More commuters than ever are pedaling to work, and local and national bicycle enthusiasts are hoping even more will join their ranks — even if it's just for a day.
Next week is National Bike to Work Week as proclaimed by the League of American Bicyclists, and cities across the nation will sponsor events all week leading up to Friday, which is National Bike to Work Day.
In Minneapolis, Friday will feature commuter convoy rides with elected officials from all corners of the city, culminating with a celebration and resource fair from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Hennepin County Government Center. In St. Paul, a commuter breakfast and program will take place at the Black Dog Cafe at 308 E. Prince St. in Lowertown.
Both cities, as well as some suburbs, will host "Pit Stops" in the morning or afternoon Friday where riders can meet up with other cyclists, get free snacks and in some cases free bike lights. Participants will be rewarded with "I Biked" stickers, similar to those handed to voters after casting their ballots.
"We are celebrating biking in the city," said Emily Wade, spokeswoman for Our Streets Minneapolis, one of the sponsors of Twin Cities Bike to Work Day. "We want people to try active transportation, stay healthy and help the environment."
Last year, at least 1,000 riders participated in sanctioned events and posted stories and photos using #TCBiketoWorkDay, Wade said.
Started in 1956, Bike to Work Day is now one of the biggest biking days of the year, said Lauren Jenkins with the League of American Bicyclists.
Commuting by bicycle has been on the rise nationally. From 2000 to 2017, the number of cyclists riding to work has grown by 43%. There were more than 836,500 bicycle commuters in 2017, according the league's report "Where We Ride: Analysis of Bicycle Commuting in American Cities."
The report using data from the U.S. Census Bureau found that about 4% of Minneapolis commuters bike to work.
Bike to Work Day "does not have to be all biking or nothing," Jenkins said. Many participants bike to a transit station and take a bus or train the rest of the way. Others bike one way to work and take transit home or incorporate a bike-sharing ride into their commute, she said.
Wade advised would-be bikers to use the weekend to check bikes' tires and brakes and grease the chain. To reduce "commuter anxiety," scope out a route to work by going for a test ride.
"Try it," she said. "It's fun and it's so much better than being in a car."