8/23: Emerging Minneapolis Pedestrian

8/23: Emerging Minneapolis Pedestrian

I've walked a little over 207 miles since relocating to Minneapolis on August 5th. The transition from walking in the sleepy suburb of Saint Cloud to the heart of the city has been creatively energizing.

The last time I lived in Minneapolis, back in the early 2000s, I led a car-dependent lifestyle, so there wasn't much exploring of the city on foot beyond the chain of lakes.

The city is both familiar and completely novel at this point, which creates an interesting dynamic, especially from a photography perspective.

This is also the first time I've lived in a high-rise apartment building in a downtown area, which has added another interesting angle to my new wanderings. I love the ability to walk out my door and feel right in the middle of the city, just a short walk from the bustling parks lining the river.

I've relied on the routine of recording data from each walk in a field journal, which has become foundational to my practice over the years. Combined with my map-drawing efforts, it provides the feeling of making incremental daily progress.

I've been asked a few times about my experience walking in Minneapolis, and I've responded that "I feel like a New Yorker walking in Minneapolis." It's a curious dynamic, considering I've spent the last few years in a more suburban environment. Landing in the heart of the city has reminded me of what I loved about living in New York City. The energy, movement, architecture, and interplay between recreation, commerce, and unfortunately, too many instances of despair, have been creatively engaging, even if I haven't fully synthesized my role in it all just yet.

I'm doing my best to refrain from making comparisons or judgments about Minneapolis. In fact, I find it almost silly, because I simply haven't visited enough cities to form an informed opinion from an urbanism perspective. However, I do feel that my reading and learning are paying off, helping me view public spaces more critically. Of course, the goal is to weave this into my photography and art, which is always easier said than done.

Minneapolis is well-known for its lakes, park system, and location on the Mississippi. It also boasts one of the most highly rated bike networks in the country. What dawned on me—and what should have been obvious—is that when you have a great bike network, you also tend to have a great pedestrian network.

I've only scratched the surface thus far, but once you get onto the network, there are so many opportunities for navigating the city through the trails that I've started to believe Minneapolis is an underappreciated walking city. Of course, this all changes once winter arrives. That's when I plan to dive into the much-maligned, yet still fascinating, skyway system, which, in my few walks around it thus far, has left me bewildered.

I've latched onto the phrase "emerging Minneapolis pedestrian" as a mantra for my current perspective on walking and art. I've been lurking in the Minneapolis urbanism community on X (the artist formerly known as Twitter) and Reddit to learn more about other opinions about the city. It's been a great learning experience, and knowing that it's a smaller community makes me excited about how I can eventually participate.

Photography has always been an exceptional tool in helping me understand my interests and focus my attention. I enjoy how I can recognize a scene in the field and then review it later from a photographic and artistic perspective.

These days, of course, my attention is focused on green spaces and pedestrian infrastructure. It's truly an amazing feeling when you can lock onto your subject matter with such focus and enter a prolonged flow state. It's a continual evolution, learning from day to day and, eventually, accumulating photographs and ideas.

Fall has traditionally been my favorite time to walk, both because of the cooler temperatures and the changing vibes. I'm planning to focus on expanding my boundaries, both geographically and creatively. I'll need to utilize public transportation more than I have thus far, which will add another interesting layer to the experience—one that I'm looking forward to.

My latest map isn't quite finished yet, but there's a lot of green, blue and purple which feel appropriate for Minneapolis.

I'll conclude with a quote from 'The Image of the City,' a compelling read I picked up after watching an episode of Citynerd, an engaging urbanism YouTube channel I've been following.

The observer themself should play an active role in perceiving the world and have a creative part in developing their image. They should have the power to change that image to fit changing needs. An environment which is ordered in precise and final detail may inhibit new patterns of activity. A landscape whose every rock tells a story may make difficult the creation of fresh stories. Although this may not seem to be a critical issue in our present urban chaos, yet it indicates that what we seek is not a final but an open-ended order, capable of continuous further development.
Environmental images are the result of a two-way process between the observer and their environment. The environment suggests distinctions and relations, and the observer--with great adaptability and in the light of his own purposes selects, organizes, and endows with meaning what they see. The image so developed now limits and emphasizes what is seen, while the image itself is being tested against the filtered perceptual input in a constant interacting process. Thus the image of a given reality may vary significantly between different observers.


Tiny Forests With Big Benefits: "Known variously as tiny forests, mini forests, pocket forests and, in the United Kingdom, “wee” forests, they trace their lineage to the Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki, who in 2006 won the Blue Planet Prize, considered the environmental equivalent of a Nobel award, for his method of creating fast-growing native forests....Perhaps more important for urban areas, tiny forests can help lower temperatures in places where pavement, buildings and concrete surfaces absorb and retain heat from the sun. “This isn’t just a simple tree-planting method,” said Katherine Pakradouni, a native plant horticulturist who oversaw the forest planting in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. “This is about a whole system of ecology that supports all manner of life, both above and below ground.”

If We Want a Shift to Walking, We Need To Prioritize Dignity: Creating compliant sidewalks and trails is a high priority for agencies seeking to avoid litigation and serve pedestrians on the most basic level. Although that has some benefits, it isn’t enough. Whether actively undermining walkability (like removing crosswalks to achieve ADA compliance) to simply not doing enough (adding a new curb ramp to an otherwise wheelchair-hostile sidewalk), we need to go much further. To make walking and rolling a desirable, everyday activity, we need facilities that are compliant, safe, and dignified. We have many examples in our communities of great pedestrian ways—but we have a long way to go to make it universal, and truly move the needle toward walking.

What the Twin Cities Do Better Than Anywhere Else in the US

Minneapolis/St. Paul is known for frigid weather -- but that's the minority of the year. Most months the weather is pleasant, and the people have a special appreciation for getting out and about after a couple months of hibernation. Join me as I visit the city (cities) and explore what makes the Twin Cities different from everywhere else!

I’m an artist and marketing strategist based in Minneapolis. This is my newsletter on art, walking, urbanism and mindfulness.

Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram or Threads.