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Rebel Without a Car – A Trip to a Sustainable City

NUSA 2013

In May my family went on a trip to Minneapolis to attendNeighborhoods, USA (NUSA), where we did a presentation on Website and Social Media How-To practices and where we also met a lot of people from around the country, who believe in taking care of their neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods, USA is “a national non-profit organization committed to building and strengthening neighborhood organizations. Created in 1975 to share information and experiences toward building stronger communities, NUSA now continues to encourage networking and information sharing to facilitate the development of partnerships between neighborhood organizations, government and the private sector. 

For three and a half days, attendees were going from seminar to seminar to learn about how to make things better in their communities and they found inspirations from “local” heroes. The communities and the presentations were as diverse as our country, and there was something there for everyone.

The city of Minneapolis offered for all NUSA workshop attendees tours of the city, which ranged from a bike tour, to a Native American Cultural tour, several Arts tours, and a Riverfront tour, which have developed a sustainability standard that include historic and natural preservation as well as solar and wind energy innovations.

Did you know that Minneapolis boasts the second-largest number of theater seats per capita in the nation? (New York is number one.) Did you also know that Minneapolis-St. Paul is considered for the third year in a row the healthiest, fittest metropolitan area in the US? They have a bridge called Irene Hixon Whitney Bridgethat spans sixteen(!) lanes of traffic to enable pedestrians to cross easily between Loring Park and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

As to biking, read this: Minneapolis was ranked as one of the best biking cities in the country by Bike Score (interestingly, Minneapolis is higher ranking than the Bike Score’s most bikable cities page), the #2 biking city by Bicycling Magazine, and the #4 bicycling city in the nation by the US Census Bureau. Minneapolis has 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street bikeways.

We saw many, many cyclists ride around the city even when it rained. And interestingly the cyclists didn’t bundle up during the rain but wore the thinnest shorts and t-shirts they could find in their closet. Maybe because it’s easier to dry off at your destination than to change your soaked clothes. Hmm, who knows?

We walked the neighborhoods, we took the free bus in the inner city, and we took the metro to and from the airport. We spent five days in Minneapolis and we didn’t sleep much—there was so much to discover. What a beautiful city. And the people were the nicest! Seriously! Street cleaners smiled at us in the rain, wishing us a wonderful day; bus drivers helped us navigate the city; strangers from across the street gave us directions when they saw us “lost.”

Next year, the NUSA Conference will be in Eugene, Oregon. I’m already planning! I’m looking forward to learning about their neighborhood innovations, and about their sustainability tours and workshops. I hope to see you there!

This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in July 2013.


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