Rob Jackson, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota Board Member
I became a bicycle commuter about three years ago and never looked back. After landing a new job, I saw an opportunity to link a Metro Transit bus route to an eight-mile bike ride in the morning. Today, in the Twin Cities metro area, combining public transit and a bicycle is a commuter’s dream, and I’ve found it’s an easy way to add fun, variety and some exercise to a daily commute.
I live just north of Saint Paul, Minn. and work in Golden Valley, so the combination of an express bus from the Hwy 61 and County Road C Park & Ride to downtown Minneapolis is the ticket for me. Without the bus ride in the morning, I’d be looking at a 42-mile round trip to work and back, which just isn’t practical for me—or probably for most people.
As a partner in a small business and a board member of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN), my schedule includes a lot of events and meetings. Needless to say, it’s a real treat when I have an open day on my calendar when I don’t need a car. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a fair weather rider as well. I don’t like to ride in the rain, but I’ll take my chances if the forecast is for 50 percent or less for rain that day. I end up averaging about 2 rides to work a week during the snowless months.
I cherish those days. I know it improves my attitude, because every day the ride is like a little adventure. Every time I bike to work I see or experience something new or different, and it’s just plain fun. (Not to mention that I don’t have to deal with morning or evening rush hour traffic.)
Here’s a typical day when I ride. I load my bicycle onto the on-bus bike rack about 7:00 a.m. Thirty minutes later the bus lets me off at 7th Street and Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. I ride past Target Field and catch the Cedar Lake Trail from Twins Way. The Cedar Lake Trail brings me out to Saint Louis Park. There I run into a lot of bike commuters from General Mills who take a similar route to get to their headquarters near I-394 and Highway 169. My office is across the highway from General Mills.
My morning highlight is normally the stretch between downtown and Highway 100. That’s where the trail passes by Cedar Lake. That stretch is fantastic: one-way bike paths and lots of open prairie full of wildlife. On my rides I’ve seen deer, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, turkeys, waterfowl and lots and lots of songbirds. Every day is a little bit different and it changes with the season.
I don’t take the bus on my way home. Though the ride back is 21 miles across the metro, I don’t have to deal with cars from the Cedar Lake Trail to the State Fair Grounds in Saint Paul. The new Dinkytown Greenway that crosses the Mississippi and cuts through the University of Minnesota campus, as well as the University Transit Way, make that possible.
Biking from one end of the suburbs to the other may seem unfathomable at first, but with a bit of planning it’s not only possible—it’s rewarding and relaxing. I highly encourage you to look at your commute to work and see if you can combine public transit with your bike ride. It’s a tremendous way to make the trip to work and back home something to look forward to and awesome fun. You might even see a coyote!