The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, that originally ran in the Southwest Journal.
If you’d like to get a better idea of a truly avid bicycle-riding community, jetting off to Amsterdam or Copenhagen will give you the best picture. But, if your travel is local this summer, certain pockets of Minneapolis show very strong rates of bicycling to work. One such pocket is Northeast Minneapolis.
Northeast Minneapolis – a haven for bicycling? You mean the traditionally working class community originally settled by Eastern European immigrants and now home to a variety of new immigrants from Africa and Latin America, as well as lots of people who’ve moved in from across the region?
Yes, that’s the one!
As part of overall efforts to raise awareness of new options for bicycling and walking, Bike Walk Twin Cities (a program of Transit for Livable Communities) has conducted surveys of residents at the neighborhood level. The intent is to find out more about transportation habits and attitudes as well as rates of bicycling and walking. Rainbow Research, a Minneapolis firm, conducted a random-sample survey of 135 Northeast Minneapolis residents this spring.
The early findings show that 8.1 percent of the survey respondents most often use a bicycle to get to work or school. Though admittedly a small sample, that rate of bicycle commuting is double the city’s overall current rate of 4 percent bicycle commuters (according to the American Community Survey), and already ahead of the city’s goal of 7 percent bike commuters by 2014. Kudos Northeast Minneapolis!
What other stats accompany the high rate of bicycling in the sample?
Northeast residents are young! Nearly half of the Northeast survey respondents are 34 years old or younger. Ten percent were ages 18 to 24, and another 38 percent were ages 24 to 34. These demographics perhaps reflect how Northeast has changed in recent years. Many of the area’s newest residents are looking to take advantage of the area’s relatively affordable housing, unique urban culture, and ready proximity to downtown Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the University of Minnesota.
Clearly, residents of Northeast are thinking about their transportation choices. When survey respondents were asked if they had thought about using their bikes to get to work, school, stores, or other destinations, more than they already do, 72 percent said yes.
These Northeast residents seem to be picking up on the fact that nearly half of the places people go are less than three miles away, and therefore perfect for bicycling or walking. Using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Local Employment Dynamics data, we know that about 15 to 20 percent of Northeast residents work in downtown zip codes – just a short trip away from Northeast. The 8 percent of survey respondents who regularly bike to work have discovered how easy bike commuting can be!
The survey also suggests that many Northeast residents are discovering the savings that can come from bicycling or walking. When asked about the reasons they bike, 27.8 percent of respondents cited the cost of gas – this was the top score among those who say they bike instead of going by motor vehicle.
Shedding a single car can save you up to $8,000 per year, on average, according to the American Automobile Association. And certainly, people today are looking for ways to save money.
Fortunately, access to quality bicycling routes in Northeast is good – and growing. For example, last fall, two new bicycle boulevards opened in Northeast, providing a higher-quality ride experience to local residents. The new 5th St. N.E. and S.E. bike boulevard extends from 26th Ave. N.E. southward to Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota. The route includes a bicycle-detection stop light at the intersection of 5th St. with Hennepin and Central Aves. It also includes the state’s first bicycle traffic signal at the Broadway Ave. crossing.
A new west-to-east bike boulevard in Northeast extends from Marshall St. N.E. to New Brighton Blvd., with nearby connections to the Quarry shopping center and the Minneapolis Diagonal Trail. The route features many speed bumps and other traffic-calming elements, making for a more relaxing ride for bicyclists. There also are new off-street bicycle trails on 18th Ave. N.E.
Even if you’re not a Northeast resident, you’re welcome to try out these newer bike routes, as well as many other bicycling amenities in the area. One thing is for sure: as a bicyclist in Northeast, you are certain to have plenty of company!