Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge. Bikers cross it every day, year round. Photo credit: Jvstin / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
On my last post, commenter Johnny K writes:
“You know I have heard many people say that this place has good bicycle infrastructure or that place has good bicycle infrastructure. It got me wondering what is good bicycle infrastructure? What does that look like exactly? What do they have that we do not? I have only ridden in Florida and only North East Florida at that. I know it’s a loaded question and I think I will post this question on other websites and see what answers I get.”
Great question, Johnny K! I’ll do my best to answer it. The place in question, of course, is Minneapolis, a city that has vied with Portland for the “Best Biking City” crown for the past few years. Here’s what bike infrastructure in Minneapolis looks like.
Minneapolis has miles of bike trails. Many them are scenic, such as the trail that winds along the West River Parkway and gives you a great view of the Mississippi or the Cedar Lake trail that edges one of the city’s many bodies of water. But many others are like freeways for bikers. The Greenway stretches from St. Paul to St. Louis Park (a suburb) and sees traffic from bikers, runners, skaters and skiiers year round. In just about any part of the city, bikers can connect to a trail that provides a safe, traffic-free option that will get them to their destination.
Throughout the city, bike lanes give bikers designated space on the road. Many of these lanes are on busy thoroughfares that cross through Downtown Minneapolis, enabling bike commuters to speed from point A to point B.
The Stone Arch Bridge was originally a train bridge. Eventually, it was converted into a bike and pedestrian bridge, connecting Downtown with Northeast Minneapolis. A friend of mine who lives in Minneapolis told me that she crossed this bridge every day when she commuted to a job in the suburbs. Sure, you have to put up with the occasional bridal party hogging the bridge to take photos — the bridge is very scenic — but it’s lovely to cruise over in the morning. Or evening. Or whenever.
In addition to the Stone Arch bridge, there is the Sabo bridge that allows bikers to cross over a busy intersection without having to navigate it. Many people who commute from Minneapolis to St. Paul (or vice versa) cross this bridge every day.
There’s a very strong and vocal bike community in Minneapolis. People from the community host events like Winter Biking Skill Shares, where bikers teach others the best way to dress, ride and care for their bikes during the snowy months. There are also races, “No pants” bike rides, and other events that happen year round. The city council even has a “bicycle advisory committee.”
The Light Rail trains have bike racks built in, so that bikers can switch from trails to rails without stressing about what to do with their wheels.
What bike infrastructure looks like, in a nutshell, is a multi-faceted system that incorporates not just one, but all of the different things that making urban biking possible. And, it can’t happen without a strong community to back it.
That answer your question, Johnny K?