What do you get when a few Londoners decide to examine US bicycling infrastructure and usage? A bike ride from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, England. That is exactly what 16 people, mostly architects, are doing right now. This weekend, P2P came through Minneapolis and met with local experts, practitioners, and bicycling advocates.
Prior to leaving for the United States, the group examined plans and data on cities along their route to understand some of the context of the biking realm they would experience. The plan was to bike across the country stopping in a number of interesting bike cities, such as Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York, among others.
Five weeks ago, their group explored Portland, Oregon east on their voyage east to New York. They crossed the Rockies in Montana, biking over a 9,000 ft pass. From what it sounds, they bike about 60 to 100 miles per day and were able to bike over the peak in one day. Along the way, they’d stop in small towns, bars, and roadside motels meting locals who were interested in their adventure.
They arrived in Minneapolis on Friday after spending the night before in Hutchinson, MN. There, they met up with the Mayor who shared their efforts on expanding their trail system. I had the opportunity to meet up with them on a group ride on Saturday around Minneapolis. P2P uses group rides and locals to analyze the local bike system. After each local exploration day, they each fill out a survey to summarize what they experienced and learned. That data will later be used in their report they plan to issue at the end of the tour.
Approximately five locals met with the group at the Midtown Freewheel location on the Midtown Greenway. We took them on a bike infrastructure and architecture tour east to Seward, across Franklin to the East Bank, through the University of Minnesota to its bike center and Ralph Rapson Hall, through Dinkytown to the Stone Arch Bridge, and into Downtown before going through Loring Park to Bryant Avenue back to the Midtown Greenway. This was their “rest” day, the one they typically take a week, so our ride was probably a little shorter than perhaps would have been done had they not been riding over 2,000 miles to date.
I got the impression that they were impressed with the quantity and quality of the separated bike infrastructure, the amount of riders out on the trails, and the attitudes of our residents. In one instance, one of the riders’ chains snapped. I stayed back with him while he repaired it. A resident offered us a ride to a bike shop, which was declined, and later came out with degreaser and a rag. It certainly made a positive impression.
It sounds like they felt London was not a particularly pleasant place to drive, with aggressive drivers who are unwelcoming to bikers. One fellow mentioned that they had nothing really like the Midtown Greenway (few do, right?), but they do have an old canal with an 8′ shared path that is mostly grade separated but that it’s over capacity.
I left the tour inspired, better informed, and optimistic about the future. It made me appreciate the infrastructure we do have and the bike-friendly community we do live in. I felt inspired by the incredible journey these individuals embarked on and humbled by being able to join them and hear their insights. It affirmed a recently found passion for meeting locals in cities I visit to learn more about the dynamics, politics, trends, and interesting places that their city has to offer.
P2P has a detailed website and Twitter page that is updating the world on their progress. The photo- and video-heavy website shares stories of strong cross- and head winds in South Dakota, rain and lightning, and interviews with a variety of people they’ve encountered along the way. Once they complete the trip, they will release their study results, which I will be eagerly awaiting.
In addition to their website, many media outlets have profiled their trip, including this MPR interview.
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