From Hilary Reeves, Communications Manager

“It’s a cold, hard fact: The unforgiving and frigid city of Minneapolis is the country’s top spot to be an urban cyclist.”—Bicycling Magazine, May 2010

The folks in Portland are not happy. They have been consistently at the top of “best bike city” rankings for a while now. It’s new for them to look up (or over). And it’s great fun for Minneapolis to be #1—especially given the climate here. The fact that Minnesotans ride year-round (and have terms for different kinds of icy hazards) definitely transfixes the reporter for Bicycling.

Minneapolis has many reasons to be noted. The bicycle culture heavily featured in the article is extraordinary. The bicycle industry here, initiatives such as Active Living, the key role of political and civic visionaries and numerous advocacy organizations….There are many important players.

Stepping back from the accolades, trying to be a bit objective, Minneapolis is gaining ground in significant ways. We have a tremendous off-road bicycling network that riders use year round. But, as the Bicycling story points out, Minneapolis is expanding its bike network onto the streets—with the support of local governments and federal funding (via the non-motorized transportation pilot administered by Bike Walk Twin Cities, a program of Transit for Livable Communities).

Portland (we might graciously say) still leads the way in on-street facilities—with full-fledged bicycle boulevards and other on-street amenities. But Minneapolis is catching up—and fast—and is also making it easier for walkers. A portion of the #1 ranking from Bicycling Magazine may be based on expectation—on what it will be like once all the on-street projects currently in the works are live on the streets. Coming to a street near you in 2010:

  • A new trail extension from the Hiawatha Trail connecting to bike lanes in downtown through to Hennepin Avenue
  • New bike ways in northeast Minneapolis connecting to the Stone Arch Bridge
  • Bike lanes on 10th Avenue South from the U of M over to Como Avenue, which will be a bike way in Minneapolis and St. Paul
  • The region’s first “Bicycle Take Full Lane” sign for down-hill bicyclists on Marshall (heading west) and a new bike lane heading up the hill (westbound eastbound)
  • The first Bicycle Boulevards in the Midwest on streets including Bryant Ave S., Fillmore Ave NE, 5th St. NE and 22nd Ave NE,  appealing to cyclists of all ages and abilities
  • Easier biking and walking access at Rosedale Mall, with connections to the U of M St. Paul Campus and a redesigned “7 corners” intersection in Minneapolis, making it much easier for walkers
  • Additional 3300 bike parking spaces in Minneapolis

This is just a partial list of what’s to come in the next couple of years. And, in addition to on-street improvements, Minneapolis will see the opening in June of one of the nation’s most extensive bike-sharing programs: Nice Ride. With kiosks around the city, Nice Ride will make it possible to leave your car behind and explore the city, meet friends, go from downtown to uptown—or just across downtown. There will be a new bike center at the University of Minnesota and a new bicycle loan program through the Sibley Bike Depot.

And, there will be even more to come. The Bike Walk Twin Cities Program has been extended, with an additional $6 million for biking and walking improvements.

As of the most recent American Community Survey (part of the census), Portland still leads Minneapolis in the number of individuals who commute via bicycle. But, watch out. As the mayor says, “In Minneapolis, Portland is just another street.”