People across the country were surprised last year when Bicycling magazine named Minneapolis America’s “#1 Bike City,” beating out Portland, Oregon, which had claimed the honor for many years. Shock that a place in the heartland could outperform cities on the coasts was matched by widespread disbelief that biking was even possible in a state famous for its ferocious winters.
But this skepticism fades with a close look at the facts. Close to four percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work according to census data. That’s an increase of 33 percent since 2007, and 500 percent since 1980.
At least one-third of those commuters ride at least some days during the winter, according to federally funded research conducted by Bike Walk Twin Cities. Even on the coldest days about one-fifth are out on their bikes.
Minneapolis also launched the first large-scale bikesharing sytem in U.S. — called Nice Ride — and boasts arguably the nation’s finest network of off-street bicycle trails. It was chosen as one of four pilot projects (along with Marin County, California; Columbia, Missouri; and Sheboygan County, Wisconsin) for the federal Non-Motorized Transportation Program, which aims to shift a share of commuters out of cars and onto bikes or foot.