Well the word is out as Bill has posted. Cold winters are no longer a good excuse for cities being hesitant to build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. If you build it they will come. Incidentally, Rochester bike commuting rate in 0.6% and rates sixteenth highest of US Cities.
Minneapolis was given the # 1 Bike City rating and 5 of the top 10 US bike cities are in cold climates. These include Minneapolis, Boulder, Madison Wisc., NYC and Chicago. Minneapolis has a 4.3 % bicycle commuting rate and an impressive 6.1% walking commuting rate. That rate grew by 68% between 2006 to 2008 because of trail and bike lane expansion, grass roots advocacy and supportive politicians. Mayor RT Rybak is a regular bicyclist and the County Commisssioner is also strongly supportive.
I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with Dorian Grilley, of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and Steve Clark of Bike Walk Twin Cities about their programs. The program has grown because of infrastructure investment and they plan to expand bikeways 40% over the next few years. The average temperature in Minneapolis is around 25 degrees F in January and Febuary which is similar to Rochester. This is also true for Milwaukee and Madison which are also biking cities. They get less snow, about 54 inches, compared to Rochester’s 94 inches which gives us a bit more challenge. In discussions with Steve Clark he noted that they are working directly with the city maintance crews discussing ways to improve the snow clearance using maintanance equipment and salt brine. The winter cycling rates have climbed as a result of this so that now one third of bike commuters are commuting year round. The bike commuters percentage drops down to 10% on cold snowy days but may climb to 40% on nice mild winter days. Walkers use the trails even more consistantly with three forths of walkers continuing to walk through the winter which is a very good argument for why we should be keeping our trails plowed and maintained year round. I’ve been investigating how northern climate cities have implemented their bicycle/pedestrian friendly strategies because this is the most common question that politicians, administrator and community leaders have asked when discussing Active Transportation with them.
My sister lives in St. Paul and I’ve cycled around Minneapolis and the trails and bike lanes are terrific. The following video gives you a feeling for the spirit that the Minneapolis community has in about biking and walking. We can learn a lot from them and use thier example to show it can be done in Rochester:
The Bike Walk Twin Cities Wesite is excellent. Check it out. The Midtown Greenway Website is also excellent and gives you a feel for their 5.5 mile trail from the Mississippi to Minneapolis.