Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Bicycling

Bike Month Begins, Minneapolis Brings Home Cycling Gold

Despite having the coldest winter weather of any major U.S. city, Minneapolis has the second highest rate of bike commuting in the country, after Portland. Ridership throughout the city is up 21 percent since 2007 and in some neighborhoods, it’s up as much as 132 percent. Clearly, chilly Minneapolis has become a hot place to ride a bike.

Despite an average winter temperature of 17 degrees, bicycling is booming in Minneapolis. Photo courtesy of city of Minneapolis.

As National Bike Month kicks off, Minneapolis is celebrating one of the highest designations as a cycling mecca: the League of American Bicyclists has named Minneapolis a gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community. The city was just listed for the first time in 2008 at the silver level.

Bill Nesper, who oversees the Bike League's Bicycle Friendly America program, said that although the designation comes with no award money, cities want to be recognized for the good things they’re doing. “And it’s becoming clearer and clearer across the country that this is a good thing to do,” he said, “to build a sustainable, active, connected community.” At its root, he said, what it means to be a Bicycle Friendly Community is that cyclists are “encouraged and provided for.”

Last week, at the Garrison Institute’s forum on how to encourage climate-friendly behaviors, Minneapolis sustainability director Gayle Prest explained how the city had worked to make cycling – even in the dead of winter – “normal.” City information on cycling intentionally depicts people of all ages and races, shapes and sizes. They make sure to show women and children, people with and without helmets – and they never, ever show cyclists in spandex.

Still, Prest said, they don’t “over-control the message.” She says cycling is a “great product” that sells itself.

Prest said they divide riders into four categories: recreational, shopping, commuter and the “all year, everywhere” folks. The city tries to encourage people in one of the first two categories to bump up a level or two and become commuters.

Minneapolis took heed of the city of Portland's estimate that 60 percent of the population are “interested” in cycling but “concerned” about safety. To address some of those concerns, Minneapolis hosts a peer-to-peer program so people can get used to commuting downtown with an experienced urban cyclist. The city also has bike-walk ambassadors encouraging cycling by teaching bike safety and winter riding classes, hosting brownbag workshops on bike commuting at businesses and distributing bike maps and materials. The city has also installed:

Minneapolis' bike-share system, Nice Ride. Photo: ##http://www.ecovelo.info/2011/04/22/bike-sharing-coming-to-boston/##EcoVelo##
    • Painted bike lanes and bike boxes
    • Commuter lanes, the celebrated Midtown Greenway through South Minneapolis, and other bike boulevards
    • Winter plowing priority for bike trails
    • 600 bike Nice Ride bike-share system
    • 50/50 cost split for bike rack installation between the city and property owner
    • Requirement for showers and lockers in larger buildings

Bike culture has thrived in Minneapolis, with everything from bicycle film fests to alleycat races to bike polo games to Artcrank, a bike-themed art show.

The city of Minneapolis won a Bicycle Friendly Business award from the League earlier this year, in part for offering subsidized bike-share memberships to city employees.

Minneapolis wasn’t the only big winner of the Bicycle Friendly Community awards. Boulder, Davis and Portland just can’t get off the platinum list. Ten cities joined Minneapolis in the gold category – only one of them, Madison, east of the Mississippi.

Upon hearing about the League’s gold designation for Minneapolis as a Bicycle Friendly Community over the weekend, Mayor R.T. Rybak tweeted, “NY, DC and Boston got silver...how cute.”

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Fix It First

How voters incentivize politicians to ignore infrastructure upkeep. Plus, are hydrogen trains the future of rail or a shiny distraction?

April 23, 2024

Why We Can’t End Violence on Transit With More Police

Are more cops the answer to violence against transit workers, or is it only driving societal tensions that make attacks more frequent?

April 23, 2024

Justice Dept., Citing Streetsblog Reporting, Threatens to Sue NYPD Over Cops’ Sidewalk Parking

The city is now facing a major civil rights suit from the Biden Administration if it doesn't eliminate illegal parking by cops and other city workers.

April 22, 2024

Five Car Culture Euphemisms We Need To Stop Using

How does everyday language hide the real impact of building a world that functionally requires everyone to drive?

April 22, 2024
See all posts