much of a problem where you're thinking of riding. But if I were you I'd check this website: MPLS Bike Love

People are very helpful on that site and there are notices posted when trails are closed or a sketchy activity as occurred on any of the popular routes.

It is very cool that you can get from that starting point all the way to your destination on trails. It says a lot about the system. However, sometimes one can save time by taking surface streets. Depending on the area I may prefer a lit street to a dark trail anyway.

There are some new connections in the West River Road/U of M area that might save a little time over taking the Stone Arch Bridge.
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Old 08-02-14, 01:40 PM
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IIRC the Midtown Greenway is easily accessible from St. Louis Park. I'm not sure how safe the greenway is at night, but from the W river end you can head up to the U campus, take Washington through campus (now bus/bike only) and the U's transitway (also bus/bike only) to energy park. River road, the U campus and transitway and energy park are all safe late at night IME.
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Old 08-02-14, 02:36 PM
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Good to know that once I reach River Road the route is clear and I have some alternatives from there to EP. I agree Energy Park is pretty safe, I never see any activity there during my 5x weekly drive.

Not too many options for streets or roads going more-or-less straight line. I can pull Cedar Lake Road for a while, then back down to the trail. Isn't the trail lit going through downtown?
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Old 08-02-14, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
But if I were you I'd check this website: MPLS Bike Love

People are very helpful on that site and there are notices posted when trails are closed or a sketchy activity as occurred on any of the popular routes.
I copied my post to MPLS Bike Love. Anxious to see the responses.
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Old 08-02-14, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
Good to know that once I reach River Road the route is clear and I have some alternatives from there to EP. I agree Energy Park is pretty safe, I never see any activity there during my 5x weekly drive.

Not too many options for streets or roads going more-or-less straight line. I can pull Cedar Lake Road for a while, then back down to the trail. Isn't the trail lit going through downtown?
The Cedar Lake trail goes under the Twins stadium and I'm sure that part of it is lit. After that it cuts through the North Loop neighborhood which is a fairly affluent area but mostly you'll be riding next to parking lots. There are lights around there but I don't know how much of the trail itself is illuminated. It won't be pitch black. I should know how well it's lit since it goes right by my office window but I can't remember off hand.

It only takes a few minutes after you go under the stadium to get to the Mississippi river/West River Road trail. That trail is lit but not brightly. Beware the parking meters that are on the right hand part of the trail before you get to the Stone Arch Bridge. If you ride too far to the right, it wouldn't be that hard to smack right into one. They sort of jump out at you at the last minute in the night.

The River Road portion of the route I've taken many times in the 1:00 to 3:00 am time range and have never had a problem.

I belong to a sailing club on Lake Harriet and will ride there from work on Cedar Lake/Kennilworth and back on Tuesday nights. Once in awhile I'll grab dinner with some of them before heading back to work which means I ride in the dark. I've only done it a few times, other times I've opted to head straight home instead. Never had a problem but I'm a little creeped out by the dark stretches. Overactive imagination most likely.

There's at least one BF member (probably several) who takes the Cedar Lake trail into work. Hopefully one or two of them can give you an idea of what it's like in the early morning hours.

Another option would be to ride with the volunteer safety patrol a few times. That would give you a good idea of what it's like to ride on various trails in the dark.

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Old 08-02-14, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
Beware the parking meters that are on the right hand part of the trail before you get to the Stone Arch Bridge...They sort of jump out at you at the last minute in the night.

Another option would be to ride with the volunteer safety patrol a few times. That would give you a good idea of what it's like to ride on various trails in the dark.
Not to minimize all the other excellent info in your response - thank you very much! - I hadn't thought of riding with the safety patrol. Nice way to kill a Friday or Saturday night, get more comfortable with the area and chat with the riders who know the area. I'll check it out with the bike trail organizations here it town, as I already have an email or two out to them this weekend and hope to get a response Monday.

Attacking Parking Meters eh? Sounds like something out of Dr. Who.
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Old 08-02-14, 09:17 PM
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Looks like I can go the Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9 and Dinkytown Greenway also?
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Old 08-03-14, 07:09 AM
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Im a daily cedar lake trail rider (10+ years) and have ridden it countless times in the dark, but very seldom has it been at 2am. As mentioned, the majority of it is not lit so it's plenty dark, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as it's peaceful and really pretty, but you can feel a bit lonely and isolated out there too.

Really the only area that is of concern for safety is the one mile section past the kennilworth split, penn ave/394 bridge to target field. There is a community of homeless folks that have set up camps in the brush and bridges down and around there. For the most part they are simply trying to eek out a life outside the shelters in the summer months and are harmless and keep to themselves, but there have been incidents in that stretch this year with people I know have been hassled multiple times even in the middle of the day. It's dark there and there are plenty of places for people to hide out, even though you are in the shadows of downtown, it's pretty isolated. I'm not trying to scare you but that is the stretch to be most wary of. Once you get to Target field and beyond it's pretty well lit and I'd say it's safe.

So, the easy alternative route to avoid this area would be to jump off the trail at the exit on the right before the 394 underpass, then shoot down Dean parkway cut left over to Dunwoody by parade stadium and then jump on Hennepin and ride that straight through downtown over to the Stone Arch Bridge. Hennepin will be empty and well lit. And you have plenty of alternative streets to choose if you need to. it's a bit more of a hassle this way, but you have options and are not isolated. FWIW I think that's probably what I'd do if I were passing through a 3am.

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Old 08-03-14, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by modernjess View Post
Really the only area that is of concern for safety is the half mile section past the kennilworth split, penn ave/394 bridge to target field. There is a community of homeless folks that have set up camps in the brush and bridges down and around there. For the most part they are simply trying to eek out a life outside the shelters in the summer months and are harmless and keep to themselves, but there have been incidents in that stretch this year with people I know have been hassled multiple times even in the middle of the day.
Couple of questions: when you say "hassled," do you mean harassed or just annoying begging, or presence on the path could cause an accident"? Also, any thoughts on Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9 and Dinkytown Greenway as an alternative to Stone Arch Bridge?

I hadn't thought of problems on the trail for my return trip at noon, so might have to re-think that roung.

Hennepin through downtown actually safe at that the early hour? I suppose no traffic, but a dangerous few would be my concern. Now at noon I would expect traffic and pedestrian hazards.

This whole commute thing is looking more doable all the time. I'm surprised.
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Old 08-03-14, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
Couple of questions: when you say "hassled," do you mean harrased or just annoying begging, or presence on the path could cause an accident"? Also, any thoughts on Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9 and Dinkytown Greenway as an alternative to Stone Arch Bridge?

This whole commute thing is looking more doable all the time. I'm surprised.
Recently a coworker of mine was accosted by a guy who was totally unglued, near the city storage yard down there. He was in the middle of the path, tried to knock him off his bike, wanted to rob him and start a fight, pretty ugly. This was at 8:00AM on a perfect summer day! Cops were called but he got away. 2 weeks later the guy was back, doing the same thing, same coworker, same time! It caused a big ruckus and a few riders were involved, this time cops were very close and arrived and dragged him away. I was stunned to hear about it, but like I said I've been riding this stretch for well over 10 years and have had very very few issues, but it's not at 2am.

I'm not familiar with the NP bridge and the Dinkytown greenway, I have ridden them during the day but I have no feel for it one way or another.
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Old 08-03-14, 07:40 AM
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Another thought: I figured the paved path would be clear of tire hazards so planned on my regular road bike and tires. My workplace is gated and secure with a covered bike shelter so not too worried about thieves coming off the street and cutting the cable or lock.
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Old 08-05-14, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
I've ridden on all portions of your proposed route and some of them in the wee hours but most not.

On the Cedar Lake trail in particular, even though you are within the Minneapolis city limits and close to downtown, it is like being out in the styx. From a scenery standpoint that is nice, however, it's not lit. If something happens no one's going see it and you are a ways from help.

But if I were you I'd check this website: MPLS Bike Love
About the isolation on the trail and being away from help: I had another person suggest staying on the roads for that very same reason. But I'm having trouble putting together a nice straight route like the trail is. I can parallel 394 for quite a bit of the ride but those frontage roads go past a lot of places that are open late for drinking and food. I'm more afraid of the human animal than hazards on the trail. Should I be?

Nice tip on MPLS Bike Love. I'm getting good feedback there also. Next week I will spend time just riding routes between Louisiana Ave and Energy Park Drive in the late morning just to get a sense of what I'm up against. I really should ride the Dakota trail tomorrow and Saturday night, but being "in the woods" is always different in the wee hours of the morning. The spooky time for me is sometime before 02:00 A.M. No idea why.
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Old 08-06-14, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
About the isolation on the trail and being away from help: I had another person suggest staying on the roads for that very same reason. But I'm having trouble putting together a nice straight route like the trail is. I can parallel 394 for quite a bit of the ride but those frontage roads go past a lot of places that are open late for drinking and food. I'm more afraid of the human animal than hazards on the trail. Should I be?

Nice tip on MPLS Bike Love. I'm getting good feedback there also. Next week I will spend time just riding routes between Louisiana Ave and Energy Park Drive in the late morning just to get a sense of what I'm up against. I really should ride the Dakota trail tomorrow and Saturday night, but being "in the woods" is always different in the wee hours of the morning. The spooky time for me is sometime before 02:00 A.M. No idea why.
If I wanted to rob somebody, I would do so in place where it is unlikely to be seen or heard by somebody else and where it would be easy to surprise the victim.

To me riding on a lit street with car traffic and other passers by is safer than riding on a dark path at a time when there's very few other riders and lots of places for a thief to hide.

So yes, I'd much rather ride by bars and restaurants at night than I would some some portions of some Minneapolis trails.

Not sure that my fears are really backed by statistics though. You could argue that one is in greater danger of getting hit by a drunk driver near a bar a closing time than they are of getting mugged on the Cedar Lake trail at 1:45 am. Pick your poison I guess.

Edit: Just saw this article from yesterday's strib:

The Hiawatha LRT Trail is likely to have new lights by the end of the year, six years after a series of robberies on the Minneapolis bike trail and the connecting Midtown Greenway.The City Council is expected to approve the $600,000 project in August. The plan is to install lights every 95 feet in unlit areas of the trail, which parallels the Blue Line. The area to get the new lighting is between 11th Avenue S. on the eastern edge of downtown and E. 26th Street in the Seward neighborhood.
The lights will cost about 33 percent less than the engineer’s estimate, according to a city memo. That partly reflects the presence of several lights already installed near the Metro Transit operations center and the earlier installation of lights south of 26th when the Sabo bridge for the greenway that was built.
The new lights will be higher efficiency LED lights, which use 50 percent less energy than high-pressure sodium lights. Existing lights on the trail will be retrofitted to LED as part of the project. They will be designed to cast light in an oval pattern, said Allan Klugman, a city engineer.
The two trails were the site of at least 10 attacks in late 2008, including an armed robbery of a Star Tribune employee. The violence prompted the creation of a Trail Watch patrol, which continues to monitor the trails six years later.
Muggings have been reduced to one or two a year since then on both trails, said Soren Jensen, executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, which started the trail patrols. But he said that the coalition has tested light levels on the greenway with meters, finding dim spots in about a dozen areas. Three lights were added last year, and three more are coming this year, he said.
Jensen said priority is being given to lighting trail areas near stairways that can provide quick getaways for assailants. He said that security cameras on the greenway are being improved and that he is hoping for signs to warn potential criminals that they are being filmed.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438
Twitter: @brandtstrib
So there's two good pieces of news for me at least. The Hiawatha trail is part of my normal commute. I'd often take Portland home instead in the early morning hours, especially while the trail was detoured during Green Line construction.

The two good pieces of news is that soon there will be lights and that muggings had been reduced to once or twice a year anyway. So it's not that frequent.

For you it may make a difference as well. Since the Greenway will be getting better lighting, it might be preferred over Cedar Lake. It connects to the river farther South but I'm not sure the overall distance would be much different.

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Old 08-06-14, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
I copied my post to MPLS Bike Love. Anxious to see the responses.
I'm shocked you got any responses. They got new forum software a year ago; basically killed the site.

Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
Looks like I can go the Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9 and Dinkytown Greenway also?
That's the route I'd take. I'm not sure how or why you'd use the Stone Arch Bridge.

Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
Couple of questions: when you say "hassled," do you mean harassed or just annoying begging, or presence on the path could cause an accident"? Also, any thoughts on Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9 and Dinkytown Greenway as an alternative to Stone Arch Bridge?

I hadn't thought of problems on the trail for my return trip at noon, so might have to re-think that roung.

Hennepin through downtown actually safe at that the early hour? I suppose no traffic, but a dangerous few would be my concern. Now at noon I would expect traffic and pedestrian hazards.

This whole commute thing is looking more doable all the time. I'm surprised.

It wasn't 1:00-3:00 am, but I work near the Red Cross Building (13th and West River Parkway), and I live in the Midway, and I've had to work late and ride home a few times, once last week. It was about 11:30 pm. My normal commute is on Energy Park/Transitway/Bridge 9. I rode through the new tunnel under 35W, took Bridge 9, and took the Transitway to Energy Park Drive. I saw a few people enjoying the evening looking at the River, but that was it. Only a few cars on the road at that time, too.

This biggest danger is the awful condition of Energy Park from the Transitway through the Raymond intersection--i was worried I would hit a pothole in the dark and break a spoke.

My boss lives in St. Louis Park and rides on the Cedar Lake Trail to the River Road in the dark, so I'll ask him. He usually complains about joggers, but there's a difference between 5 am and 3 am.
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Old 08-06-14, 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by gna View Post
I'm shocked you got any responses. They got new forum software a year ago; basically killed the site.

My boss lives in St. Louis Park and rides on the Cedar Lake Trail to the River Road in the dark, so I'll ask him. He usually complains about joggers, but there's a difference between 5 am and 3 am.
Kinda late for me to respond much to both of you tonight; I have to be on the road in my car for work. Yes please check with your boss - I'm very much interested in what he has to say.

Any idea where all the folks that used to hang on Mpls Bike Love went, if not to here on BF?
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Old 08-06-14, 11:10 PM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
Kinda late for me to respond much to both of you tonight; I have to be on the road in my car for work. Yes please check with your boss - I'm very much interested in what he has to say.

Any idea where all the folks that used to hang on Mpls Bike Love went, if not to here on BF?
No idea. But there is nowhere near as much traffic, or discussion, on the site.
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Old 08-07-14, 02:09 PM
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I usually get done with work anytime from 2am-4am and then ride 17 miles here is San Diego. I have not had any issues riding at that time yet and pass by a couple of spots where homeless people hang out. I dont have to use any bike paths on my commute but I would be skeptical to use them unless they are lite up like talked about in the above posts. I would try and find roads to use instead of the bike paths unless it is not possible on your commute. Riding the paths and getting used to them during the day light is a great idea.
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Old 08-07-14, 03:09 PM
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I have not really been on any of those trails that early/late but I know the Midtown Greenway has those emergency posts where you can call for help. While I have not had any bad experience myself I have heard of people having problems with thugs between the Lyndale bridge and east of there. None have happened recently though, so I don't know if safety patrols are helping or what but it seems to be quite as far as crime reports in that area these days.

Traffic wise, I think you will be pretty lonely out there. Seems like peak bike traffic on Midtown doesn't start until around 6-7am from there until probably 8pm or so it's pretty busy then it trickles down and by 11-12pm it's pretty dead and almost nothing after that.

So, like others have said, it's good and bad. You need some really good lights, would be good to keep cellphone accessible, and it wouldn't hurt to have a screamer device to make a lot of noise if need be. Chances are you won't need it but good to have when you will be in isolated.
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Old 08-07-14, 06:01 PM
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Only a bit of your route in common, but thought you might be interested in this: A Bicycle Commute to the Suburbs | streets.mn
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Old 08-11-14, 08:44 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by gna View Post
My boss lives in St. Louis Park and rides on the Cedar Lake Trail to the River Road in the dark, so I'll ask him. He usually complains about joggers, but there's a difference between 5 am and 3 am.
I asked my boss about your route. He doesn't think you'll have any problems. He said he rarely sees anyone; he thinks you're more likely to see racoons and foxes than people.
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Old 08-12-14, 06:24 AM
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Sorry I've been amis, folks. Thanks gna for checking with your boss - nice to know he rides the part of the route that concerned me most. I do have to take is slow on the trail out by my place because of deer and smaller animals. I could take hwy 15 but it's just not a safe road as there isn't anywhere for me to go if a drunk comes up behind. Minimal shoulder or none, railing, or lacking that, a dive down through the trees into the lake.

Crankyone - good article. Riz98 - about 1/3 of my commute could be acceptable roads, some downtown but I'm shy of sitting at stop lights that time of the A.M.

mcrow: you're all the way out in Hutch? My lights for this year are fine, too-bright flashlight, (night blind on the dark trail) carrying a spare, dual SuperFlash on the back, small headlamp on my helmet if I need to stop for something. If the commute idea does work out for me this year, I can foresee changing up some lighting just for convenience. (the dupe stuff is borrowing my son's night gear (same as mine)
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Old 08-16-14, 09:45 AM
  #23  
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Tuesday and Thursday I test rode the eastern half-way route of Cedar Lake Trail / River Road / Bridge No. 9 route during daylight, 28 miles round trip. Minimal indication of anyone camping out under the freeways; just one pile of junk by a pillar, so that's encouraging. Lots of dark areas just as I get started in St. Louis Park area of the trail, between fences, and kinda isolated feeling, but I'll have to get over that anyway, no matter the route.


I think I jinxed myself my putting my old race-lite tires on the bike causing me to crash Tuesday. I shouldn't be looking at landmarks and riding the edge of the trail at the same time. This is the first road rash I can remember. Shoulder is still pretty sore. Bikes' ok - the left shifter and pedal took all the cosmetic damage. Why in heck I remain in the habit of riding the right outside edge of the trails I don't know, but this I think broke the habit. And put my wider P4SC back on. Such a ride improvement even at slightly lower pressure.


The backpack is settling in as I figure out the weight and distribution of contents. I'll keep a change(s) of work clothes at the office and just carry stuff I may need on the commute. It's going to get cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. Is it paranoid to carry light shoes in the pack in case I have to walk out for some reason? I just cannot see walking much in my cycling shoes. (SPD-L. Ugh) If I do the commute next year I might convert my Sekine to a commuter and add a rack.
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Old 08-16-14, 08:40 PM
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I don't know a thing about your route but I'd carry a patch kit (in addition to the spare tube I assume you already have) and a chain breaker and forget the spare shoes especially in a backpack.
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Old 08-17-14, 07:56 PM
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Thanks for the reminder BS - wait that didn't come out right - thanks for the reminder Bug Shield.
I have to replace the vucanizer - used the last of it. Just this year I started patching and using tubes we had laying around just for practice. So spare tube, patch kit backup, spare tire. Not sure about the chain breaker - can't see me getting even a quick link back on correctly under the circumstances. Still, wouldn't hurt to try and if not, then call the cabbie.
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