What Happened to the Bike? The Lack of Diversity on the Midtown Greenway

Editor’s Note: One of the missing voices in bicycle planning in the Twin Cities is college students who belong to a generation much less likely than their parents to own vehicles. This series of posts written by Macalester students for the “Bicycling the Urban Landscape” course are one effort to include these voices.  This piece was contributed by Christian Adams.

Coming from a medium-sized city in Louisiana, I saw many different types of people riding bicycles in my neighborhood and in my city as a way of transportation and to socialize with friends and community members. There were African-Americans, whites, Latin-Americans, and people of all social and economic classes riding bicycles, such as mentally handicapped citizens, the poor, and the rich. This diversity of bicycle ridership made me believe that bicycling was for everybody. So, when I moved to Saint Paul for college, one of the first things I noticed when I started biking is that there is a lack of diversity between ages, social and economic classes, and races. I not only saw this in Saint Paul, but also in Minneapolis especially on the Midtown Greenway. In Minneapolis, their bike infrastructure is tenfold compared to Saint Paul’s bike infrastructure; places like the University of Minnesota and the Midtown Greenway are great examples of how cities should involve bicycles as a major mode of transportation for all.

During the Bicycling the Urban Landscape course I took this Spring, we rode around the Twin Cities. One of the places we biked to was the Midtown Greenway. This being the first time I was on the Greenway, I was ecstatic for the chance to ride on a trail made just for bicycles and pedestrians. While on the trail, I regained an eagerness and a joy for biking that I hadn’t felt since I was a young kid riding my bicycle through my neighborhood. My expectations for the Midtown Greenway were all met except for one thing: the lack of diversity amongst riders. It seemed to me that even though there was a great trail that allowed bikers to experience the open road without the fear of automobiles and a chance that an accident may occur, there was not a lot of diversity amongst the people who the city wants to bring into biking. Everyone should be able to access the Greenway but there were so few (if any) people of color. There were more middle-aged white people on the trail. This lack of diversity made the Midtown Greenway seem dull and boring after the first few miles or so.

Midtown Greenway

This lack of diversity amongst the biker population has made me think about my time riding in the Twin Cities. I have been thinking “How can such an accessible mode of transportation with great infrastructure not bring everyone together?” Not including the many worries or criticisms that first-timers or daily riders feel, there are examples that inhibit diversity on the Midtown Greenway. One major factor that seems overlooked into what causes lack of diversity is the redeveloped condominiums and apartment complexes that have been recently finished. These apartments are inhabited by mostly white citizens. I noticed this after the number of people who entered and left the apartment complex that we sat to rest at. All of the people were white and mostly male. These apartments are a part of an increasingly number of white citizens coming back into the city for cheaper and more accessible transportation compared to the suburbs. This gentrification continues to be seen on the Midtown Greenway.

As my tenure in the Twin Cities becomes longer, I will be interested to see how the Twin Cities can increase diversity amongst its bikers and increase equity for people of all races. I believe that the Midtown Greenway can become more accessible as long as there are people who can promote bicycle advocacy amongst non-white citizens and communities and let them know that there is infrastructure in place that allows people to be safe and have fun biking.

Macalester Student Perspectives

About Macalester Student Perspectives

Contributing writers to this column were college students enrolled at Macalester College in Saint Paul. These posts were part of classes in the Environmental Studies, Geography, and Urban Studies Programs.