Matthew Dyrdahl arrived at an Eat Street eatery Wednesday morning dressed in a gray suit and tie but with his folding bike in tow. And he wore a helmet.
As the city's new bike-walk coordinator, his job involves integrating walking- and biking-friendly features into city streets, and supervising a three-person staff. He's also car-free, living in northeast Minneapolis and getting around by bus, bike and foot.
Dyrdahl spoke at an early-morning event Wednesday arranged by Council Member Lisa Bender that drew about 25 people.
Bicyclists and walkers were curious to know how he felt about the various problems they perceive as holding back more active transportation by city residents. Dyrdahl also got an earful of free advice.
Dyrdahl comes to the job with five years of experience helping to promote active living in Bemidji. "It was really great to see the progress cities can make when you invest in biking and walking," he said. His ambition is to help Minneapolis rival European cities in 10 years when it comes to walkable, bikeable streets.
Part of that will be eliminating the fear factor felt by some timid commuters. "I don't think that biking and walking is the easy choice right now," he said. One of his goals is creating spaces that are inviting places to walk or bike. The city goal of 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020 will be key in that effort, he said.
Some still regard winter bicycling as too difficult. Janne Flisrand told Dyrdahl and Bender that co-workers regard her biking 2.5 miles to work as something of a superhuman feat. Bender interjected that bicyclists need more consistent maintenance for winter bike lanes so they have routes on which they can rely.
"It shouldn't be this major conquest to bike to work," Dyrdahl added.
Tony Desnick told Dyrdahl his sampling on social media of about 300 bicyclists, mostly from the Twin Cities, but also globally, found about three times as many were likely to be deterred by poor winter maintenance of roads as by extreme cold.