Here’s the Good News on Bicycling
As we approach Twin Cities Bike Walk Week June 2-10, there's so much positive news about foot-powered transportation that it's hard to cram it all into one post. So let's summarize with bullet points:
Minneapolis was just named the runaway winner of Walk Score's new Most Bikeable Cities ratings, garnering 79 points to runners-up Portland and San Francisco's 70. Bike Score grades cities based on a combination of bicycling lanes and trails, destinations and road connectivity and the number of bike commuters.
The Twin Cities standing will only improve as the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-rental system adds 30 new stations this summer, mostly in downtown St. Paul. That will bring the Nice Ride fleet to 1,328 green bicycles available at 146 stations, including ones near every Central Corridor light rail stop. A year's subscription costs $65, good for an unlimited number of trips of less than 30 minutes. If you sign up by Sunday, May 27, you get in on daily drawings for concerts, Twins games, theater, museums, eateries and more.
Greater Minnesota hasn't been left out of bicycling progress, either. The Mississippi River Trail along the southeastern Minnesota shore has received state and national designation as U.S. Bicycle Route 45. Eventually it will extend from the Lake Itasca headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the first legs of a national network planned to encompass more than 50,000 miles of bikeways.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has sounded out people outside of the Twin Cities for its Statewide Bicycle Planning Study. The initiative is meant to develop consistent policies to include bicycling lanes and shoulders on future highway and bridge construction projects. It will also help MnDOT to produce a new online, printable state bicycle map.
We know that bicycling is fun and healthful. But who knew how economical it is? A new report from the League of American Bicyclists, the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza found that U.S. cyclists save $4.6 BILLION a year by pedaling instead of driving. Another amazing finding: "If American drivers replaced just one four-mile car trip with a bike each week for the whole year, it would save more than 2 BILLION gallons of gas." By my calculation, that would relieve bikers of paying more than $7 BILLION at the pump.
- Public opinion is getting on board, too. At least four out of five people across the political spectrum surveyed in March supported maintaining or increasing the 1.6 percent of federal transportation funding that goes to bikeways and sidewalks. The poll of 1,003 Americans conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates Internation found that even 80 percent of Republicans back facilities for nonmotorized mobility.
- A benchmarking report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking gives Minnesota and Minneapolis strong marks for bicycling and walking levels as well as bike-pedestrian safety. The City of Lakes placed second, behind only Boston, for the lowest city fatality rate among cyclists and walkers. Minnesota came in 10th among the states. Rating bicycling and walking levels, the report placed Minneapolis seventh among the 51 largest cities and Minnesota No. 18 among the states. Ranks were based on 2007-09 data, so it's likely we've moved up even higher since then.
That's a lot of positive developments, and a great way to celebrate is to join in any of the more than a dozen fun events scheduled for Twin Cities Bike Walk Week. Highlights include the Tour de Cure at Minnehaha Falls and the Northeast Ride on Saturday, June 2, and the Nice Ride downtown St. Paul launch on Monday, June 4.