The title seems to be the belief of many in Minnesota when the subject of bicycling for transportation comes up.
I often hear people say that we can never be anything like the Dutch because The Netherlands is flat, more temperate, less snowy, and bicycling is, after all, part of their culture, so we shouldn’t even try.
Too Hilly – Yes, much of The Netherlands is quite flat. Well, so is Shoreview; so is Minneapolis and even Boulder Colorado. Just because there’s a hill in Stillwater doesn’t mean I can’t ride my bike in Saint Paul.
Worse, for people using this excuse, not all of The Netherlands is flat, but much of the southern portion is quite hilly. Watch the Amstel Gold bicycle race and you’ll get an idea. That hasn’t stopped them though, they still ride bicycles for daily needs like my favorite video of the Postman riding up the Cauberg with Team Rabobank.
There are certainly places like portions of Duluth where the hills or mountains will severely limit how much people ride, but that doesn’t have to stop others. As well, the inventive folks in Norway have a solution in their Trampe lift (photo).
Too Cold – No doubt Minnesota is cold as are some other parts of the U.S…. and also some parts of The Netherlands. While Bill, Julie, and Tony might ride every day all year in all weather, I won’t. I’ll ride a mile in just about anything, but beyond that I’m good for about two miles above 10o F, three or four above 20o F and about anything when it’s above 30o F, but I’m a Southerner. And, just because it might be too cold for me in Minnesota a few days each winter doesn’t mean my brother Billy in Alabama can’t ride a bike one mile to work when it’s 50o F.
Oulu, Finland has a climate nearly identical to Minnesota in both temperature and snowfall yet they still have a bicycle modal share of 25%. Come to think of it, it gets quite cold across the river in Minneapolis and yet they still have one of the highest bicycle modal shares in the U.S. (Note Winter Cycling Congress 2016 will be hosted in Minneapolis the 2 – 4 of February).
Too Hot and Humid – There are days when it is, indeed, quite oppressively hot and sticky. Weather folk tell us it’s the dew point. This year hasn’t been a problem in Minnesota, but a few years ago there were several days that were over 100o F with high humidity that were certainly uncomfortable.
Folks in the deep south will often point out you’ll get just as sweaty or even more so just walking from your car across a parking lot as riding a few miles on a bicycle. Riding a proper upright Dutch bike will often keep you cooler than walking. I grew up down there, so I can attest to this.
Fashion can also play a part. I don’t wear lycra to commute, but I won’t hesitate to wear nice shorts and an oxford shirt which is quite accepted outside the U.S. Helmets are hot and prevent efficient cooling; from everything I’ve read, they are good for little more than fashion and I’m not sure they’re good for that.
For a cooler and more comfortable ride, ditch the helmet and gloves, wear nice shorts if you can get away with it, ride a proper upright bike (e.g, no weight on your hands, no leaning forward and creating sweat inducing folds of skin), and ride at a moderate pace of 10 to 14 mph. Oh, and if you’re overweight, lose it. I know this isn’t for everyone, but will work for many.
Too Wet – Really? Get Wet. Get an umbrella. Wear a poncho. Just because there’s rain on the plain in Spain doesn’t mean that I can’t ride on a sunny day in Woodbury.
OK, some days the rain is too heavy or there’s thunder and lighting. Just because you ride a bike most days doesn’t mean you have to do it everyday. This might be a good day to drive.
Too Far – But, but, The Netherlands is more dense and everything is closer together so it’s easier for them! Just because there’s a bunch of open space in Traverse County MN doesn’t mean that I can’t ride my bicycle to my local grocery two miles away in Roseville.
As a country, The Netherlands is indeed quite dense but each city, where most people actually live and go places, really isn’t much different than here.
As Alex Cecchini showed us, 55% of people in Minneapolis live within 5 miles of where they work. That’s a 30 minute or less bike ride. 16% within a mile or 5 minute bike ride. BTW, Minneapolis is fairly flat and as I write this it’s sunny and 72o F.
Within one mile of my house is a grammar school, grocery store, eight places to eat, and numerous stores. Another couple of miles adds more eateries, a pharmacy, and another grocery. I and my neighbors can quite easily ride to all of these if we have decent infrastructure.
We shouldn’t expect very many people who live 25 miles from work to ride their bicycles, but almost all of us can ride a mile or two to dinner. How many people driving in to the local park & ride to catch a bus drove from less than 5 miles away? Could they have ridden a bicycle instead? How many kids live within 5 miles of their school?
This doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do. At the top of my list is probably getting webs of safe and comfortable bikeways spidering out from schools and park & rides. Where our children cannot safely ride bikes to school it is a huge detriment to them and our nation.
Next is the big boxing of grocery stores. Where once we almost all had a local grocery within a couple of miles, those are disappearing and being replaced by big-box groceries that are five miles away. Interestingly, Walgreens and CVS are eyeing this space.
In the end, I have difficulty finding density to be much of a problem.
Bicycling Is Part Of Dutch Culture – Not really more than others. In the 1970s The Netherlands was on the same car-centric trajectory as all other developed nations. At that time, they actually cycled less than people in other countries such as the U.K.
The big change began only quite recently (and after the 1970 breakup of the Beatles). An increase in the number of people killed by drivers alarmed Dutch traffic engineers and parents. The Stop The Child Murder campaign is often seen as the seminal moment when The Netherlands began to give equal treatment to people walking and riding bicycles rather than focusing primarily on cars. Copenhagen followed soon after and Germany sometime later. Recently Spain, Sweden, and many others have been jumping on the bandwagon.
I’m not sure what culture has to do with it anyway. How would that prevent us from embracing the same thing?
The Netherlands has been successful because they realized 45 years ago that 15 mph 100 lb bicycle riders and much faster 3,000 lb cars do not share very well. Most people, Dutch or other, aren’t comfortable playing dodge-car with 3,000 lb weapons driven by people more interested in the latest Instagram than paying attention to their driving. People driving cars don’t like to be slowed to 10 mph by people
taking blocking the lane, and when there’s a collision between the two it never goes well for the bicycle rider.
They began building their current bicycle infrastructure in the 1970s and had largely completed it 20 years later. While they built a lot of protected infrastructure in the early days, they also built a lot of unprotected painted lanes and other not-quite-up-to-par stuff. They’ve learned a lot over the past 40 years and since completing their network they’ve been working on updating older infrastructure to current protected standards outlined in the CROW Design Manual For Bicycle Traffic.
They built their network from scratch without others experience to lean on. We have a huge advantage in that we can lean on their experience and avoid their mistakes.
Most Dutch are also very quick to point out that bicycling is not part of their culture nor a cultural thing nor do they have a bicycle culture. They’ve simply embraced a more expansive solution to transportation.
Moreover, the Copenhagenize Index of the 20 best cities for bicycling includes cities in France, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Germany, and others.
Changing Modes – Once those myths above are debunked, people often then try to say that people don’t like to switch modes, but rather they prefer to use the same mode, usually a car, every day for every trip. They don’t want to ride their bicycle one day and have to switch to driving their car the next because of weather or trip length or whatever. I can only shake my head.
Most Dutch have cars and they do drive them occasionally. Their first choice is often their bicycle but if weather, time, distance, or cargo doesn’t favor their bicycle, then they’ll drive their car or take transit. Similarly, my bicycle is my first choice and my car second. This is really not difficult.
Bicycles are also not necessarily a replacement for cars. For a few they are, but for most of us, and for most Dutch, they are simply another tool that is better for some trips but not all.
Something that surprises me is I often hear the “problems” above as a list of blanket excuses to cover the entire U.S. What’s ridiculous is how often I hear these excuses from lycra clad cyclists who usually add, “We’ll never be like Europe and never have many people riding bicycles, so we shouldn’t try.”
There are people for whom riding a bicycle for transportation will not be a viable option. I think this is a very tiny minority, though. Most of us live where local errands are a short and relatively flat distance away and weather is rarely an issue.
For most of the rest of us, these impacts are temporary. Some winters I can ride every day. A couple of winters ago there were numerous days when I chose to drive due to below zero temperatures. Just because I couldn’t ride due to extreme cold didn’t mean that someone in Florida couldn’t.
For more excuse-maker myth-busting: Let’s put those tired anti-bike arguments to rest.
 I am not opposed to taking the lane when necessary. When I do, I am also very cognizant of the fact that I am negatively impacting a lot of others by slowing them down. I wish this were not necessary and that is one reason I believe we need to put considerable effort in to a separate protected bicycle network built to Dutch standards.
“Your city isn’t too hilly for bike lanes. It isn’t too rainy. It isn’t too hot. It isn’t too big. Your leaders are too afraid.”
Very true. And such a sad statement on our leaders.l
For me, it makes a big difference to have some cargo capacity on your bike. Yesterday on the way home from work I ran an errand that would have been too far to walk to and impossible without a pannier to put things in. That said, switching from walking to biking has to be an easier transition to get your head around.
Also yesterday I exchanged pleasantries with a colleague on the elevator on the way out of the office. She said she normally waits a bit for the traffic to clear, but was tired and heading home just after five. With bike helmet in hand, I said, “the bike lanes tend not to be too bad.”
Biking in downtown rush hour traffic may not be any slower than driving and, for me, is definitely less stressful.
Actually I’d say biking is faster than any other mode downtown these days with the way traffic is stacking up, at least on 3rd. The Bus is definitely the worst and slowest of any mode right now, considering I can quite literally walk the 2.5 miles home faster than the bus makes it.
Roberta & I love bicycling the hills of Saint Paul. The views are varied and sometimes awesome. Bicycling in our old neighborhood in South Minneapolis was often boring. I will often bike out of my way for a nice view.
It would be nice to have bike lanes downtown, though. Especially 4th Street.
Heartily agree with Downtown. I’m also looking forward to see how the ‘new Gateway’ works after the 35E project is complete. I don’t think I’ll miss climbing up Cayuga.
BTW, great article in Minnesota Monthly. My wife and I both enjoyed it and gave us ideas for the coming year.
Stop the helmet trutherism.
exactly. Bike helmets are not necessary for most folks. Only if you ride a bike with a tire thinner than your thumb do you need a helmet, or you plan on going off road or ramps.
Those trampe lifts are oh so cool. Need one on the Franklin Ave. hill just NE of the river.
I’ve often thought that one going up Cathedral Hill from downtown St Paul would be nice. Or maybe better, a tram with plenty of room for bikes.
All of these assumptions are cultural. We decide what is “too hot” or “too cold” or “too hilly” for cycling. I think Mpls is a good example that “too cold” need not be a barrier. Now let’s show that “too hilly” is not a barrier in St. Paul!
We also shouldn’t let the idea that because people might not bike every place they want to go, or under all conditions, that we shouldn’t build bike infrastructure.
If we build so that people can choose to safely bike 1-2 miles on a nice day, more and more people will start choosing to bike a few more miles on less nice days, because they like getting around that way.
Emily, great point. Most people in The Netherlands, Denmark, and other countries with high modal shares of bicycling only ride about 5 – 10 miles per day. They use their bicycle for local trips and their car or transit for longer trips.
> “Helmets are hot and prevent efficient cooling; from everything I’ve read, they are good for little more than fashion and I’m not sure they’re good for that.”
Painting with rather broad strokes here, Walker. There may well be an argument to be made that the promotion of helmets is not worth the potential cost (to convenience or encouragement of cycling). But it seems troubling to declare that they are “good for little more than fashion”. There is no doubt that they protect the face and the skull itself — the only area of doubt is that they may increase the risk of rotational injuries. However, they are especially important for children (whose skulls are not as hard/developed as adults) .
> Oh, and if you’re overweight, lose it.
I appreciate that you back off the absurdity of this statement quickly, but this is simply offensive, about on-par with giving financial advice by saying, “If you’re poor, work harder.” I suspect that 95% of overweight people would like to “lose it” — bicycling for transportation may be a great way do to it. Many don’t want to when they’re out of shape because it’s more difficult. But a huge number don’t want to be the fat person on the bike — or worse, the fat sweaty person when they arrive. It’s the implicit stigma in that paragraph that is part of what discourages overweight people from using active transportation.
Thanks for pointing these out. The second is especially important, because cycling has to be for everybody (if overweight people feel uncomfortable doing it, you’re not going to get very far selling it in a country where 69% of adults are overweight and 35% are obese). Additionally, a lot of overweight people who include active commuting in their lives will never lose their weight, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be healthier.
I agree, especially since the premise of the article was debunking lazy falsehoods that people use to not bike. Then Walker proceeds to spout lazy untruths.
Well, I did say little more than fashion rather than no more than fashion 🙂
In the very rare instance that someone riding a bicycle will have a crash that causes their head to hit something a helmet will likely prevent abrasions. And that’s a very good thing. But the likelihood of such a crash is quite low. As to helmets saving people’s lives, that’s quite debatable, especially given that head injury rates among bicycle riders are about the same in countries with high helmet use (U.S., Australia, Canada) and no/low helmet countries (Netherlands, Denmark, etc.).
OTOH, the likelihood of getting overheated and sweating because of wearing a helmet on a warm day is quite high. As apparently is the likelihood of people choosing not to ride because they don’t want to wear a helmet and they think that if they ride they must so they choose not to ride. This is like a bunch of birds in the hand instead of one that may, though unlikely, be in the bush.
If head injury rates are the same for high helmet use/ low infrastructure countries vs. low helmet use/ high infrastructure countries, that would suggest helmets are contributing to safety. In places with worse infrastructure and low helmet use, you’d expect many more head injuries.
If you want to encourage cycling, you wouldn’t demonize helmets or the people who choose to wear them.
How is he demonizing? If you want to wear a helmet, great! If you want to wear a a 5 point racing harness every time you drive a car,cool!
The Netherlands has a bicycle fatality rate of about 7 in every billion km ridden. Denmark about 10, and the U.S. about 76. These are the numbers that tell you how safe the infrastructure is. Not surprisingly The Netherlands is the safest. That our rate is about 10 times that of The Netherlands says a lot about how dangerous our infrastructure is.
The head injury rate is the rate of head injuries relative to all other serious or fatal injuries in bicycle crashes and is independent of total injuries or fatalities.
Of all bicycle fatalities head injuries make up about 32% in The Netherlands, 34% in Denmark and the U.S. and 37% in Minnesota (going from memory).
So quick math; 2 fatal head injuries per billion km ridden in The Netherlands, 3.4 in Denmark, and 26 in the U.S.
If helmets were effective then the rate of head injuries in high helmet use countries should be significantly lower than in no helmet use countries to reflect that of all injuries the number or percent of those that are head injuries is lower. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Hope this helps and makes some sense.
I think being overweight and being poor are quite different?
Isn’t being overweight, for the majority of our population, almost entirely a matter of choice? Choices in what we eat and how much? Choices in how much exercise we get? For many people being poor is not so much of a choice?
Granted, these are not easy choices. I’ve been there. It takes some effort to know what you’re eating (calories and nutrition wise) and to limit how much you eat and to eat some of the right things when you’d rather have warm sugar coated mini donuts.
I agree with you that many don’t want to be the fat person on the bike. Perhaps what they need to know is how much more the fat person on the bike is admired than the skinny person on the bike. I’ve been shooting a lot of photos of people biking around the twin cities this summer and I’ve seen a lot of fat people on bikes and they have my and I think most people’s admiration for doing something. Perhaps I/we need to spread that message more.
I think for most there is also the promise of light at the end of the tunnel — in a year or two they’ll no longer be the fat person on the bike (or in the airplane seat or …) but the in-fairly-good-shape person on the bike.
It’s really untrue that being overweight is more of a choice than being poor. For example, intrauterine environment has been shown to have a significant effect on BMI. Not to mention major contribution of education, race, sex, parenthood, employment, etc. to BMI. Here’s a striking example: researchers tried to estimate the effect of active school transportation on student BMI and VO2. They found that greater uptake of active school transportation was associated with HIGHER BMI and LOWER VO2. When analyzed further, it was found that higher program uptake was associated with higher poverty – which trumped the effect of the active transportation program.
Our culture is so ignorant about food that many people don’t even realize they are making harmful choices. Which means maybe it’s not fair to think of them as choices.
This. There’s no doubt for me that our culture is making (almost) everyone fatter — but there are definitely vastly different levels to which people are predisposed to obesity. And even if they’re not predisposed, industrial food hooks people young with intentionally addictive and unhealthful food. People end up addicted to refined sugars, fried food, etc.
It’s actually remarkably similar to being poor — yes, everyone has some degree of agency, and there are remarkable “pull yourself up by the bootstrap” exceptions. But in general, you’re dealt certain cards, and that affects you for your whole life.
As Aaron pointed out, even if overweight people don’t lose a single pound from bicycling, it’s still a great method of exercise, and indeed has fewer weight-related barriers than running or many calisthenics.
Good points. Maintaining a healthy weight (and lifestyle) is different for all of us. A child who grows up in a home with parents who eat healthy and are active is certainly in a better position to be healthy as an adult than a child who grows up with parents who are overweight, inactive, and eat a lot of fast and chain food. The latter child can however choose a healthier lifestyle when they are a bit older and I’ve seen many who’ve done so.
Does a child who grows up in a home with parents who do not value education, self discipline, and work ethic have the same opportunity?
I think I’d much rather grow up with unhealthy parents who give me an education, self-discipline, and work ethic.
I think you’re absolutely correct on your last point. Overweight and active is much better than overweight and inactive. Bicycling has also shown to be much better for cardio fitness than walking.
Heartily agree with both of your comments, Sean. I was biking helmet-free for a couple of weeks, because it was hot, my hair looks better all day if it’s not smashed, and I can be cavalier. Ironically and sadly, my ex got hit by a car entering an intersection while biking and had his face smashed into the car. The ER doc was happy he had worn his helmet. That ended my experiment until I am not having to ride with or cross car traffic. Dang.
The only legitimate criticism of biking here (in my mind) is that it’s too dangerous. Weather, hills, whatever … but aggressive drivers and crappy infrastructure with huge gaps in the trail system and a pretty bad lack of protected lanes (lanes in the door zone next to parked cars pretty much don’t exist to me, they’re worthless) makes being afraid of death a pretty valid reason not to bike. I’m not saying it deters me personally, but if someone says “I’m too afraid of getting hit by cars to ride my bike” I can’t really fault them for that here. It’s a very real and valid concern. I’m glad plenty of people don’t let that deter them, but I’m not going to crap on anyone who tells me that’s why they don’t bike.
Wayne, I agree completely. I would ride for transportation a lot more if we had better and safer infrastructure. I think this goes double or triple for my wife and more so for many of our neighbors.
We have a handful of restaurants a mile from our house yet there are days I’ll not want to ride because of the less than half mile long stressful section of a Ramsey county road.
Amen. I’m currently working on a cycling survey at the U, and we’ve had a decent number of respondents who are over 70 and still ride for transportation, at least in the summer. If they can do it, most able-bodied city commuters can do it.
I want to push back a little against “all able bodied people can do it.” We can, but it may be tough, and if we try to bike 5 miles in 30 minutes, we will be sweaty, out of breath, and sore the next day. I am not overweight, but I’m not in the best shape and I recently had a baby, so I haven’t been doing much biking. I am usually pulling a trailer when I bike, too. It may take me 30 minutes to bike 2 miles, and I will probably be out of breath at some point.
It’s not trivial to get someone like me to start biking for regular transportation or commuting. We need to start under ideal conditions until we build up some endurance and experience. But we don’t do it at all if we don’t have a safe place to ride.
I think that’s a really important point, and something I think Walker does a pretty good job of addressing (“Most Dutch have cars and they do drive them occasionally. Their first choice is often their bicycle but if weather, time, distance, or cargo doesn’t favor their bicycle, then they’ll drive their car or take transit. Similarly, my bicycle is my first choice and my car second.”).
I bike to work when the roads are clear, but I still ride the bus when the weather is bad and I only started biking regularly when I moved within 3 miles of work. If I had to do daycare drop off, biking would be much more challenging (and my kiddo is still small enough to ride in a handlebar seat – I am not a fan of pulling a trailer). So perhaps I shouldn’t have said “commuters” when really bike advocates should be talking more about all the neighborhood trips that are currently taken by car but could easily be swapped with a bike or bus trip. It’s like flexitarianism – I’m not going to beat myself up for driving when it makes sense to do so, but I know that I feel better about a city with more active transportation.
I like that “flexitarianism” approach. It highlights that most cyclists are also drivers and riders of transit. But driving isn’t the default mode of transit. We choose which mode makes the most sense for the trip. With better infrastructure, we can encourage more people to live a multi modal lifestyle. (And the more we walk and bike, the more appealing those modes become.)
Aaron & Emily, you summed it up well. Thank you.
That last bit is key. I started walking to everything because I wanted to make sure I would get some exercise (I hate the gym). I started biking more for the same reasons.
Now I’d much rather walk or bike to everything and actively avoid driving, because I prefer the other options.
Emily, those are great points. People are all different and have different physiological makeups. I have a moderate VO2 (e.g., how well my body can take in oxygen and provide what my muscles need) but not nearly high enough to be a world class endurance athlete. When I was younger there was no amount of training that I could have done to become good enough to ride the Tour de France. One friend who I ride with has a very high VO2 and never gets out of breath (when riding with me) and another has a fairly low VO2 and I know that we’ll be riding slower. We’re all different (through no fault of our own).
I took about 15 years off from much physical exercise and gained about 50 lbs. It took me a couple of years to lose the weight and get in to moderate shape.
A few thoughts… A bike trailer adds considerable drag. For an average person pulling a 30 lb trailer with 40 lbs of weight requires about 80% – 90% more energy. Almost twice as much as riding alone. Much of that is trailer weight, extra rolling resistance, and aerodynamics. This is why they are not so popular in Europe. Sometimes a trailer is the best option but carrying kids and cargo on the bike itself eliminates the big factors. This is why it is so common in Europe to see someone with two or three kids on their bike and panniers full of groceries.
Being completely upright also helps.
I think your last statement, having a safe place to ride, is really key though. What other ideas do you have for getting more people to ride?
Good information about the trailer! I need to get a child seat and some panniers! (Maybe someday an xtracycle!) Another idea to encourage people to ride: more obvious, built in bike parking. There is quite a bit along grand avenue now. We need more like it everywhere, so when you drive to a place, you can see that other people bike there, and it is expected that people will bike there.
If you don’t live in a central density core your screwed. People have cars because its frikin hard. I do not blame them, but a car becomes everything which is wrong.
I lived in N. Crystal, job in Plymouth. (3 miles)
No bus service or in frequent bus service.
Barriers galore (I lived right behind the mall, but needed to walk 1/4 to get to the store due to fence) (hwy 169 or 100 anyone? )
very few sidewalks
Walker lives in Shoreview, I think, but yes, density gives you choices. If you don’t have them, you should think about moving to a place that a makes them available.
I’m going to go ahead and link to an article I read a few months ago and has been rattling around in my head. I’ll absolutely add the caveat that it’s not exactly fair and balanced, but it does an excellent job of synthesizing most of the themes we talk about here when we talk about the effect of cars on community:
Woodcock, J. and Aldred, R. (2008). Cars, corporations, and commodities: Consequences for the social determinants of health. Emerging Themes in Epidemiology 5(4):
Ben, I feel for you – and as much as we in the relatively bikeable, walkable core try to spread the gospel, it is really hard to be a believer outside of the city. Using people-powered transportation seems really difficult, and that’s because it is, and it is by design.
As the authors of this article write:
“We see the car’s ability to annihilate distance as a key use value for the consumer. Car manufacturers benefit from the creation of such distances, because mobility becomes more useful as distances grow. In this way, mass car ownership, backed by corporate lobbying for pro-car policies, builds car-dependency into the urban fabric. Firstly, accommodating environments to the car encourages social segregation. Cars require copious space for parking and driving; these needs can be met through zoning and/or geographical social segregation, often around ethnicity or class. Social segregation physically embeds unequal social relations into the built environment, strengthening these divisions. In the UK ‘[i]ncreasing access to cars over the past three decades has allowed the population who can to segregate further.’
“Secondly, transport engineering based around the car creates distance for non-car users. Traffic volumes and road design make other road users’ journeys slower or less direct, and it becomes more expensive and less energy efficient to run a frequent public transport system. The main road that destroys distance for the driver can simultaneously block access to local amenities for the pedestrian and cyclist. Thirdly, amenities literally move away from people, through a chain of events that leads to a lack of local shops, services, and jobs…
“Together, the threat of violence and the restructuring of place raise the bar for social participation, essentially disabling large segments of the population. In particular, the independent movement of children has been curtailed. As Jain and Guiver comment, ‘When viewed from the perspective of society as a whole, rather than the individual car user, the move towards greater mobility can be largely seen as self-defeating… [resulting in] increasing dependence upon motorized transport.’
“Motorisation creates distance only the car can overcome, with cross-sectional analysis finding a strongly inverse relationship between accessibility and motorisation.”
There are vast differences in cities and neighborhoods. Shoreview has a quite good path network that allows people to ride for many local errands and the schools have quite high (for the U.S.) modal shares of bicycling. I think there are other suburbs that are similar. Plymouth? Others?
Other suburbs like Maplewood and Vadnais Heights are quite poor.
There are parts of Minneapolis that are pretty good and other parts that are quite poor.
I’ve already posted about riding to get fast food “Where do I put my cup of coffee?”. I do have a grocery store within riding distance. I could probably get there on my bicycle in the same time it takes to drive to Walmart. But even if I tricked out my bicycle with racks, I’d probably still need to make several trips a week instead of one, and I’d be paying higher prices at the local Festival instead of Walmart.
Anecdote from growing up in Bloomington. No one rode there bicycles in the snow. Ever. Our parents even stashed them away during the winter. Part of it was the sidewalks got plowed, but they didn’t salt them so they tended to not get down to bare concrete. OK to walk on, not OK to ride a bicycle on (and we were told in no uncertain terms to never ride on a busy street). And then it’s a lot colder on a bicycle than walking, even at the slow speeds kids would ride.
But eating fast food, not shopping at Walmart and shopping for food (which should mostly be fresh and not last a whole week without spoiling!) more than once a week are features, not bugs.
A big part of growing up is realizing that lots of things your parents taught you were wrong. Which I say as someone who has yet to ride in the winter.
*not* eating fast food
“A big part of growing up is realizing that lots of things your parents taught you were wrong.”
Ohh No! You just totally destroyed my childhood. 🙂
In my bachelor experience, if you’re not going to the grocery store at least twice a week, you’re either letting your fruits/veggies go bad or you’re eating way too much pre-processed food.
That aside, I have to ask if you’ve actually taken a look at the economics? How much more expensive is Festival over WalMart? What’s your actual vehicle cost to get to/from WalMart?
How far is your drive to Walmart? From a monetary standpoint figure about $1 per mile (fuel, oil, tires, mileage based maintenance & depreciation). Would you rather your money support a local business like Festival or one based in Arkansas? How fresh are fruits, veggies, dairy, and meats at Walmart vs Festival and how fresh are they after sitting in your fridge for a week?
Riding a bicycle for daily transportation provides valuable physical activity and for very little cost in time or money.
BTW, I do throw studded tires on my opafiets for winter. Shoreview actually does a pretty good job keeping the paths clear but there are often patches of ice or packed snow that they don’t get to. The Netherlands does salt their paths and will often pre-salt. I’ll ride all winter in Shoreview where I have good paths to get me to restaurants and stuff, I’ll not ride in Vadnais Heights where I’d have to ride on the road and get sprayed by splush from passing cars and have to worry more about them sliding in to me (or me sliding in to them).
In my case the numbers are a lot more favorable. I bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee with 110,000 miles on it for $7500 and plan to get at least that out of it. It takes premium gasoline and gets 17 miles a gallon. I spend about $3000 a year or so in maintenance and insurance. That works out to be about 50 cents a mile. Walmart is an $8 round trip and I spend about $100 a week, so if prices are 10% cheaper there I’m ahead. Or often I stop at the Shakopee one which is right on the way to visit my parents, so the cost of the trip is how long it takes me to get on and off County 21.
I used to not buy goods made in China because they’re a communist country. I used to not shop at Target because they support Planned Parenthood (or supposedly did at one time). Nowadays I don’t pick stores based on philosophy; it’s not worth it to me. Most of the stuff I buy is convenience food that doesn’t spoil very fast. If I’m going to ride a bicycle I’d rather do it someplace nice like Lake Harriet or Hyland park rather than around my neighborhood, where there’s zero protected bicycle infrastructure.
Most of these don’t deter me.
Cold? Free air conditioning during a warmth inducing activity.
The heat does dog me to some extent. I won’t bike to work because we have no showers, and I sweat like beast. Baby wipes only do so much. Anywhere else, I will take the chance that I will dry off. No cooling issues with my helmet on. I’m not riding for hours on end however.
The big deterrent for many is snow. The way they clear the streets in MPLS you might be biking over snow or ice on the streets for a day or two after snow, and even then the snow may have become ice. St Paul seems to hit streets during snow, or same day as storms, so you can often see clean pavement after snow has been cleared. Sure, I know, winter tires, but not everyone can afford to do that.
Just move to the Netherlands already!
Nice post though.