Remember the 1970s commercials for Alka-Seltzer? You know, the ones that ended with the tagline “Try it, you’ll like it.” The folks putting on Minneapolis Bike Week just might want to borrow it.

The folks in this case are the Minneapolis Bike Coalition, its city and county government partners and local business that have organized a series of events to get people who rarely ride two-wheelers to ride more often and those who don’t ride at all to start.

Starting Monday with “Fix It Day,” there will be daily workshops and clinics leading up to Friday’s main event, “Bike to Work Day.” That’s when elected officials will lead bike rides from all across Minneapolis to downtown where there’ll be one big pep rally at the Hennepin County Government Center — yes, there will be free snacks and drinks — to show that biking is a viable way to commute to the office, and that it comes with benefits.

“Every week is bike to work week for me,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey, who will lead one of the Friday rides from northeast Minneapolis to downtown. “This is getting people out of the auto-centric mentality to experience the city at a firsthand level. Once you are out of the car, you realize how much stress that causes sometimes.”

Employees who commute by bicycle are more likely to be successful at work as they are fitter, more alert and take fewer sick days, one study suggests. Another from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that daily exercise such as biking will make you happier and improve brain performance. Maybe if I’d biked to school I could have been a Rhodes scholar. Maybe not.

Biking to work rising

Biking to work is on the rise, especially in places such as Berkeley, Calif., Boulder, Colo. and Portland, Ore., where more than 7 percent of workers pedal to their jobs, according to figures out in April from the U.S. Census Bureau. Here it’s 4.6 percent as of 10 years ago.

Though the City of Lakes has more than 129 miles of on-street bikeways and 97 miles of off-street bikeways, which has helped garner national recognition, Friday’s group rides are meant to break down barriers that hold back potential riders.

Common reasons why people don’t bike to work are weather, not owning a bicycle and having to go alone, said Alex Tsatsoulis, development and communications coordinator for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. That’s why, in addition to Friday’s Bike To Work Day rides, the coalition is encouraging those who already ride to work to be a bike buddy.

“People can be nervous the first time,” Tsatsoulis said. “They might not know how to get there or have to go on streets they are not comfortable on. With a bike buddy, we’re trying to get people connected, support co-workers in taking their first rides and showing them the ropes. It’s really having somebody say, ‘Hey, I ride to work on a regular basis, let’s ride together.’ ”

To volunteer as a bike buddy, riders can register at mplsbikebuddies.org/bike_buddy.

At pit stops along Friday’s routes, riders can get more information about biking in Minneapolis and get answers to burning questions that rookie commuters sometimes ask, such as how to get a suit to the office and whether it’s legal to lock up a bike on a sign post. The answer to the latter is yes, it’s OK.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet@stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.