Wheel incentive in Minneapolis

  • September 26, 2008 - 8:19 PM

Biking to work in Minneapolis shot up last year to rank the city in a virtual tie for tops among big U.S. cities--and that's before $4 gas.


The Census Bureau asked people 16 and older how they got to work the most often the week before.


In Minneapolis, those cycling to work shot up 49 percent last year, from 2.5 percent of all commuters riding a bike in 2006 to 3.8 percent in 2007. That moved it from a distant second among the nation's 50 largest cities, well behind Portland, Ore., to just a little bit behind Portland's 3.9 percent. And considering that the small year-round sample gives the survey a broad margin of error, the Minneapolis bike share could be anywhere from 3 percent to 4.6 percent. St. Paul? A mere 1.4 percent.


"City government is just getting geared up. We're starting to do a lot more stuff. People just really want to get out and bike here for environmental reasons, gas prices and health. This is largely a grass-roots community thing. But it doesn't hurt that we have lots of facilities." -- Shaun Murphy, Minneapolis' non-motorized transportation coordinator.


David Hepenstal has commuted by bike for most days on the 9-mile round trip between his Kingfield neighborhood home and his downtown market research job. The best part, he said, is crossing Interstate 35W at night, spotting the cars backed up below and feeling the breeze on his face. Plus, he's done his exercise once he's home and can give his kids and chore list full attention.

He's a bit skeptical about the one-year census jump but said bike commuting is growing. "There is definitely a rush hour on the [Midtown] Greenway," he said. He gives the city high marks for bike facilities. And he likes the fact that on a recent evening commute he spotted a blue-eyed biker named R.T. Rybak. The mayor practicing what he preaches is a "big plus in my book," Hepenstal said.


Council Member Scott Benson started doing a weekly 12-mile round trip between his south Minneapolis home and City Hall this year, when weather, schedule and the need to wear a suit don't interfere. He rents a locker and shower facilities at the federal courthouse for $120 for the season. "If every building in downtown had that, it would make it a lot easier," Benson said.


Although the dominant mode to work in Minneapolis is still driving alone, at 61.1 percent, it's fallen slightly. Another 10 percent carpooled last year, while 13.4 percent took a bus or train, 6.4 percent walked, 4.5 percent worked at home and 0.5 percent used a cab, motorcycle or other means.


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