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May 14, 2010 9:18 AM   Subscribe

AnecdoteCyclingFilter: What are your experiences cycling in downtown Minneapolis/Saint Paul?

I'm from the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota and have the opportunity to ride my bicycle in the downtown Twin City area this weekend. What are your experiences cycling in the Twin Cities? How bike friendly are the drivers and cops? Are there any relevant laws concerning riding on the street of which I should be aware? Any other advice?

posted by 47triple2 to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Downtown Minneapolis is better than downtown St. Paul in terms of bike paths in the downtown area.

In my experience, downtown St. Paul drivers are meaner than Minneapolis drivers, mostly because it's much more confusing and fewer dedicated bike lanes. Cops should not enter into the equation unless you’re a really obnoxious biker or if you’re riding in a Critical Mass event.

Are you only biking in the busy downtown area? Or are you talking about the entire Twin Cities area? Because there are fantastic trails all over the region. For more info, there are lots of resources – start here.
posted by Think_Long at 9:26 AM on May 14, 2010

I bike-commuted from Dinkytown to downtown minneapolis for a couple of summers, and enjoyed it. It seems like most drivers are used to seeing bikes around. Don't be afraid to take up a lane if you're moving at or near the speed of traffic, and don't get doored.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:27 AM on May 14, 2010

Be bold! Use your lane. Drivers are pretty familiar with seeing bikers (at least in Minneapolis). Also, if your riding isn't limited to city streets you must check out the Grand Rounds. 50 miles of of lovely bike paths snaking through Minneapolis and St. Paul. Fantastic.
posted by koselig at 10:22 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bicylcling Magazine just named Minneapolis as America's top bike-friendly city. The forums at Minneapolis Bike Love have a lot of rides listed.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:26 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

The downtown bike lanes in Minneapolis are better than St. Paul, but not tons.

Along the riverfront and through the parks is what really shines if you're looking to cycle recreationally. No real hassles from either cars or cops, as those bike lanes are off-road. But many are speed-limited to 10 or 15mph.

Besides the grand rounds for off-road riding, there's also my favorite loop, which was downtown Minneapolis along the Mississippi to Minnehaha Park, and then to Fort Snelling (killer up-hill at the Fort - most folks walk up it), across the Mendota Bridge, and then a long long long shallow downhill to Harriet Island park across from downtown St. Paul. Up and across another bridge and then back up the St. Paul side of the Mississippi through many parks.

Most bike stores carry maps of the Twin Cities bike lanes and paths. Check the Minneapolis Where To Ride site for online maps.
posted by DaveP at 10:34 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the poster means "downtown" as in "not suburb" not as "the two downtown cores with lots of skyscrapers and angry drivers."

Biking around the cities is awesome. It's probably best to start with the trails if you don't know your way around and just want to have fun. I'm a big fan of East River Parkway, Minnehaha Creek, Lake Harriet, Lake Nokomis, Summit Ave, Theodore Wirth Park, Cedar, actually all the bike trails are awesome. The only one I'd avoid is Lake Calhoun, it's so crowded it's dangerous to bike at any reasonable speed.

Have fun!
posted by miyabo at 10:49 AM on May 14, 2010

My best friend bikes in the Cities and I bike in Sioux Falls. I've never joined her on a bike ride up there, but my impression is that she's a lot safer than I am, due to the fact that people up there are much more bike-aware and drivers know about bike lanes and how to drive around cyclists. Here in Sioux Falls, bicyclists in the streets startle and irritate drivers because they just aren't used to sharing the road. I think you'll be fine if you have any experience riding around on streets here.

To be honest, in Sioux Falls I stick to the bike trails whenever I can because the streets scare the crap out of me.

And OMG another person from Sioux Falls on MeFi? I'm not the only one anymore????
posted by bristolcat at 10:51 AM on May 14, 2010

Bristolcat, I'm actually in Mitchell, but I bike in Sioux Falls whenever I get the chance. :)

Miyabo, I can't seem to grok your first sentence, but I do mean "the two downtown cores with lots of skyscrapers and angry drivers."
posted by 47triple2 at 11:05 AM on May 14, 2010

Sorry for misunderstanding you! I mostly try to avoid biking in downtown Minneapolis, since it's always very busy. Downtown St. Paul is empty on the weekend though -- I've walked down the middle of the street before -- so that should be fine. All the businesses are closed though so there's not a lot to do.
posted by miyabo at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2010

I am sorry to be negative about this one. Please understand that my experience is 10 years old, I'd never do it again in Mpls, but maybe it has changed fundamentally.

That said, Minneapolis was the worst place I've ever tried to bike-commute. I bike-commuted to downtown every non-crazy-winter-day (you know what I mean) for four years.

I was hit three times. Each time, not my fault. I was doing everything correctly. The last one was a hit and run, and left me injured (on top of the car hood, rolled onto the windshield) and with my bike ruined. That was the end of me riding downtown. Luckily, a city bus stopped to help me, and provided a witness to the hit and run. The police - no joke - were not interested in taking my hit-and-run report. I tried for two hours at police HQ, no help at all, and I was a corporate lookin' dude, not a crazed hippie.

Often, at least a couple times a week, I would get people who thought it fun to drive up behind me - very close - and honk, trying to scare me. This because - apparently - I had the audacity to claim my driving lane when there was no bike lane. I also would get yelled at frequently, I guess that's better than attempted murder.

The attempted murder - I was once chased with what I thought to be murderous intent by a jacked-up pickup for flipping him off after he tried to sideswipe me. I mean, a literal attempt to hit me by swerving as he passed. How dare I demand rights or respect, really! He chased me the wrong way down a one-way street, even hopping the curb to try to run me down. Yet, I still rode my bike, until it was ruined.

I cannot say any more clearly how messed up I thought Minneapolis drivers were.

In comparison, my two home cities since (Austin TX and Portland OR) have been much friendlier. I've bike-commuted in Portland, with nothing like the terrible attitudes of the car-obsessed Minnesotans. It lends a little credence to my belief that it wasn't me, it was Minneapolis drivers.

I would never, ever, try to bike-commute in Minneapolis again, sorry.
posted by Invoke at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2010

Many of the downtown streets have bike lanes painted on them. Because many of the streets downtown are one-way, the bike lane may not always be on the same side of the street (some places it's on the left, others on the right - I don't believe there are still any in the middle of the street since Hennepin Ave. was restriped, but I could be wrong). Be sure to ride in the bike lane if there is one - that's where drivers will be expecting you.
posted by nickmark at 11:44 AM on May 14, 2010

My brother used to live in Minneapolis and commuted by bike to work. He was hit by cars TWICE, both times were hit and runs. However, the only time he was seriously injured was when he was biking in the early spring last year, slipped on some ice going downhill, and broke his hip. So.. wear a helmet?

However I have lots of friends who live in Uptown and bike everywhere. They don't seem to share my brother's bad luck.
posted by gumtree at 1:09 PM on May 14, 2010

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