MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- With the return of summer, we get more than an opportunity to swat at mosquitoes. Thousands of folks in the Twin Cities dust off their handle bars and tune up their bikes; and once they get to the end of the driveway, they have options. Lots of options.
The metro area has long been recognized as a nationwide leader by offering hundreds of miles of paved trails and bike lanes. "Blessed, yes, but I think there's probably a lot of people who put a lot of effort and work into it to make it happen. It doesn't happen by itself," St. Paul biker Dan Shindelar said looking out at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, a popular stop off for avid bikers.
Minneapolis takes pedal-power very seriously. Having been recently voted the country's most bike friendly city, it offers 83 miles of off-street paths along with 43 miles of street bike lanes. The Minnehaha Trail, the Grand Rounds, and the Greenway are among the most used trails in the nation. The city says the biking community has doubled since 2000 and quadrupled since 1980.
"Every year too, when I go out, you find new places where they added and connected more trail together," Shindelar explained.
Soon, every corner of the metro will be connected, somehow, by bike trail. The Three River's Park District has connected most of the North and West sides of the Metro, offering paths from Coon Rapids to Maple Grove to Plymouth while also connecting with the massive Minneapolis system.
On a typical weekday afternoon, we found dozens of bikers in a 10 minute span cruising the 3 Rivers trail where it connects to the Luce Line (near Vicksburg) and heads all the way out west to Winsted, Minnesota.
The east metro is also bursting with biking options. "Welcome to Little Canada," Don Hopkins proclaimed in the parking lot at the Taste of Scandinavia. Hopkins was hosting one of the 2,000 rides facilitated by the Twin Cities Bicycling Club. A couple dozen members showed up for a 42 mile jaunt to Stillwater and back.
"It's a great opportunity to enjoy the cities," Club President Pat Seleen said. "You ride in different parts of town, you see different trails," member Dick Voss added. Voss rode 8,000 mile by bike last year and puts more miles on his bike than he does on his car.
The cycling team hit two of the metro's most popular trails on its Wednesday run, navigating down Ramsey County's Bruce Vento's trail and then looping onto the DNR's Gateway Trail. The Gateway runs 18 miles from St. Paul all the way to Pine Point Park North of Stillwater.
Riders appreciate the fact that they're running on the old Soo Line track, which is relatively flat. "So it's great for old ladies. It's a great resource, people use it," Lynne Murphy said. Murphy was going to take a 10 mile ride through the rural part of Washington County when we caught her. "It's just one of the most lovely bike trails around as far as I'm concerned, I certainly appreciate the fact that it's there," friend Carmen Swanson added.
According to Explore Minnesota, the state boasts 7,000 miles of opportunity for pedal-pushers. The land of 10,000 lakes was recently voted the 4th friendliest biking state; it was also crowned the number one state for trails by a national group.
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