I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love biking in the 'burbs.
By Melody Hoffmann
I have been winter biking for about 10 years now. When riding around the city, I tire of all the exacerbated reactions. “You biked here?!” “How did you stay warm?!” “Aren’t you worried about a car hitting you?!” (FWIW, I am but that isn’t my responsibility. I stay in my skinny lane.)
Recently I ventured out to Coon Rapids with my bicycle and had a much different attitude about the whole thing. It wasn’t anything I prepped myself for. I just desperately needed some activity at the end of a cold snap. And a positive attitude followed.
I took my bicycle onto the 852 (thanks bus driver, for letting me on with it due to the full front bike rack) into Coon Rapids. The other bicyclists on the bus and I engaged in some chit chat (instant community when you carry bike gear). I requested a stop a few miles from my end destination. I hopped off at an intersection (the bus stops aren’t plowed in Coon Rapids) and enjoyed a leisurely ride to my errand destination.
I enjoyed the very generous road shoulders that allowed me to ride safely next to cars travelling 45 mph (the posted speed limit). When I rode onto skinnier sections of the road, drivers were surprisingly courteous. I was surprised because I just assumed suburban people who don’t interact with bicyclists would be less aware of the need to give me space. You know what they say about assumptions.
Then I pulled up to my errand spot and locked my bike to itself (I wasn’t too concerned about a fixed gear bike walking away in a car-centric shopping center). I carried my helmet in and engaged with the customer service worker. When they asked me if I biked, I affirmed but then added in something I usually don’t — a reason why. I said something like: “Yes, I did bike. It feels nice to get some exercise! It is such an easy way to get some activity in. And I stay warm because it’s like running. You get hot!” And I repeated this reasoning to the next person who asked me.
For some reason, I felt the need to be a bicycle ambassador that day. If I want more people to bike and more people to respect bicyclists on the road, then people need to hear why it is so beneficial. A lightbulb went off in my head. If I want people to give me space on the road out in Coon Rapids, it is best for me to smile and share a positive story. My hope is that it produces some empathy and that the next time that person passes a bicyclist they can put a symbolic face to the bicyclist.
Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.