Skyways the death of downtown sidewalk culture?

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This 1963 photo of one of the first skyways opening in downtown Minneapolis is from the Minnesota Historical Society.

It’ll be a tough sell convincing folks that skyways are a bad deal.

A recent batch of barbs from some thinkers and from Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak cite the skyway system as the reason the city’s storefronts and sidewalks are so blah and devoid of people.

Apparently the critics haven’t noticed all the shivering bus riders, buskers and beggars on downtown sidewalks.

But it’s true. Most of the city’s 160,000 plus downtown workers stride along coatless, hatless and gloveless through the city’s eight miles of skyways that connect more than 70 blocks.

Calling a halt to skyway expansion and encouraging more street level walkers, some thinkers argue, would make downtown more interesting.

Weather may play the biggest role.

The downtown scene really perks up with warmer weather as vendors populate the Nicollet Mall.

Business owners funding DID, the Downtown Improvement District, are certainly encouraging sidewalk use by spending lots of money keeping them clean and ice and snow free, and hiring workers who gladly help lost pedestrians find their way.

When it stops snowing, sleeting, raining, blowing and freezing and when more San Diego-type weather arrives in the Twin Cities, I boldy predict a resurgence of people on downtown Minneapolis sidewalks.

  • Tina Weitzel

    When the skyways were much more scarce, there were more people on the sidewalks downtown in the winter. However, they were not chatting or interacting, or looking at the scenery. We had our heads down and jackets were covering as much of our freezing bodies as we could get them to. The skyways have increased interaction, and has reduced the level of wet floors because of less snow being tracked inside.