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.
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.
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.
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.