Biking in Minneapolis

The sustainable biking craze seems to keep rolling as more and more cities encourage commuters and wanderers to bike across town instead of drive. New programs, such as Nice Ride in Minneapolis, offer an innovative service where one can rent out a bike for a small fee and ride it across town to other stations, or continue to hold onto the bike and continue making payments.

Other cities are turning their spokes with similar programs: B-Cycle in Denver, a program in D.C., and Bixi in Montreal all have enough riders to sustain the businesses. While profit from these bikes may be viable, the question of sustainability and more improved quality of life still remains.

The way Nice Ride functions is endearingly simple: one signs up for a fixed subscription (with discounts for university students) and receives a special key that can be used at any Nice Ride station. The user slips in the key, and unlocks a bike. The bike can then be ridden across town to any station in the city, any time from April to November. In June 2010 when Nice Ride began, this simple plan garnered 10,000 trips in in its first month of use. So has this new model (and increased biking in general) for urban transportation provided any gains for the public other than fatigued legs?

It seems that the program is a perfect fit for the city’s infrastructure. The city already has 46 miles of on-street bike lanes and 84 miles of bike trails to support such a project. On top of this, the city’s bicycle culture is one of the strongest in the nation, second only to Portland, whose more temperate climate has an edge for those cyclists hoping to commute regularly.

Something that both cities have experienced is a drop in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes as more and more people decide to utilize biking as their main source of transportation. This “safety in numbers” concept has potentially attracted more and more cyclists each year leading to not only a wider understanding of the bicycle culture present, but safer roads as respect is paid to the cyclists braving the busy roads of Minneapolis and St. Paul as well.

The biking craze in the Twin Cities has also lead to the area being one of the cleanest cities in the world according to an article featured in Forbes. The research examined many different facets of a city’s infrastructure, including the emphasis the city places upon transportation, including biking. The article cites the city’s extensive use of bike lanes (as well as its transit and bus systems) as the major reason the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is so clean. The Twin Cities ranked fifth on the list, behind the likes of Calgary, Honolulu, Helsinki, and Ottawa.

So while other cities may stick to the classic emphasis on automobiles, Minneapolis has shown that biking is not only a safe mode of transportation, but one that can help to clean up the urban environment as well. Not to mention the cult cycling craze that many biking cities possess seemingly unifies an active demographic into a hopeful mode for future American transportation.

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