Messages from the Council Chair

I’m on board the bicycling trend

March 2021

Chair Zelle posing on a bridge with his bike.It took a parking lot to turn me into a bike commuter.

A few years ago, I had an office just outside downtown Minneapolis. Like a lot of people, I would drive there every day, parking in a lot adjacent to my building. However, when we needed to resurface that lot, I drove to a temporary parking lot, then walked to my office. On one of these walks it occurred to me that I could simply bike the 4.5 miles to work in the same amount of time.

While I was in my daily routine of driving to work, it never occurred to me to change up my commute. It was only when something changed that I decided to change. The pandemic is certainly something that is changing life for all of us, and the way we return to work could be fundamentally different for many people.

On April 19 we will have the chance to observe National Bike Day, and in the middle of the pandemic we’re finding that record numbers of people are beginning to bike. One recent survey found that the number of people in the Twin Cities who said they had biked in the last week rose from 3% in 2019 to 20% in 2020. That same survey found that the number of people getting outside for all forms of exercise — waking, biking, jogging — more than doubled in the same amount of time.

Our region has built the infrastructure to support this new sensibility. Minneapolis is among the top bike communities in the nation, ranking 4th among cities of its size. Regionally, we have more than 400 miles of trails.

The Met Council is working with cities and counties to continue to build out a broad, regional network of trails that people can use for commuting and recreation. From Coon Rapids to Mahtomedi to Inver Grove Heights we’re leveraging federal, local, and regional funding to create an even better system of trails and bike connections.

As we continue to plan and build the region’s transportation system, we are adding more choices for people to get around. People should be able to choose between driving on excellent roads, taking world-class transit, or the joy of cycling to work on a well-maintained bikeway. This approach is friendly to changing lifestyles.

In many ways the pandemic has brought the future clearly into the present, accelerating trends that were already in the works. Virtual meetings and people doing more work from home and on flexible schedules creates more time to enjoy nature and exercise. These are just two of the positive changes to come out of the difficult year we’ve endured.