A couple of summers ago in this space I made a plaintive plea for civility and thoughtfulness on the region’s increasingly congested bike lanes, paths and boulevards. I went so far as to suggest that riders not endanger small children around the lakes; that people stop riding the wrong way on one-way paths; that runners and walkers stay off the bloody bike-only paths; and that generally we all try to remember that other people exist.
The e-mail responses ran from a “thanks for bringing this up” to an unexpected question: “So what’s wrong with a little chaos out there? Don’t fight the chaos!”
How exhilarating, in the land of Nice Rides and 10,000 miles of dedicated bike infrastructure, that we also have a thriving anarchist riding community. A lovely cultural tension if there ever was one.
We also have, if my mail is any indication, a biking crowd that is thoughtful and fierce. This was probably best found in a slew of mail about my suggestion last year that the city of Minnetonka might want to rethink the idea of mixing mountain bikers with the dog-walkers and bird-watchers in its Lone Lake Park.
Some correspondents told me I had significantly and single-handedly damaged the future of off-road riding in the state. But they also spend considerable time describing locations (some new to me) where bikers and hikers coexist, and they described trail development necessary to support the growing youth mountain biking crowds. It was a bracing dialogue on bike-related public policy in a place where such conversations have consequences.
In the end, the city somehow ignored my concerns, and those of a number of its residents, and approved the park’s mountain biking project anyway. No matter. It was the kind of exchange — the e-mail traffic back-and-forth was extensive — that I for one am going to miss, because the editor of this outdoors section has granted my request that I write less regularly. It’s cutting into my time for other things, including riding my bike. So The Bike Guy column ends today.
But I leave behind loose ends, biking issues and opportunities that will remain dynamic, evolving, unresolved. Even if not addressed here, we’ll have to keep an eye on them together, crowdsourcing the future of biking around here. Thus, a proposed agenda for the winter ahead, for all of us to keep an eye on, work on, follow up:
• The Minneapolis City Council is just beginning a yearlong process that will significantly determine the quality and character of the bicycling life of the people of the city for decades to come. This updating of the city’s transportation action plan will “select transportation projects and guide the design of projects on all streets in the city over the next 10 years” for transit and street design and operations, and how all that complements and accommodates pedestrians and cyclists. Worth watching. Hearings for sure. Be there.
• Who will step forward to sort out the competing interests (and physical well-being) among the wildly varying contraptions on which we are riding these days? Specifically, as electrified bikes and scooters account for increasing percentages of the traffic, what are the rules and who is going to enforce them? Talk to your local mayor or council member.
• The National Transportation Safety Board recently proposed a federal law requiring everyone on a bike to wear a helmet — an idea that is uniformly derided as oppressive, draconian and unproductive. Call your U.S. representative.
• The U.S. House of Representatives voted in late September to award Greg LeMond the Congressional Gold Medal, and sent the bill to the Senate. The office of Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., sent word the other day that a companion bill she co-signed was ready for a vote. If it passes, it would go to the president, whose principal bike-related accomplishment so far was to order the removal of the White House bike-share station. Call someone, anyone.
• Speaking of regulatory follies, enlightened members of the Minnesota Legislature plan once again this year to propose legislation that would clean up some state biking laws and, among other things, require the state’s Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to dedicate 10% of all highway projects to the needs of cyclists and pedestrians. These ideas will no doubt be opposed by Senate Republicans who killed them last year and have proposed a bill that would specifically prohibit MnDOT from doing any such thing. Contact your legislator.
• And presta valves! My mail says absolutely everyone, like me, hates them. Please join me in a vital new organization. I call it “InFLATE — The International Federation to Liquidate Awful Tire Equipment.” Future generations will thank us.
Be safe and have fun out there.
Tony Brown is a freelance writer from Minneapolis. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read archived columns at startribune.com/bikeguy.