2008 has been a quite a ride, but as the holidays approach I have much to be thankful for. Here are some parting thoughts as the real Minnesota winter finally arrives. I hope to see a few of you on your bikes yet this season, and many more in the spring!
To begin closest to home, it’s been a dramatic year on the home front. Those of you who read this column know that my wife had a serious bike accident this spring. She had just joined a cycling club and was training for an event when she took a hard fall, shattering her wrist and hip and undergoing major surgery on both.
Less than six months later Laura’s recovery has been nothing short of phenomenal. Even her doctors are surprised. They thought she might be back on a stationary bike this fall. If she worked really hard on her physical therapy she might take a couple of slow rides around the neighborhood before the snow arrived for good. Well, yesterday she came home from a 60-mile training ride, her third long ride in as many weeks — and she’s never looked happier. Amazingly she’s biked more miles this year, despite her accident, than I did last year, and she’s still planning to race next season.
So, first and foremost, I’m thankful for my wife, who’s been an inspiration to me and to many of our friends. I’m also thankful for the support and encouragement she’s received from many members of the local cycling community — from a complete stranger who offered us a recumbent tri-bike during her recovery to the staff at her bike shop who have looked out for her all along the way to her recent connection with a cycling instructor in our neighborhood who’s been riding with her and providing skills training.
Up one level, I’m thankful for my neighborhood. On my block alone there are cyclists of all ages, abilities and interests. Four of us commute regularly to work by bike, a fifth bikes for an hour most days before work and many others ride several times a week for exercise. Judging by what I witnessed in the wider neighborhood, our block might just be average for our area. That’s a pretty amazing thought.
Coming home from the fireworks display on July 4, I ran into a group of neighbors on their bikes. Two families with children rode Downtown on their bikes to watch the show, returning in the dark with their bike lights lit. They said the ride was as fun as the pyrotechnics.
One neighborhood tradition I really missed this year after Laura’s accident was my morning rides with my next-door neighbor. Paul played a big role getting me interested in cycling after my own serious sports injury a number of years ago. Several times a week over the past few years, he would ride half way to work with me. After a brief stop for coffee, I’d ride on to work while Paul would circle back to our neighborhood before heading to his office Downtown. I look forward to more rides with him next spring, and hopefully with a few other neighbors, too.
Another level up, I’m thankful to be living in a community where biking is improving, not deteriorating. In fact, biking in the Twin Cities is growing at the fastest rate in the country. This past year, Minneapolis leapt into second place among the 50 largest cities in the nation (Look out, Portland!).
Unfortunately, with such dramatic increases come more accidents. Four cyclists lost their lives in September alone. But the rate of serious bike crashes appears to be rising more slowly than the increase in riding would indicate, and we should all be thankful for our community’s investment in promoting bike safety.
I’m thankful that Minnesota was ranked the fifth most bike-friendly state in the nation, with more than 700 miles of paved bikeways — more than any other state. My ride back from Duluth a couple of years ago — which took me along the Willard Munger trail, Old Highway 61 and the Sunrise Prairie and Gateway trails — confirmed this for me. And there’s so much else I haven’t even explored, from the Bluff Country in the southeast to the Arrowhead and beyond. So many great rides for the years ahead.
Like many people, I’m excited by the prospect of a new era of progressivism in Washington. Hopefully the new administration will recognize that bicycling gets to the heart of so many of our current social problems: The rise in obesity and other health issues, carbon emissions and global climate change, infrastructure and livable cities. And I hope our local, state, and national bike advocacy organizations can take advantage of this historic moment and demonstrate how cycling promotes the health of our citizens, our communities, and our planet.
Finally, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to share what I’ve learned and continue to learn about biking in the pages of the Southwest Journal. It’s been so meaningful to have people stop me on the street to share a thought about the column or ask a question. I’m the first to admit I have much to learn about cycling (and life in general), but I hope I’ve encouraged a few more people to see what the world looks like on two wheels.
See you on the roads and trails next spring, if not sooner. Until then, safe riding!