Twin Cities venues are hopping on the biking bandwagon

  • Article by: SHARYN JACKSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2012 - 4:29 PM

Entertainment and cultural institutions are targeting visitors who arrive on two wheels.

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Bike Night at the MIA is set for July 19.

Photo: Lacey Criswell, Minneapolis Institute Of Arts

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If Ted Klyce could bike from his home in south Minneapolis to work in Brooklyn Center, he would. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old librarian, it's "too far to be practical." But once he's off work, the two-wheeler comes out as his preferred mode of transportation.

"Things that are downtown are easier to get to by bike -- arts or restaurants or whatnot," said Klyce.

During the recent Northern Spark festival, he parked his bike outside the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), where it was one of dozens chained to metal corrals. He wasn't worried about finding it later; he snapped small magnetic lights to his rear fender, which made the bike twinkle like a suburban home during the Christmas season.

As more people take to the streets by bicycle, cultural and entertainment institutions are courting riders such as Klyce who prefer to leave the car in the garage during their free time. Increasingly, these venues -- and the Twin Cities themselves -- are adapting to a vibrant bike culture that has become renowned since Minneapolis was named the nation's most bikeable city by Bicycling magazine in 2010.

The MIA's bike parking is comprehensive: It provides a hand pump near the corrals, and cyclists who need a quick tuneup can check out a tool kit by leaving an ID at the front desk.

"We're not trying to be exceptional; we're just trying to make it easy," said Charles Walbridge, the museum's photographer and a member of the employee volunteer-based Green Team, which advises the museum on eco-friendly initiatives. "We're trying to keep pace with the increasing bike friendliness in Minneapolis."

The MIA launched the tool-kit checkout last summer, just before its third annual Bike Night, which drew almost 3,000 riders. When this year's cycling celebration is held July 19, visitors will be able to examine "masterpiece" bikes designed by Minnesota-based frame builders, and other bike-related art.

Alex Bortolot, the event's organizer, said a bike-themed party is a natural match for the art museum.

"Many of the people who have embraced the cycling lifestyle and who have made it a priority to get from Point A to Point B by bike tend to be people who are within the creative world," he explained. "Oftentimes there's a strong correlation between art lovers and bike riders, and that's our audience who naturally come to the museum."

Valet parking at River's Edge

Of course, there are crossovers between cyclists and just about any interest, including coffee, music, books and sports. With increasing frequency, venues of all stripes are offering perks to bikers. Most Hennepin County libraries, for instance, have a free lock-rental system.

Adding an element of luxury to this weekend's River's Edge Music Festival on St. Paul's Harriet Island, the event will provide valet parking to concertgoers who arrive on bike. Jon Reens, senior director of marketing for promoter Live Nation, said the fest's valet service can accommodate more than 1,000 cyclists.

"Bikes aren't cheap these days, so you can leave it and know that it's going to be there when you come back," he said.

The Twin Cities' bike-share program, Nice Ride Minnesota, also has rental stations at the festival entrance and throughout downtown St. Paul for people who want to park their cars, then ride.

Baseball fans who bike to Target Field for a Twins game have more than 300 bike parking spaces, installed in an effort to get the stadium LEED-certified. Matt Hoy, vice president of operations for the Twins, said that on good weather days, every space is taken. "It was a natural, with the popularity of bikes and the movement towards that," he said.

Bike parking is not a priority for all institutions, however. Although the Guthrie Theater has a prime location on the Mississippi River bikeway, only a few streetside poles hold two bikes each, with overflow going to signposts. (An additional rack is located in the parking ramp.) Quinton Skinner, communications director, said that's more than enough, since most patrons come to the theater by car or light rail.

"It's not high up on the list because the majority of our patrons are not really clamoring for it," said Skinner. "There seems to be an equilibrium that's working. But in the future if there's a sense that there's a need, this is a place that will respond to that accordingly."

Just follow the trail

To help visitors plan ahead, many venues post bike parking information on their websites, often on the same page as vehicle parking information. Some, like Hopkins Center for the Arts, go a step further by providing trail directions.

The center has just eight bike spaces, but director Amanda Birnstengel is enthusiastic about reaching the biking community. "I think anything that gives people another way to get here is going to be positive for us," she said.

Those who make the trek to Hopkins, just under an hour by bike from downtown Minneapolis, are in for a bit of irony: The center's next show, opening June 30, is "Velocity 2: the Art of Motion," a contemporary art show about automobiles.

Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4260

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