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A Vancouverite in Minneapolis: bike share, bike trails, no bike helmets

July 16th, 2012 · 14 Comments

I fell in love with Minneapolis, thanks to its bike-share system and its amazing bike routes. Some of you have read bits and pieces about that on previous blog posts. Here’s my Globe story on same.

The one negative I experienced, which I had to cut out of my story for space reasons, was that the city was good about providing bikes and routes that I came to expect they would have mapped perfect routes out for me everywhere.

So I was startled when I found myself on a busy commuter road, riding along in the left-hand bike lane on the one-way street, and suddenly realized that no one had indicated a way for me to get over easily to the right at Nicollet Mall.

I ended up crossing three lanes with frequent nervous shoulder checks for speeding cars coming up from behind. I asked a Minneapolis bike person about what I should have done in this case and learned a new term. I could have tried a “Copenhagen turn” — a turn into the crosswalk when the light was right and go across like a pedestrian but riding.

I had actually employed that technique a couple of other times when the bike lane suddenly ended and I wanted to avoid getting out into a busy street with no protection. That, plus riding down the sidewalk if it was empty, if the street looked too scary.

Something to think about for route planners here.

And, ah yes, the helmet thing. Yes, I rode around for two days with no helmet, which is not required there. Given that I’m a slow rider and was mostly on the very separated bike routes, it felt really like no problem. But if I knew I was going to be using a bike share system that much, like if I went to Paris for a few weeks, would I be tempted to pack my helmet for the trip? You bet.

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