The proposed ban on plastic foam containers in Minneapolis restaurants may give some residents a sense of déjà vu.

A handmade sign greets visitors to Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson’s office. He’s pushing for the city to ban expanded polystyrene containers, commonly referred to as Styrofoam. Curtis Gilbert / MPR News

It’s something the city first tried to do 25 years ago. In fact, the law is still on the books, and there’s a nearly identical ordinance in St. Paul. The prohibitions just haven’t been enforced.

“This is a redo, a retake, if you will,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson, who is sponsoring the new proposed ban.

More than 100 U.S. cities now ban food containers made from expanded polystyrene, commonly referred to by the brand name Styrofoam. But when Minneapolis and St. Paul attempted to ban virtually all plastic food packaging in 1989, such measures were unprecedented.

The Twin Cities made national news, spawning stories in the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.

In those days, plastic recycling programs were rare, and the city ordinance banned all food packaging that couldn’t be recycled or returned to the vendor. It was an ambitious measure, but it turned out to be mostly symbolic.

“I don’t think the expectation was that only in Minneapolis and St. Paul would certain products — that were wrapped in plastic every place else — have a different distribution method,” said former City Council Member Steve Cramer. “It was a statement of concern.”

Cramer says the ordinance started a conversation about plastic waste and spurred the city to start recycling some plastic items.

The new proposed ordinance is more narrowly tailored, because it only targets restaurant food, as opposed to pre-packaged items produced outside the city. It also singles out expanded polystyrene, which is now one of the only types of plastic the city still doesn’t recycle.

With the spring thaw comes increasing numbers of bicyclists, who are required to follow most of the same laws as drivers. But they also face some unique challenges that aren’t addressed in statute.

Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, said he is hearing more concerns about bike etiquette as cycling continues to grow in popularity. Fawley, along with a few bicyclists on Twitter, suggested some ways to maintain safety (and harmony) as you take to the streets this spring.

1. Pay attention on trails

Minneapolis has 85 miles of off-street bikeways, and trails are becoming more common in cities across the state. But they are places where all sorts of bicyclists mix. Some are training for races, some are riding to work, some are taking a leisurely ride on their day off. Fawley said bicyclists need to pay attention to all the other people who are using the trails for different reasons.

“When people going different speeds are present, both sides need to be aware of that. Sometimes when the trail gets crowded you might have to slow down and maybe wait to find spacing when passing.”

2. Ride predictably

Fawley said this is the number one bike etiquette rule.

“Don’t swerve unexpectedly, don’t turn without signaling when there are other people around, don’t speed up or slow down unexpectedly  and, of course, just try to relax and enjoy the beautiful summer, and I think we’ll all be a little happier if we’re less stressed out.”

3. Use your words

You should also announce your presence by saying “On your left” when passing otherwise you risk someone veering into your path and causing an accident. For safety’s sake, Marc Warnest suggested on Twitter that bicyclists shouldn’t be afraid to make some noise to cars either.

4. Don’t crowd one another

Drivers and bicyclists often have to share the road.  Fawley said drivers and bicyclists must give one another the room they need to stay safe. Drivers should stay a safe distance from bicyclists when passing. And bicyclists should give parked cars a wide berth to avoid getting “doored” into traffic, Fawley said.

“Everyone is learning more and more that cyclists really should be out a little from the edge, and it’s incumbent on cyclists to recognize and be aware that at the same time as you want to be safe, you also want to be considerate. It’s a balancing act between those two things. I think some people will say I want to be a little farther out so I don’t get buzzed, I think other people will want to be closer to the edge of the road.”

5. Treat pedestrians respectfully

Bicyclists should treat pedestrians the way they wish drivers treated bicyclists. Fawley said that holds both on the street and on sidewalks.

“That’s being aware, not buzzing people walking, giving space, slowing down at intersections and crossing points. Hopefully from the pedestrian side, being predictable, just as we hope bicyclists are being predictable when they’re biking on the streets.”

6. Stay visible

That means using bike lights at night and not darting in and out of traffic. Sidewalks can also be some of the deadliest places for bikers because they often can’t be seen by drivers at intersections. An analysis of bike crashes released by the city of Minneapolis last year found that 33 percent of the crashes studied involved a bicyclist entering traffic from a sidewalk or path.

7. “Don’t be a jerk

Jon Terbush suggests on Twitter that bicyclists not surprise other bicyclists by unexpectedly cutting them off or, rudely,  lining up in front of them at lights. Svensk Jongen sums it up.


What are your bike etiquette suggestions? Tweet them with the hashtag #BikeEtiquette.

Here are more responses from folks on Twitter:

This new Habitat for Humanity “Net Zero” house in north Minneapolis not only is energy efficient, but also produces its own energy through solar panels. Liala Helal / MPR News

A report released today by Environment America ranks Minneapolis 37th of 57 cities nationwide when it comes to producing solar electricity.

The analysis shows Minneapolis produced approximately 5 watts of solar per person at the end of 2013. Minneapolis was the only Minnesota city included in the report.

Here are the leading solar cities, according to the report:

  1. Honolulu
  2. San Jose, Calif.
  3. Wilmington, Del.
  4. San Diego
  5. Indianapolis
  6. Phoenix
  7. San Antonio
  8. New Orleans

While not considered a “solar star” or “leader” by Environment America, Minneapolis did better than solar “beginners” like Chicago, New York, Miami, St. Louis and Detroit.

“Cities are the focal point of this solar energy revolution and that has Minneapolis looking on the bright side,” Environment Minnesota advocate Samantha Chadwick said in a news release.