The following post was written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, for the Southwest Journal.
If your idea of a “Minneapolis bike commuter” is a college student or young employee, think again. From Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to downtown office denizens, one of the fastest-growing groups of local bike commuters is white-collar professional employees.
On a typical workday morning – even during the winter – hundreds of employees arrive downtown on two wheels, filling parking ramp bike racks and helping reduce traffic congestion by removing motor vehicles from downtown streets.
Well-dressed professionals who regularly commute to downtown by bike are often asked: How do they do it, and why?
Meet Marty Mathis: purveyor (and wearer) of fine suits, who bikes to his business in the Northstar Center three to four times a week from his home in Edina. “I’ve been biking to work downtown for years, and I love it,” says Mathis, who looks years younger than his age (51). “I’ve biked in double digits below zero, and through six inches of snow. In fact, on the days I don’t bike to work, I often wish I had.”
Due to the nature of Mathis’ business and the fine attire it requires, he is often asked by customers how it’s possible to synthesize bike commuting with dressier clothing. Or in other words, “how do you get to work and still look good?” Mathis says.
The solution, Mathis has found, is preparedness – and ready access to a facility offering a changing room and showers. “Dress appropriately for bike-riding, based on the weather – cool clothing for summer, and layers for winter – and bring your work clothes to work in a garment bag,” Mathis advises.
At the start of each week, Mathis lays out his complete post-bicycling wardrobe for work – all the suits, shirts, ties and shoes he’ll need, based on the number of times he plans to bike that week – and drops them off at work. After his 9-mile, one-way ride into work, Mathis swings by a nearby health club for a quick shower and change of clothes.
“I tell people, ‘look, if I can do it (given the type of work clothing I wear), you can do it too,’” Mathis says. “You just have to get out of bed, pump up your tires, and get going.”
Mathis, a member of the Bike Edina Task Force, has found a favorite route for commuting downtown: north on Edina city streets to St. Louis Park, from St. Louis Park to downtown on the Cedar Lake Bike Trail, and then through downtown to his business on designated bikeways.
“It takes me about the same amount of time to get to work by bike as it does by car: about 35 minutes or less in the summer, and about 50 minutes in the winter,” Mathis says. “I regularly bike for two reasons: to keep my weight down, and to help collect my thoughts at the beginning and end of the day. It’s great – along the way, I’ll often see all kinds of wildlife, such as foxes, eagles, hawks and more.”
Through his years of bicycling, Mathis’ weight has dropped from 185 pounds to a solid 170, his cholesterol levels have improved, “and I’m barely here, from a blood pressure standpoint,” he jokes.
Some bike commuting tips, courtesy of Mathis:
- Wear proper clothing – Bike in visible clothing, especially during winter, and in fabrics that help wick away moisture. Have raingear ready, just in case. “I typically wear a yellow shirt or jacket,” Mathis says.
- Be lit – During three of the four seasons, bike commuters will typically be riding to or from work in partial or complete darkness. “Have plenty of lights on your bike,” Mathis says. “I have a powerful beam on the front of my bike, and two bouncing red lights on the back.”
- Be seen – As a bicyclist, just because you can see the cars doesn’t necessarily mean car drivers see you. “Make sure that cars can see you, especially if you need to ride away from the curb (due to parked vehicles or road debris),” Mathis says.
- Be courteous – Obey traffic rules, and be mindful of pedestrians crossing the road.
For more information about bike commuting in Minneapolis, including the Guaranteed Ride Home Program (which provides registered participants with ride-home reimbursement up to four times per year), visit the City of Minneapolis bicycling Web site.