Minneapolis has long been lauded as being one of the best places in America to ride a bicycle. Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that 4.5 percent of commuters get to work by bicycle. A city-conducted survey found that 22 percent of Minneapolitans bike (or walk) always or frequently.
In comparison to other U.S. cities, those numbers are high. But the folks putting on Minneapolis Bike Week, which started Sunday and continues through Mother’s Day, want to push those numbers higher.
Traditionally, efforts such as the former Twin Cities Bike Walk Week have focused exclusively on commuters. But not everybody can plausibly ride to their jobs because of time or distance. Those behind the newly branded Minneapolis Bike Week (there is a similar one in St. Paul) recognize that, so they are expanding the event’s focus to reach kids, recreational riders and even adults who don’t know how to ride.
“Bicycling can be more than riding to or from work, or putting on your Spandex and riding as fast as you can around the lake,” said Nick Ray Olson of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, the organization putting the week’s events. “The large goal is to get new people out riding and show them how easy it is to bicycle in Minneapolis.”
The annual campaign to get people to try bicycling comes a month earlier this year. By moving it up from June to May, Minneapolis Bike Week will coincide with National Bike Month as proclaimed by the League of American Bicyclists. More importantly, it will allow the next generation of bike riders to get in on the action and reap the benefits, too.
Jenny Bordon, Safe Routes to School coordinator for the Minneapolis public schools, said biking helps boost academic achievement, improves student health, raises environmental awareness and strengthens connections among families, schools and the larger community.
‘It makes you feel good all day’
“We have seen a concentration boost that lasts for more than half a day,” she said of those who ride their bikes to class. On Wednesday, more than 6,000 of the district’s students and staff will pedal to class on Bike to School Day, one of the eight themed days. “It makes you feel good all day. Just do it. The ride itself is the joy of it.”
Other themed days include Tuesday’s Nice Ride Day where people can get a demonstration of how the bike-sharing program works, Saturday’s Bike to Local Business Day and Family Bike Day next Sunday. “Each day has a different theme to highlight a different way people can ride their bikes than just commuting,” Ray Olson said.
Commuters, however, do have their day. As part of Thursday’s Bike to Work Day, Minneapolis City Council members and Hennepin County commissioners will lead morning rides from their respective districts to the Hennepin County Government Center. There, a rally and resource fair will connect riders with experts who can answer the questions and address common fears that keep people from riding. Metro Transit will be on hand to show how to integrate bike riding and transit use.
Throughout the week, volunteers from the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and other sponsors will high-five riders and pass out free food and bike lights at “pit stops” throughout the city. For a schedule see www.mplsbikeweek.org.
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