I recently spent two weeks in Montreal, Quebec on business and was delighted to see the level of bicycle use and the number of both adults and kids biking throughout the city.
Montreal is a larger metropolitan area than the Twin Cities, but it is much older. The road system is typical of large cities, but most of the roads are narrow. Montreal also has a network of on-road bike lanes and accommodations for bikes. The network of off-road bikeways is a little less developed.
These efforts seemed to focus on developing an interconnected network for bikes with less emphasis on meeting exacting standards.To a certain degree this may influence a level of civility and patience I perceived among the cyclists.
In some places where I biked, the bike lane was about 5 feet wide and handled two-way bike traffic. Most of the cycle traffic in the city seemed to be for utilitarian uses and commuting, but there is significant recreational riding. It’s very comparable to the Twin Cities.
Interestingly, there was a noticeable amount of parent and child commuting both morning and evening. Kids were accompanied by adults while they rode to and from school.
I’ve noticed the same thing in Minneapolis over the last couple years. What a great way to blend physical activity, fun, education and family time into one activity. Some parents have kids on bikes, kids on trail-a-bikes and little kids in bike trailers or seats.
The parents have the perfect chance to teach the kids both biking skills and the “Rules of the Road.”
As these kids grow up, biking will just be part of living, not weekend recreation or planned activity. As Minneapolis develops its bicycling network, future users are also developing. I regularly see adults riding with kids mornings and afternoons in our neighborhood.
Check out your local schools to see how full the bike racks are. Believe it or not, some schools may not have any racks and some schools in the very recent past actually discouraged biking to school.
Attitudes have changed and there has been a resurgence of efforts to provide better ways for kids to walk and bike to schools and parks. There are now local, state and national initiatives for Safe Routes to School. It has been incorporated into the Complete Streets efforts.
If you’re interested in what your kids’ school is doing to improve walking and biking opportunities for their students, call them.
If you want to see what may be possible or what resources are available to improve safe routes to schools and parks, check out saferoutesinfo.org and dot.state.mn.us/saferoutes. These sites have a wide range of information and provide resources to help individuals and groups working to expand options kids to get to schools, parks and friends’ homes. Check it out and accept the challenge of keeping up with the kids.
Dan Breva is operations director for Nice Ride Minnesota, the Twin Cities bike-sharing program.