Observations of the Creepy Bike Guy

I’ve ridden my bike so much around town this spring and summer that I’m probably now known as The Creepy Bike Guy.

You can easily identify me. I’m the old guy on the electric bike with turn signals, wearing white crew socks, old shorts and a ratty T-shirt. Looking that fashionable, I wonder why women out for walks are always on their cellphones as I pass by them. I’m really harmless and might be starting a trend.

What I’m doing is just enjoying a more detailed view of town. Red Wing has so many streets and venues, it’s hard to not see interesting things everywhere. And having grown up in town, it’s especially fun to ride through the many neighborhoods, trying to remember where one ends and the next one begins.

Maybe someone has created a delineated map identifying neighborhoods by name. I’m sure there would be arguments about it, kind of like gerrymandering. Neighborhoods probably used to have much more meaning. Names like Coon Hill, Sunnyside, Birchwood, South Park and the Old Fairgrounds aren’t as recognized today because we don’t identify with them as much. Too many of us don’t even know our neighbors.

A bike tour gives you time to see things in more detail than in a car and you cover more ground than walking. It also allows you to contemplate the changes over the years, both good and bad.

It’s a given that change is inevitable. Demographics change. The climate changes. We change as we age. And now a lot of things are changing because of the pandemic.

It’s easy to see that many homes in neighborhoods have been updated, even replaced. The schools have been getting upgrades.

Downtown Red Wing has definitely changed. There have always been business changes, but vacant landmark buildings attest to the fact that downtown business has lost out to big box stores in Burnside and internet shopping. It’s slowly reinventing itself as are countless other downtowns. Help wanted signs seem to be everywhere.

The official 2020 census results for cities won’t be available until 2022 but based on the last estimate, Red Wing’s population is not growing. In fact, it’s shrinking. The “Vintage 2019” census is the latest estimate I could find and it lists it at 16,320. In 2010 it was 16,459. That’s a net loss of 139 people. The forthcoming official total might be radically different.

Some people like the fact that Red Wing stays mostly the same. Others are frustrated by its lack of growth and opportunity. Rochester, for example, has grown more than 11 percent since 2010, thanks to Mayo Clinic and other large businesses. Their Destination Medical Center project will help them grow even more and should benefit Red Wing. There are good arguments both for and against growth and they have been ongoing here since I can remember.

On my rides I see a lot of changes we’re sure to be proud of. Take a walk on the sidewalk of the superb new high bridge. Take a long look at downtown. Remember when power poles and wires were everywhere?

Old West Main Street is being redesigned. Hey, to accommodate the naysayers of the new pedestrian bridge at Bay Point Park that connects with Old West Main, the city could rename the street to Somewhere Street. Then we could call the bridge the Bridge to Somewhere.

Our parks have seen huge upgrades. I really appreciate the added kiosks of information on Memorial Park and at the access to He Mni Can – Barn Bluff Regional Park. Levee Park, Bay Point Park and John Rich Park are improved. This shows that Red Wing cares.

The awesome view at the updated lookout on Memorial Park brings to mind that an equally spectacular view could be created by removing or cutting back the trees at the lookout in Oakwood Cemetery.

There are other areas that need improvement, from a bicyclist’s point of view. Streets need to be maintained. I realize they are on an improvement schedule and only so much can be done during our short summers. So, you learn where the potholes are.

The worst intersection in town, in my opinion, is at East Seventh and Plum streets. The AARP Safe Driver course tells you that an intersection like that has 32 potential vehicle conflict points, with an additional 24 possible if pedestrians (and bikes) are involved. I miss having traffic lights at that intersection.

If you ride bike you really notice the sidewalk conditions throughout town. The city has a sidewalk improvement plan and has made great strides with street corners. Residential areas without sidewalks shouldn’t be allowed to be called neighborhoods. If nothing else, kids need sidewalks.

I try to avoid riding on sidewalks but it’s dangerous to ride in the street in certain areas. Riding on downtown sidewalks is prohibited so you either walk your bike or ride in traffic. Pioneer Road has become Red Wing’s own Interstate 494. Drivers in town must think the radar speed signs are to check the accuracy of their speedometers.

That’s my rant for today. There’s much to observe in Pretty Red Wing, a city right on the Mighty Mississippi, smack dab between a vibrant metro area and the best health care in the world.

And that’s straight from the Creepy Bike Guy.

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