I’ve ridden a bike as a means of transportation for a pretty long time and in a lot of different cities across the country. If I count places I’ve merely visited as well as places I’ve lived, I think I have a pretty good cross-section of riding all over the United States. But all of that notwithstanding, since moving to Minneapolis in the fall 2010 I’ve had a pretty significant amount of culture shock every year around this time, or whenever winter releases its cold, indifferent grasp from the collective junk of this city.
You see, there are an absolute shit ton of people that ride bikes in MPLS. As someone that didn't grow up here - and further more - grew up in the Rust Belt, it's staggering to see how many bikes are on the roads here. It's something that has never ceased to amaze me since I started visiting this city when my brother moved to town in 2001. The number of cyclists that ride year round is growing but there’s still an obvious gap in numbers when the snow melts and it always becomes a reminder of the danger that lurks at every corner. 2011 was the first year I ever had a close call with another cyclist running a stop sign, and ever since then it seems like it happens more and more to me every year. I wish I could say I was never the one that almost caused the crash, but I can’t.
I don’t bring this up to revive that dumb, age-old debate about how people should ride their bikes. That debate always seems to end poorly for any number of reasons. I only bring it up because I remember how struck I was by the fact that I was almost struck by another cyclist. There are enough people riding around on the side streets of MPLS that if you aren’t paying attention to what you are doing, you could just accidentally run into one of them or vice versa. To me, that seems pretty awesome. I remember times riding around thinking I’d never see the day when there were that many people on bikes that you’d actually have to pay attention to something other than drivers that didn’t think you belonged on the roads.
It ended up being serendipitous that my usual floundering-around-for-ideas-for-a-blog-post ended up landing me on this topic. Jim from Hiawath Cyclery here in MPLS posted an article that Minnesota Public Radio recently published about the same thing. The comments section of this article is sadly reasonable and respectful, so if you’re like me and just want to see stupid people say stupid things on both sides of an argument, you’ll want to skip the link and just go straight to something on You Tube, or perhaps Craigslist. Either way, keep your head on a swivel out there. Now that the weather isn’t keeping the crazies indoors, you’ve got that to deal with on top of everything else.
Fond memories of when it was just me and my wits on the streets.