Bike ridership increases follow investments

The City Council freed up federal funds which will be used to create more trails.

John Hageman

Bike ridership in major cities like Minneapolis is on the rise following increased federal investments, a report published last month by top bicycling researchers showed.

Minneapolis has the most bike parking and the second-most miles of bike paths per capita in the country, which contributes to higher rates of cycling, according to the report for the U.S. Department of Transportation by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler.

Those paths are set to extend after the Minneapolis City Council freed up federal funds Tuesday to buy land from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad company. This land will be used to create a bike trail that would also run through the University of Minnesota campus. The University allowed the city to build the trail on their property for a nominal fee.

The trail will run from the Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9, a pedestrian bridge connecting the East and West Banks, to Oak Street. The University will still own the property after the project is completed, project manager Paul Ogren said.

TuesdayâÄôs resolution was a formality, Ogren said, and he plans to begin construction in the fall after some electrical ductwork that will lie under the trail is completed. Construction will take about three months to complete.

The bike trail will serve as a link between downtown and the University, said Tony Hull, non-motorized planning and evaluation analyst for Transit for Livable Communities.

“We expect that to have a significant impact,” Hull said. “Once that connection is more explicit and obvious, it will make it easier for people to bike downtown for work.”

In October, the city accepted almost $100,000 in federal funding for the project first conceived in the 1990s.

Federal investment in biking and pedestrian infrastructure has exploded from $5 million annually in the late 1980s to almost $1 billion annually in 2006-09, according to Pucher and BuehlerâÄôs report.

While investments in biking have led to increased ridership in major cities, thereâÄôs little evidence of a nationwide movement. The amount of daily commuters across the U.S. has increased by just 0.2 percent from 1990-2009, according to the report.

“That is quite a slow pace for the [country] as a whole,” the report states. “But for individual cities, truly dramatic progress has been achieved, and they offer superb examples that other cities can follow.”

An annual report by Bike Walk Twin Cities released earlier this month found that biking in the Twin Cities has risen 30 percent since 2007, with the largest increases found in areas that invested in non-motorized transportation.

The University Bike Center is one of those investments. The center, which will be located in the Oak Street Parking Ramp, is set to begin construction in about two weeks and open in the summer, according to Steve Sanders, bike program coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services.

Sanders said he recently received approval from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to award a construction contract, which he plans to do within a week.

The center will provide 24-hour storage to members, a repair shop, classes and showers for sweaty riders. The Hub Bicycle Co-op will operate the bike center.