Category Archives: Urban Planning

How Frozen Minneapolis Became A Biking Mecca

by Timothy Meinch, published January 16, 2016 in The Des Moines Register

This story is part of “Iowa biking: Welcome or not,” a series exploring Iowa’s bike culture and the state’s attitude toward cyclists.

MINNEAPOLIS — The traffic light turned red, and Councilwoman Lisa Bender braked to a halt on her way to work on a balmy December morning.

She paused her talk of population diversity and neighborhood growth for a sip of coffee from the mug she carried. Then, as the signal turned green, she pedaled through the intersection, continuing her 2½-mile commute to City Hall.

Six months ago, the 37-year-old mother of two sold her car and joined a growing number of year-round bike commuters in a city where the average winter low hovers around 15 degrees.

It’s no accident that Minneapolis, despite its frigid winters, has surged to the top of national rankings for urban biking and was the only U.S. city included last year on a global index of bike-friendly communities. Since 2000, the percentage of bike commuters here has jumped 170 percent, with an estimated 10,500 at the latest count in 2014.

Minneapolis’ bike-friendly reputation advanced on the saddle of key elected officials, grassroots advocates and critical investments that over the past decade helped transform it into a mecca for biking. And community leaders say their success can — and should — be replicated in cities such as Des Moines.

Last year, the League of American Bicyclists stuck Des Moines with bronze status for the fifth year in a row — its lowest honor for bike-friendly communities. Des Moines’ lack of bike lanes — combined with no designated staff or advocates marshaling cycling efforts in City Hall — contributed to its lackluster ranking.

Minneapolis, in comparison, was awarded coveted gold status from the League of American Bicyclists.

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