Minneapolis, Minnesota may best be known for its bitterly cold winters, so it may come as a surprise to some that the use of bicycles is one of the most prominent modes of transportation year round – even during those severely cold winters. The predominance of Minneapolis as the epicenter for biking culture has even become nationally recognized when it was ranked best biking city in the country by Bike Score. In addition, Bicycling Magazine rated Minneapolis as the #2 biking city, and U.S. Census Bureau listed it as the top 4 bicycling city in the nation.
There are numerous establishments and organizations that have abetted in the formation of the Twin Cities as a major hub for bicyclists; however, the main focus here is on the infrastructure and tools in relation to planning and research that have made bicycling a feasible mode of transportation through funding and investment. One of the main factors, which has allotted Minneapolis to become a household name among the tight-knit community of bicyclists could be traced all the way back to the establishment of the Grand Rounds by notable Landscape Architect H.W.S. Cleveland. This urban byway has over time allowed for adjacent areas to be converted into open public park space, initializing primary infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation. With this in mind, over the last decade, the city of Minneapolis has invested millions of dollars on additional bicycle infrastructure and currently, the city has 81 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street commuter trails making it easy to ride no matter where you are in the city. In terms of existing support and infrastructure:
- The Midtown Greenway serves as a major connection between the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the western suburbs of Minneapolis. More importantly, the Greenway is easily accessible in the winter as it is plowed and serves thousands of commuters each week during the summer months;
- The Cedar Lake Regional Trail, better known as America’s first bicycle freeway extends from downtown Minneapolis to the neighboring suburb of Saint Louis Park. The Metropolitan Council, in conjunction with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, conducts annual use estimate counts of the Metropolitan Regional Parks and Trails System, and Cedar Lake Regional Trail continues to be one of the most utilized trails in terms of bicycling.
Not only is the city working to create a supportive infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation, but also other organizations are providing techniques and tools in support of this low-polluting and cost-effective mode of transportation.
- In support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Nice Ride Minnesota, a public bike-sharing program was launched in 2010 and offers 1,200 rental bikes at 116 stations;
- University of Minnesota ZAP Bike Commuting Program provides automated bike commuting detection as a way to calculate bike trips. Commuters who chose this mode of transportation are then rewarded through monetary compensation, as well as Wellness rewards through health insurance reductions;
- In addition, local events such as the Minneapolis Bike Tour are held on an annual basis, allowing bikers to tour the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System, where it all began.
Having touched upon only a few techniques the city of Minneapolis has implemented to create a supportive biking infrastructure, what is your city doing to encourage other modes of transportation such as bicycling, either through infrastructure or monetary and wellness incentives? In terms of existing support and tools, what has worked and what has not?
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