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Major Bike Mojo in Minneapolis

In a surprising choice, the May edition of Bicycling Magazine named Minneapolis America’s best city for biking. The city still trails Portland, Oregon in the percentage of commuters who bike to work (4.3 percent to 5.9 percent, respectively, according to the most recent American Community Survey), but Minneapolis has been gaining momentum.

Next month, Minneapolis will launch the largest bike-share program in the country, building on a strong foundation of extensive bike trails and a thriving bicycling community.  They're also using federal funds to double the mileage of on-street bike lanes, build more road diets, introduce bicycle boulevards, and more. Have a look and see how Minneapolis has shot to the top of America's best bicycling cities.

[Editors Note: This film was produced in association with NACTO - the National Association for City Transportation Officials.]

[music] Joan Pasiuk: [0:02] The sedentary lifestyle is problematic to Americans of all generations right now so bicycling and walking is a part of the solution.

Biker 1: [0:11] Five years ago I drove my car every day to work, I'd lost about 70 pounds and hopped on a bicycle and rode a couple of times to work. I got interested in trying to do it in the winter time and before I knew it I was doing it three hundred and sixty five days a year.

Mayor R.T. Rybak: [0:25] Minneapolis is a model for what you can do with very committed bikers who even in our climate will make this the number one bike city in America.

[music]

Joan: [0:42] The non motorized transportation pilot program here is known as "Bike Walk Twin Cities" and we are administering almost $30,000,000 in Federal funds to increase bicycling and walking while decreasing driving.

Shaun Murphy: [0:57] We're doing a lot of projects in Minneapolis that was funded from that Federal source of funding like bike sharing.

Bill Dossett: [1:03] Nice Ride Minnesota is a new non-profit that has been created to operate a public bike sharing system in Minneapolis. We're going to start with phase one which is 1,000 bicycles in 75 kiosks. It focuses on our downtown, the University of Minnesota campus and nearby commercial areas. We're going to put our bike share kiosks on the street in the beginning of June and we'll be turning it on during Bike Walk to Work Week. We're going to make it easy for everybody to ride a bicycle while they're downtown. We think that's really going to increase the number of people that are riding downtown.

Shaun: [1:37] Right now we have about 40 miles of streets with bike lanes on them and we're going to be getting that up to almost 80 miles with these non motorized pilot projects. And then about a quarter of those are going to be bicycle boulevards.

Steve Clark: [1:48] What we're trying to do with bicycle boulevards is remove some of the stop signs so that you don't have to stop at every block, improve the crossings, typically you do that by putting in a median or a diverter and special markings on the street to really let cyclists, motorists, walkers know that this is a street for everybody.

[music]

Shaun: [2:11] We're also going to finish some of our last trail gaps that we have in Minneapolis. So we're going to be completing the U of M trail and the Hiawatha Trail Connection in the downtown.

Steve: [2:21] So this is the Hiawatha Trail, it's a main commuting trail in addition to being just a fun recreational route because this goes from southern Minneapolis all the way into downtown except that right now it actually doesn't get downtown because it dead ends here and then people have to go through this parking lot which you see that cyclist doing that right now. Anyway this is an exciting project just because it's going to really make a difference in getting people to downtown.

Shaun: [2:49] We have a parks system that circles the city and all of those parks have trails in them so it's a really long tradition here in Minneapolis of people getting out and biking and walking.

Theresa Nelson: [2:59] Midtown Greenway is 5.5 miles that goes across south Minneapolis connecting our chain of lake system to the Mississippi River. It was built with a pedestrian and biking bridge over Hiawatha, which is a major highway.

Spencer Agnew: [3:15] The Midtown Greenway gets a lot of use and people really enjoy it because you know that you as a cyclist or a pedestrian really do have the priority there.

[music]

Bryan Gerding: [3:25] We are the only bike station on the main thoroughfare bike path through Minneapolis. We've got a caf�©, commuter parking, bike showers, rental shop where people can rent a space and fix their own bike, we teach classes that teach people how to fix their bikes, we have clothing, accessories. You name it.

Trail Watch Volunteer 1: [3:44] If you want to know what we do on trail watch, we ride around. People see us in our vests. We look out for litter, drunks and suspicious characters. We see any of those things, we just move them off the trail.

Laura Kling: [3:58] Trail watch started because there was some violence on the Midtown Greenway. The local Internet forum, MinneapolisBikeLove.com, some people organized a ride just to take back the Greenway and the Midtown Greenway Coalition got behind us.

[music]

Jeremy Werst: [4:13] Minneapolis Bike Love is pretty much the meeting place for cyclists of all different kinds. We're not trying to sell them anything. We're not trying to do anything other than create a place where people can talk about riding. People are posting up, there's a meeting coming up on this proposed bike lane and they talk about strategy for what they think should happen on that bike lane and try to remind each other that, "Hey, it's coming up tonight, everybody, let's go."

Shaun: [4:40] I think the bicycling subculture in Minneapolis is probably pretty surprising to a lot of people, how we have a big bike art scene. So we have several bike coffee shops, we have art shows that go on.

Gene Oberpriller: [4:51] Having a place to gather is kind of what we were looking for.

Biker 2: [4:56] You can either do liquor or you can do coffee and they both have strong cultural ties to cycling. Coffee was a far easier choice right off the bat.

Shaun: [5:05] We have pretty critical mass rides, there's really a lot of stuff who really want to get involved in bicycling.

[music]

Lisa Peterson Bender: [5:12] I think it's great in Minneapolis because the bike community here is incredibly inclusive. You have folks who are retired, people with kids, young folks. Everyone just kind of sits at the table together here and I think that's a really amazing thing about Minneapolis. So it's just a matter of us figuring out what we want to ask for. That will include, increasingly, taking on these tough projects, really getting bikes on commercial corridors.

R.T.: [5:31] The old way of building cities was the Robert Moses model of having a grand visionary disappear into a room and come out with a plan. The new way of planning cities is to engage citizens, from all levels, get all our ideas together and then make them work. So Minneapolis I believe is a model, not only of the new way to do transportation, but the new way to do transportation visions that emerge from communities as opposed to having them imposed upon the people.

[music]

R.T.: [6:00] Two minutes ago I learned that Minneapolis had surpassed Portland to be the number one bike city in America according to "Biking Magazine." I am a very happy camper. But I have to tell you, we're not going to rest on this because Portland's a great city and so are others and everybody's moving fast. But no one will move faster on bikes than Minneapolis. We're proud to be number one and we're going to stay there.

[music]

[6:18]



Elizabeth Press is a Filmmaker for Streetfilms. She joined Streetfilms in 2007 to focus her video work on advocating for better biking, walking and mass transit.

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  • Lars

    It still boggles my mind how they can be over 4 percent when it is freeeeeeezing cold there a few months of the year.

    I can't even get on my bike in NYC when it dips below 50.

  • BAW

    I grew up in that part of the country, and there is a saying--supposedly originally a Finnish proverb--to the effect that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. We learned long ago that if you allow inclement weather to stop you from doing what you wanted/needed to do, you'd never do anything!

  • Matty

    And there's my beautiful wife in the thumbnail. Thanks for visiting us Streetfilms.

  • Jenn G

    YES! I love how this really captures the comraderie of Minneapolis cyclists. As one who rides her bike year round in this town every day, it's NO WONDER we're number one. The greenway is often in better shape than most of the streets when there's a foot of snow dumped over night. And, it's not a rarity to see other cyclists out waving at me when I pass them on the -30 degree days. I just love it!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/lecola RC

    Hmmm, very interesting indeed. I'm in Ireland right now, but looking out for bike cities to move to when I come back to the states. Minneapolis just made my list of cities to watch. Thanks Streetfilms!

  • Carrie

    If you were in Minneapolis, dear author of this post, it wouldn't be SO surprising that we were named #1. 

    Thanks for the shout-out though, love the website.  

  • Cynthia

    OMG, I know I want to move to Minneapolis now!!!

  • UrbanReason

    Great video, good on you MN! Though this clip didn't really explain how a city with 40 miles of bike lanes can surpass a city with 200 (and growing) miles of bike lanes and a higher mode-share.

  • Andy

    The other thing that is awesome, is the general attitude towards bikers - I live in the northern suburbs, where there are less bike lanes, but biking on city streets, county roads/hwys is almost never met with honks :-). Lots of places to bike to. Plus, much of the 'country' roads in MN and WI are within close reach.

  • scott

    Nice lil blurb about "Major Bike Mojo in Minneapolis"

    But this is NOT surprising. It's not just the trails or the weather (which can be very hot and very cold) but the events, attitudes and ongoing progress they've had the last decades. 

    What's surprising is a bicycling advocate has not been there yet. These same pro-biking attitudes also makes for great pedestrian trails btw. 

    So if you've not been there, please make it a point to go and to partake in some great food, entertainment and the vibrant yet relaxed and welcoming people that we've met on our visits to Minneapolis-St Paul region!
    (no I'm not paid by their visitors bureau, lol)

  • Lisa

    I only lived in Minneapolis for a short time, but that's where I first started biking regularly. I'm not surprised at all it won the top spot. Even though the climate and the built environment are not always friendly, the culture definitely is. It's the only place where I've biked on a huge 6-lane suburban highway and not felt out of place or threatened.

  • Joe

    A previous post mentioned Minneapolis not having as many miles of bicycle infrastructure as others, but 43 miles is only the city's on-street lanes. There are 84 miles of off street trails, like the Midtown Greenway, which was profiled. I believe the off-street network is among the largest in the county. Put together, that's 127 miles of trails and lanes for bikes in a city that's only 55 sq miles (compared to Portland at 134 sq miles).

  • http://www.npgreenway.org Scott Mizée

    Fantastic Video! ...as we've long ago come to expect from the fine folks at Streetfilms.

    Those were some "fight'in words" at the end there... Sounds like a definite challenge to us Portlanders.

    Congrat's to Minneapolis on your successes!

  • http://www.sixonetwo.com nicki mccracken

    minneapolis is also home to ARTCRANK-- a poster show about bikes and the people who ride them.
    check out http://www.artcrankpostershow.com

  • Diana McKeown

    Thanks to #30daysofbiking my life has been transformed, today will be day 41 in a row that I have biked! Thanks to our Mayor for your passion about biking and the Midtown Greenway for advocating for the trails that allow us to bike all over so easily! Be Your Own Engine!!!

  • http://mnprogressiveproject.com Karl

    Thanks for the video. Minneapolis (and the Twin Cites in general! Minneapolis is only a small part!) is a fantastic place to ride and to live. And this has happened despite many years of anti-transit politics on the statewide level. It couldn't have happened without some really fantastic leaders, Mayor Rybak being chief among them. We've gotten a long way and it's only going to keep getting better from here.

    Portland 'aint got nothing on us.

  • http://www.npgreenway.org Scott Mizee

    oh wow Karl! MORE MSP vs. PDX smack talk! :P

  • Richard

    I live in Edina, a SW suburb built in the 60's and 70' with no regard for biking or even walking. Most streets have no curbing let alone no bike lanes or sidewalks. A group of younger thinkers is pedalling new paths along a creek in the city and meeting steep hilly opposition from sedentary oldsters. The youngsters will win because they wear helmets and shorts...!

  • Rebeca

    Yay Minneapolis!!!!!!!!! Out of tons of things and people I miss, this is one of the things that I miss from Mpls, too. I miss you soo much!!! :) I wish Los Angeles could do this. I want to bike so bad. Aww, Minnesota is a beautiful state.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/lecola RC

    I'd love Streetfilms to do more coverage of the best bike towns. aLove this kind of stuff! A short 6 minute clip is just not enough. Thanks!

  • Israel Pitts

    is the best!?

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  • emelio

    great film--it's amazing to see minneapolis' mayor as such a strong advocate! here in cleveland, we're working hard to bolster our growing cycling community, and it's inspirational to see that another midwestern city with extreme temperatures (admittedly, it doesn't get as cold in cleve!) is making such strides.

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