Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area Leads on Progressive Bike Policy


| 11/8/2017 11:06:00 PM


Tags: cities, cycling, bike lanes, green infrastructure, public policy, healthy communities, Minnesota, Maggie Tiede,

Painted Cycling Lanes City Street

The United States, along with much of the developed world, is struggling with rapidly rising rates of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Lack of exercise is a frequent culprit, but many Americans struggle to find time for the 2 hours and 30 minutes of physical activity that the CDC recommends [1] adults get each week. Most of us already spend well over 2 hours and 30 minutes commuting by car or bus each week, however, and by making the shift to bicycle commuting, we stand to greatly improve our health along with reducing traffic and emissions.

There is already an abundance of research that links bicycle commuting and good health, and in Minnesota, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area — home to about 3.5 million people — has taken notice. It’s been about 20 years since communities across the metro began implementing progressive bicycle policy and infrastructure in earnest — and the results are extremely promising.

Preferences Suggested for Off-road Trails

Minneapolis began rapidly increasing its bicycle infrastructure in 2000, especially its off-road trails linking primarily residential areas with job centers. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity [2] found that this increase was matched by a sharp increase in bicycle commuting. The study suggested that off-road trails may be preferable to bike lanes, which can be intimidating and difficult to use.

Overall, over the course of the study, the total increase in bicycle infrastructure in Minneapolis was accompanied by a doubling in the number of bicycle commuters as a portion of total commuters, from only 1.8% in 2000 to 4.0% in 2010. Shifting demographics may also have contributed to this trend, but overall, this increase in infrastructure appears to have been a resounding success.

Bike-sharing Services Expand Ridership

Other services have sought to increase people’s access to bicycles, which can be expensive and daunting to maintain for new riders. In 2010, Nice Ride MN [3], a bike-sharing service, launched in downtown Minneapolis. Their model allows users to grab a bicycle from one local station and drop it off at any other station in their Twin Cities network, a boon for people who either can’t or don’t want to own and store a bicycle at home. They offer monthly membership for frequent users along with 24-hour passes and one-time rentals that are often used by tourists.




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