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Bicycle commuters on the rise in Twin Cities, census says

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A cyclist on Washington Avenue
File photo of a cyclist headed down Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, March 13, 2015.
Courtesy Patrick Stephenson File

The number of people who are biking to work in Minneapolis and St. Paul continued to rise last year, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week.

  An estimated 5 percent of Minneapolis commuters and 2.1 percent of St. Paul commuters said they biked to work in 2015, according to the annual American Community Survey. The number of bike commuters in Minneapolis is up slightly from the year before and more than double the number that reported biking to work a decade ago.

The 2015 increase in bike commuting is evidence that the city's investment in bike infrastructure is paying off, said Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

  "The city has been investing in new bikeways and protected bike lanes, in particular, all around the city," Fawley said. "It's really geared to making it safer and more comfortable to bike, and to be able to support new people trying and staying with biking."

  As of 2015, the city of Minneapolis reports that there are 129 miles of on-street bikeways and 97 miles of off-street bikeways in the city. The city also has a handful of bikeways scheduled to open this year across the city, including on Nicollet Avenue, Bryant Avenue North and Broadway Avenue Northeast. Just last year, the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve its bicycling master plan, which would add 35 miles of protected bikeways in the city by 2020.

  St. Paul has also added a number of bikeways, including the Margaret Street Bikeway in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood.

Mike Sonn, co-chair of the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition, said the recent additions appeal to a broad population.

"If you get people out doing some errands, and they can start thinking, maybe I can do this for work, it is a self-perpetuating loop, where you try it out in either context and you can apply it to the other one," Sonn said. 

Much of Minneapolis' increase is due to the fact that more women in the city report biking to work. In 2015, about 4.4 percent of women reported commuting by bike, a number that's generally increased every year for the last decade.      Part of that increase could be due to bike infrastructure that makes riders feel safer, Fawley said. But there are also a number of groups and events in the Twin Cities for women, transgender and femme-identified bicyclists, including Grease Rag and the annual Babes in Bikeland race.

  "We're trying to be more intentional with the bikeways," Fawley said. "It isn't just about serving what was seen as the core demographic for biking, the young, fit male, but it's about serving everyone across ages, across genders, and across ethnicity and race."

  The city of Minneapolis has set the goal in the Climate Action Plan to increase the number of bike commuters in the city to 15 percent by 2025.

  About 7.5 percent of St. Paul and Minneapolis commuters reported walking in 2015. That number has generally also been rising for the last decade, although the 2015 numbers dropped slightly from the year before.