Winter bicycling conference happening in Twin Cities

Bicycle commute
Like many Minnesotans, Jana Velo rides her bicycle all winter long, regardless of the snow and cold temperatures.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2014

The frozen streets of the Twin Cities will play host next week to an international gathering on winter bicycling.

The Winter Cycling Congress is expected to draw hundreds of engineers, policy makers and bicycling enthusiasts to Minneapolis and St. Paul starting on Tuesday. This is the first time the annual gathering has been held in the United States.

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota Executive Director Dorian Grilley said Minneapolis provides an appropriate venue for issues being discussed at the conference.

"It's going to be the only conference about bicycling where they talk about salting bike trails," Grilley said.

Minneapolis has regularly earned accolades for being one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country.

As of last year, the city had 129 miles of on-street bikeways and 97 miles of off-street bikeways. St. Paul isn't far behind, with a total of 170 miles of different bicycle infrastructure like off-street paths or bicycle boulevards.

"I've been cycling in the wintertime since the early 1980s, and this is really a dream come true," Grillet said. "This is a recognition that Minneapolis and St. Paul have really been going the extra mile to get people to bicycle in the winter, and it really is showing results."

Dozens of speakers will share their experiences from their own communities during the conference, with experts appearing from as far away as Finland.

There will also be discussions about newer technologies like fat bikes, street design and maintaining bike infrastructure in a cold and icy climate like Minnesota's.

The conference also, of course, includes planned group bike rides. And, being Minnesota, there's a possibility of a big winter storm on the conference's first day.

"We had a call this morning, and we think that would be really fun," Grilley said. "We need to have winter at the Winter Cycling Congress."

The Winter Cycling Congress will take place from Feb. 2 - 4 and will be based out of The Commons Hotel in Minneapolis. Pre-registration is closed, but those who want to attend can register on the day of the event.