Seeing Minneapolis with the NCSL Bipartisan Bike Ride

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) have a conference every year to talk about legislating. And states. And such.

This year, it took place in Minneapolis.

Beyond a veritable smorgasbord of sessions ranging from community corrections to sales tax, attendees got to experience Minneapolis in a number of ways. On Friday morning, BikeMN and Bike Texas co-sponsored the NCSL Bipartisan Bike Ride. I was fortunate enough to be one of the guides for this local ride.

We started around 6:00 AM near the Minneapolis Convention Center, helping attendees with their bikes. Bike Texas had brought several trailers of city bikes up to Minneapolis. Attendees were fitted with bikes and helmets, and given a pep talk (and coffee, because 6:00 AM is uncivilized without coffee) before the ride.

NCSL Bike Ride

Minneapolis Police got the group rolling around 6:45 AM, leaving from the Convention Center and dismaying early-morning users of Nicollet Mall. Going westward, the rolling posse crossed over 394, and used the tunnel below Target Field to explore the Cedar Lake Trail’s final segment. The group then turned up the river to the Stone Arch Bridge, where pictures were taken.

Legislators on the Stone Arch Bridge

As you can see, we were fighting fog and mist in the early morning. Nonetheless, the group trekked on to University Avenue, and to the U of M campus. Representatives from the BNSF especially enjoyed their views of both the Stone Arch Bridge and the Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9, classic rail bridges reimagined for transit.

The ride continued to the Hiawatha Bike Trail, passing by the Wilfdome construction site. Another stop was made on the Sabo Bridge, where visitors from across the country and Canada learned of its construction–and its use by an average of 2,500 riders a day, with summer weekend use of 5,000+. At only $5 million for construction, the cost-per-use compared to the St. Croix River Bridge ($580 million for 18,000 vehicles/day) is pretty competitive!

Once on the Greenway, riders passed the Midtown Bike Center. Numerous commuters, including Nice Ride users, were seen in their natural environment (and wondering WTF the giant posse was about).

The group returned to the Convention Center via Park Avenue. Once returned, legislators went off in search of showers. Several of Minnesota’s contingent — including Leon Lillie, riding his fat-tired Surly, and Connie Bernardy, Vice-Chair of the MN House Transportation Finance Committee, mugged for a few photos, wearing their attractive event jerseys.

Legislators Gone Wild

The ride really exposed a wide array of legislators — people who make transportation happen — to a variety of transport modes at work in Minnesota. Riders saw bike lanes, commuter paths, bike/ped bridges, light rail, and buses. They saw regular users of the infrastructure as they passed through. And they got an up-close look at the city beyond the Conference Center, and the receptions and parties associated with a conference.

It’s important to remember how much Minneapolis has to be proud of. And today, it was shown off to legislators from around the nation.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

6 thoughts on “Seeing Minneapolis with the NCSL Bipartisan Bike Ride

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      The one legislator I saw go down finished the ride (I was riding WITH the paramedic at the time). I am unaware of anyone going in…

      That said, when you have that number of riders, on unfamiliar bikes, it’s not unusual for an injury or two to result. This is also true at most t-shirt rides, like the St. Paul Classic and Minneapolis Bike Tour. Lots of people with inexperience riding in groups inevitably results in wheel touches.

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    That’s great that all of these legislators and others got to see some good bicycle infrastructure and others (than themselves) using it. On this, kudos to everyone who organized it and volunteered.

    Sad if they also got the message that bicycling is not something that can be done in normal clothes for normal transportation by normal people going to normal places but instead requires shorts and jerseys, a helmet because it’s apparently dangerous, and a shower at the end because you’ll get sweaty doing it.

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      Many of them were wearing fairly normal clothing themselves, so if they got that message, not sure where.

      I needed a shower at the end, but that’s because the air yesterday morning was chewy. Ugh humidity.

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