This is the first in what I hope is an ongoing series on bicycle friendly businesses in Minneapolis. Some businesses go out of their way to make themselves open, welcoming places for bicyclists. They deserve our praise - and our business.
First up: the Birchwood Cafe.
In addition to serving local, sustainable and very tasty food, the Birchwood has embraced bicycling like few non-bike-related businesses I've seen. There's a Birchwood Bike Team. And where too many businesses treat bicycle parking as an afterthought, bike racks are right out front at the Birchwood. And when they outgrew the racks they had installed in the boulevard, they pushed for the city's first-ever on-street bicycle parking.
What was once a parking space for one solitary car now holds more than a dozen bikes. And not only did the Birchwood have to pay for this installation - and pay to have it removed every winter, so that it isn't destroyed by snow plows - they had to fight pretty tenaciously to convince the City to allow it.
Now that this has been tried somewhere in the city, it will be much easier for the next business that wants to surrender an auto parking space to create new spaces for bikes. That sort of trailblazing is absolutely essential - someone has to volunteer to work out those first-time kinks.
As if that wasn't enough, the Birchwood sought - and helped pay for - a Nice Ride kiosk, also on-street.
This spot wasn't on Nice Ride's list of locations for the first year. This kiosk is only here because the Birchwood made it happen. As someone who lives around here, I can tell you that this isn't just an amenity for the Birchwood, and its staff and customers. When I take transit to work because it's raining in the morning, I know that I can hop a Nice Ride to get within easy walking distance of my house, all thanks to a certain bike friendly neighborhood business.
So - what about you? Any bike friendly businesses is your neighborhood?
I recently spent 4 days in San Francisco where I had not been for the past 5 years. While others in my group admired the architecture and other amenities of the city, I was looking for bicyclists, bicycle lanes, and how bicycles were interacting with cars.
I immediately noticed an explosion of bicyclists from my last visit. On the Saturday afternoon I was there, I would characterize the bicycle activity as rush hour Midtown Greenway density spread out into the city streets in most of the flat and moderately hilly neighborhoods. I noticed a number of regular stripe and green stripe bike lanes, sharrows, bike boxes, and even sharrows and bike lanes on the same block. The percentage of helmet wearers appeared higher than Minneapolis but the use of night time lights was substantially less.
The bicycle controversy at the time was a police campaign to ticket bicyclists who run red lights. Apparently, there had been a recent spate of pedestrians struck by bicyclists and there had been at least one incident where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a cyclist running a red light.
I was able to visit the offices of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. They were very busy and I was not able to spend a lot of time with them. They are in raw commercial space on the 10th floor of an old downtown office building. Right off the elevators were vertical wall bike racks where the staff and volunteers store their bikes. There were a number of 4 foot by 6 foot maps, graphs and artist renditions on the walls. SFBC has 4 paid staff and a number of volunteers and interns. Their goals are similar to those of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition: to make the city a safe and comfortable place for bicyclists of all ages and abilities.
The city is half way through its bike plan and it looks like the advocates are well on their way to making San Francisco a first class bicycling city comparable to many European venues.