Five for Friday: In tandem - Keeping MN Clean and Paving the Way for Bicyclists

Hopefully you've been keeping up with our #KeepMNClean work, including Wednesday's blog post and the daily action alerts that will give you that exciting and rare feeling of having accomplished something productive in the political space. If you care about all the things we pride ourselves on when it comes to the natural beauty of Minnesota (or just clean drinking water), your voice matters now more than ever.

Speaking of being outdoors in Minnesota (especially on such a glorious day as today), today we're talking all about biking. As part of our Here to There podcast, we're taking different commutes with a variety of commuters to learn about the many ways Minnesotans get from here to there. Each podcast episode will include a ride-along as well as an in-studio session with an expert, thought leader, advocate, or future-thinker. We're deep in production so stay tuned for Here to There's debut later this month! Visit the website to learn more and add your own commute to our interactive map.

In this week's Five for Friday, we have a mash-up of bike-related insights including reflections from our project fellow, Matt, who went on a bike-along with two area bikers and Leili, who was appointed by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges to the city's Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee, which is awesome except for the part where she keeps wanting to talk about paving projects at happy hour.

Biking is hugely popular throughout the state, and as a new report cited in the Star Tribune at the end of March found, it's good for more than your BMI: '...the state’s bike industry produces $780 million in annual economic activity, 5,519 jobs and millions of dollars in health care savings because of reduced obesity, diabetes and heart disease.'

3 Reflections on Biking in Minneapolis, written by Matt Goodwin:

A few weeks ago, Laura and Leili asked me if I wanted to be the one to do our Bike Commuter Ride Along for our upcoming podcast Here to There. Of course, I said yes, but not without some trepidation. In my younger years, I spent a good amount of time riding, although it was mostly mountain biking out in the woods, far away from the busy city streets. While I have may been a bit reckless back then, I thought it was far safer than trying to compete with cars on the street.

For the bike-along, I had a chance to face my fears and get a glimpse into the Minneapolis biking scene with our commuters Selam and Darius. From learning the importance of avoiding potholes and the unwritten rules of bikes at stop signs, we also had a chance dig deeper into issues regarding active transportation in the Twin Cities. Here’s a sample of topics we discussed and how they’ve been percolating through our minds at Apparatus this week

  1. The Usage Gap: The Twin Cities region is home to some of the best public transit and bike systems in the nation, yet just existing doesn’t necessarily mean it is being used by everyone. During my ride-along, we discussed the barriers different communities face when it comes to using public and active transportation infrastructure. For many, there are unknowns that deter them from using various services (e.g. How do I buy a Light Rail ticket? How does the bike rack on the front of the bus work?) For others, it may be more of a question of finding a route that feels safe and comfortable for them when taken by foot or bike. Finding ways to reach out and help residents become more comfortable with their transportation options is critical in achieving the potential of our transit system. I learned about Grease Rag, a Twin Cities organization that is doing just that. Through discussions, group rides, and shop nights, Grease Rag’s mission is to empower women/trans/femme cyclists throughout the metro. Learn more about Grease Rag and their events here and tweet us @apparatusmn with other organizations you know of doing the good work.

  2. Driving School Dropout: My driver’s license test consisted of backing up 30 feet and then parking in an empty lot. How much did we discuss how to behave around bikes during the test or in driving school? About as much as I loved having to spend four hours of my Saturday in said driving classes. Mind you that was a decade ago and back in my home state of Florida, but from my conversations the lack of understanding how to drive when cyclists are present is something that is widespread. We tend to focus on how to be a car amongst other cars, but fail to teach at a large scale how to operate when something smaller, slower, and squishier takes up part of our lane. Planning departments throughout the US have started to adopt the idea that roads can be space for both cars and bikes, now maybe it’s time to get our Driver’s Ed programs to catch up. Our first lesson: The Dutch Reach.

  3. Bike to the Future: When we talk about the future of transportation, the hot topic on most everyone’s mind is autonomous vehicles. While self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce vehicle accidents, factoring in how these technologies behave around bikers and pedestrians is another issue companies must acknowledge as these products make their way onto city streets. Aside from the technological challenges of reacting to bikers and walkers, autonomy poses a strange future for bike commuters. Many cyclists already aren’t keen on riding on current roads that are filled with fast moving cars, so how are they going to cope with the flow of efficiency that is slated to take over in the future? Riding next to a truck going 45 is enough of a thrill for me, trying to navigate in this, regardless of vehicle safety features, is something I can’t even begin to fathom.

2 Updates from the Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC), written by Leili

  1. There are some very exciting capital budget requests under consideration by CLIC for bike and pedestrian projects. You can check them out on p.369 of this document. The rest makes for great reading, too.

  2. Ok, so you didn't have time to flip through hundreds of pages? Highlights include miles of additional protected bikeways and expansion of bike and pedestrian boulevards connecting students to 'schools, parks, libraries and other youth oriented destinations throughout the city.'

And just for fun: Did you know there was a dinosaur who rode a bike? It was called a Velo-Ciraptor.

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