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The secret is out, though it’s not really a secret to those who live here: Minneapolis, MN, is the number one bicycle city in the US.
By Tom Everson
The secret is out, though it’s not really a secret to those who live here: Minneapolis, MN, is the number one bicycle city in the US. As Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is fond of saying, referring to the 2010 Bicycling Magazine decree where the Mill City recently usurped Portland, OR, for top honors: “Portland is just another street in Minneapolis.” And Rybak’s employer practices what he preaches. At the National Bike Summit held in Washington, DC, this past March, the City of Minneapolis was honored by the League of American Bicyclists with the Gold Award designation for a Bike Friendly Business. Hyperbole aside, this big city with a small town feel does have some incredible bike-friendly features.
In June of 2010, the bike share program ‘Nice Ride Minnesota’ launched making 700 bikes available for rent at 65 kiosks located across the city. Ridership that year topped 100,000 trips. For 2011, the popular program is expanding into North Minneapolis and Saint Paul, with the number of kiosks rising from 65 to an impressive 85 and the number of bikes reaching a total of 1,000.
According to the federally-funded Bike Walk Twin Cities, cycling in the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis increased by 33 percent between 2007 and 2010. Simply put, getting around town via cycle is easy, thanks to the city’s grid-system of streets and avenues and, perhaps more so, the ever-increasing network of trails, bike lanes and paths.
The Midtown Greenway extends from the Mississippi River on one end, all the way to the western suburbs, and is used by thousands of commuters every week. The Cedar Lake Bicycle Highway, which also brings commuters downtown, is just finishing its final extension which passes under the new Minnesota Twins stadium and connects to the West River Parkway.
But what about during the snowy winter months? No bother. Both the Greenway and the Cedar Lake Trail are generally plowed within 24 hours of a major snowfall, often before the city streets. And if you choose to break up your transport options, nearly every city bus now has a bike rack on the front, as do the light rail LRT trains.
While there is no shortage of resources for local pedalers, no visit to Minneapolis is complete without a visit to the “Grand Daddy” of local bike culture, Gene and Jennifer Oberpriller’s One on One Bicycle Studio. Located in what remains of the heart of the downtown’s Warehouse District, One on One offers a full-service bike shop, coffee bar, art gallery and bicycle boneyard. It simply has to be experienced to be believed. When asked what makes his community unique, Gene Oberpriller replied: “We have a 100-year-old bicycle trail that goes around the city, called the Grand Rounds. That’s unique.”
A very unscientific, random visual sample of downtown riders and bike racks definitely skews toward the single speed/ fixed-gear ride. Hipsters are everywhere, but there are plenty of nice urban/ Euro-style bikes showing up around town, replete with full fenders, front and rear racks and a prevalence of dynamo lighting systems. And never underestimate the power of a vintage three-speed!
Load up your baskets at one of the many farmers markets around town – at last count there were no less than 50 in the metro area – and enjoy a bicycle picnic. You’re never more than a few blocks from a city park in Minneapolis. It is also not uncommon to see Mom (or Dad) zipping down the Greenway towing the kids off to school, or grocery shopping at one of the many area co-ops on a Surly Big Dummy/ XtraCycle. Makes sense, as Surly Bikes/ QBP is located just downwind in Bloomington. For those of a more sartorial bent, be sure to check in with the Minneapolis Tweed Ride for upcoming events.
Regardless of your cycling flavor, Mill City has a vast, year-round menu to sample. The infamous annual bike messenger alleycat race, the Stupor Bowl, is held in the dead of winter. On June 12, 2011, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition is promoting an Open Streets/ Ciclovia. There are also weekly bike polo events, ice racing in the winter on frozen lakes and miles of commuter-friendly paths and bike lanes to keep you rolling all day long.