Here are some observations by Outdoors Weekend editor Bob Timmons from Tuesday's sessions at the Winter Cycling Congress, underway in Minneapolis this week. It's an amalgam of local and world delegates who are digging into, among other things, best practices and inherent challenges in furthering cycling’s reach:
* Day One featured a rich course of workshops. One focused on some of Minneapolis’ newest protected bikeways. Another went broad to look at the transformative powers of winter cycling in rural communities, such as the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in the Crosby-Ironton region.
* A session called “Helping Others Into The Saddle and Through the Snow” dug into planning and implementing year-round cycling in communities — and even went deeper. How about the inner barriers that keeps people out of the saddle? Christie Manning, a professor in the departments of Environmental Studies and Psychology at Macalester College, talked about a theory around our deep psychological need for "competence, autonomy and relatedness” to engage. Meeting those human needs can be “the bridges and pathways” to sustained involvement in activities like year-round cycling. Manning stressed the importance of changing perception that cycling is an activity only for the chamois-wearing crowd. “We are not going to get people on bikes until we break that,” she said.
* Delegates from Finland, a country with high winter cycling rates, talked about the successes of long-term employer incentive programs. Martti Tulenheimo, a policy officer with the Finnish Cyclists’ Federation, detailed a new program called Cycling Winter that focused on a specific timeframe (November) to get more people cycling more often. Changing the narrative of cycling, he said, was key. Merging the fun of cycling with the joys of being out in winter was paramount — and effective.
* Jason Hall, a co-founder of Slow Roll Detroit, and Mike Lydon of The Street Plans Collaborative were both part of the keynote at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Memorial Union Theater. Hall spoke enthusiastically about the up-from-the-streets, group-ride idea that caught fire as Slow Roll after Hall took a fateful bike ride at a friend’s urging.
Now with some as large as 3,000 cyclists or more, the weekly rides are all about inclusiveness and community — and getting out in the community. Any age, experience level, bike are welcome. A major tenet: no one is left behind, Hall said. Slow Roll is helping change the conversation about Detroit from one of crime, blight and dysfunction to one of hope and renewal, he said.
Slow Roll has built a world following — a local one, too. Anthony Taylor, a bike advocate and co-founder of the Major Taylor Bicycle Club of Minnesota, is working to grow Slow Roll Twin Cities, which held its first rides last year.