A Bicycle Commute to the Suburbs

Until very recently, I held a job in a typical office/manufacturing building out in Chanhassen, MN, a very auto-oriented place that happens to be served by a great regional recreational trail. During the few months where living in Minneapolis aligned with my job, I decided to bike commute out a couple times a week as weather and work schedule allowed.  My route took me from the urban streets just south of Uptown, onto the Midtown Greenway, merging with the Cedar Lake Trail, and finally onto the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail (seriously, we need a shorter name for that one..).  I would end (or begin on the way home) the journey on a path abutting Highway 5, totaling a 16 mile one-way trip.

That may seem like too far for most, but the trail is quite flat, straight, and fairly straightforward making for a very comfortable ride, one I accomplished in about 70 minutes (I wish I were in better shape than I am..).  I highly encourage folks who live near any of the great rails-to-trails paths to try this out, assuming your workplace has a locker room and showers, of course.

I figured it’d be fun to snap some pics of the more suburban parts for those who haven’t traversed, giving a taste of the transition from urban to suburban with some bucolic and industrial sights in between.  My photo tour won’t be nearly as interesting as the ones you’ll see by Wolfie, nor do I stop to interview interesting folks (not that there aren’t any!), but here goes!

(note, it was raining the morning of my last day so I took pictures on the ride home)

Nice walk/bike path along the back patio of the cafeteria.

Nice walk/bike path along the back patio of the cafeteria.


One rarely encounters others on highway-adjacent paths like this one along Hwy 5/Arboretum Blvd.

Once the bike path links up with the regional trail, you begin to see much better way-finding and higher-end amenities that grade-separate it from auto infrastructure:


There’s a tunnel off in the distance that continues the trail SW toward Chaska

About half of the trail distance I cover (from basically 169 westward)is gravel, but very well-maintained:



Scenic golf course overlook

At one point the trail asks you to climb up a hill to ride along a barren sidewalk on an overpass:


…adding a good amount of distance and effort.

By heading to the left in that picture, you come across an alternative:


Sadly, not ideal for road bikes or trailers.

Looking back after the bridge, we see the fork as desire lines. I’m not sure what the rationale was for the trail as designed, but this is a nice opportunity to speed up and simplify the journey:


A few other fun sights:


The trail runs right along Shady Oak Lake, with a great beach off in the distance


Bat boxes!


Washed out learning, former rail-adjacent industrial site, and signs of urbanization on the horizon.

This sight always irks me.  The trail has quite a few crossings with streets, all of which ask you to stop (and for good reason, they usually have poor sight lines with crossing autos). But near Hopkins, you’re asked to stop for an entrance/exit to a Honda car dealership (3 lanes!). I can’t imagine how much traffic this sees each day, but why prioritize what is essentially a private property entrance over one of our few regional bike super-highways?


To be fair, the park and ride lots next door must also stop for this street.


A view of Minnehaha Creek before it enters Edina and Minneapolis

I skipped a few photos, and declined taking many to leave the rest to your imagination (and get home somewhat quickly!).  But I love the stark feeling of arrival in the city as you pass large apartment and condo buildings, then head into the Greenway trench. A smartphone camera doesn’t really do justice to how cool it really looks with the bridges crossing it seemingly forever.



Again, this ride is pretty easy very safe, and offers many opportunities to take in sights and destinations along the way if so desired. I highly encourage some close-in suburban dwellers working downtown or nearby (and urban folks heading out as well) to give it a try for work in the remaining two months of comfortable weather. At the very least it can make for a wonderful weekend outing with the family – ditch the car and make an afternoon of it!

Alex Cecchini

About Alex Cecchini

Alex likes cities. He lives with his wife, two kids, and two poorly behaved dogs just south of Uptown (Minneapolis). Tweets found here: @alexcecchini and occasional personal blog posts at fremontavenueexperience.wordpress.com.