Word on the Streets

the Pedal Pub

Last week, for the first time, we tried a unique Minneapolis bicycling experience: the Pedal Pub.

Our friend Shaun Murphy invited us to his third annual pedal pub birthday celebration.  It was a blast, though it bears little resemblance to a regular bike ride.

For one thing, it's very slow - about the speed of a fast walk.  That seems due in part to the fact that only eight of the fifteen occupants can pedal at a time.  Five people loaf, one acts as a bartender, and there's a professional driver.  Between the nearly one-ton weight of the empty pedal pub and the weight of the loafers, moving at all takes real effort.  Having been on the 'Pedal Cloud,' a locally-made human powered vehicle built on the chassis of an old VW bus, I was surprised by how much slower the Pub was.

The atmosphere among riders is quite festive, and only partly due to alcohol.  There's something about bikes that's just fun, and brings people together.  It was fascinating to watch the effect that the Pub had on passersby - waves, smiles, friendly honks from passing drivers.

At the Birchwood (more on this bike-friendly business next week), we got out and hopped on Nice Ride bikes for a higher-speed spin around the block.

I should note that there isn't consensus out there that the Pedal Pub is a good thing.  Poking around the internet while writing this post, I came across a facebook page dedicated to folks who hate it.  And the waivers we signed and warnings we received before the ride testify to a history of bad behavior by Pedal Pub riders.  We were told that not only would the ride end, but Shaun would be charged an extra $200, if any of the following occurred: public urination, harassment or swearing at people not on the Pub, getting on or off of the Pub while it was moving, giving alcohol to anyone not on the Pub, flashing, etc.

But for all the potential pitfalls, I'm now a confirmed fan.  Last night, we happened to hear it pass by my mother's house just after dinner.  All of our faces lit up - it's the Pedal Pub!  There's something contagious about it, something that makes people smile.

I'm not sure whether people are aware of this, but Minneapolis had the first Pedal Pub in North America.  It makes sense, for a few reasons.  For one thing, we're fairly flat; it's hard to imagine how the vehicle could function in, say, San Francisco.  For another, we have a bike-friendly culture that we sometimes take for granted.

To Helmet or Not to Helmet

A woman working as a bicycle messenger was fatally struck by a delivery truck in San Francisco earlier this week. She was not wearing a helmet. This incident, according to the San Francisco Examiner, has opened up the bicycle helmet debate in that community on both mandatory and voluntary helmet use.

According to the story http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/07/san-francisco-cyclists-death-rekindles-helmet-policy-debate, the advantage of bicycle helmet use is widely known and straight forward: bicycle helmets significantly reduce the rate of serious injury or death for those who wear them and are involved in a bicycle accident. The story also listed four reasons not to wear a bicycle helmet, and I must confess, some of these reasons are new to me.

1. Bicycle helmets provide a false sense of security and thereby encourages reckless bicycle riding.

2. Bicycle helmet wearers are passed more closely by motorists than non-helmet wearers.

3. If people are forced by law or custom to wear bicycle helmets, some potential cyclists will rebel and refuse to ride at all thereby depriving all bicyclists of numbers that would make it safer for all bicyclists on the road.

4. Bicycle helmet wearers look “dorky.”

In my opinion, as one who has been thrown from a bike with his head hitting the street wearing a helmet, the helmet use side of the equation is significantly more favorable than the non-helmet use side. But, I would be interested if others could list additional reasons for not wearing a helmet.

Regarding mandatory bicycle helmet laws, given the libertarian streak that appears to prevail in contemporary American society, I doubt if a mandatory helmet bill could be passed and/or signed by a governor in this state. However, I could see in the not too distant future, health insurance plans extracting a substantial deductible for their policyholders involved in a bicycle accident that requires emergency room medical attention or hospitalization where the policyholder was not wearing a bicycle helmet. What do others think?

These opinions are mine alone and do not represent any position of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.


Mpls Park Board Questions Part 2: Seriously???

Did you get shouted off the West River Road parkway trail by MPRB maintenance staff this morning, too?

Around 8:00 this morning, half an hour into an lovely early morning ride, I was feeling calmed by the river views.  Without warning, around 24th St. East just south of Franklin Avenue, the trail was blocked by several MPRB trucks, a few cones, and some maintenance staff - one of whom was angrily yelling "Closed!  Closed!" at commuters and other riders.

It looked like they were pruning trees.

It was rush hour.  The trail was packed with commuters.  As was the parkway.  There was no warning at a point appropriate to detour off the trail.  And did I mention the heavy traffic on the parkway?  The MPRB trucks were parked making a blind spot on the trail - you couldn't see what was on the road or whether bikes were coming from the other direction.

Do you suppose MPRB would close down West River Road during rush hour to prune trees without marking a detour, or try to detour traffic by putting an angry dude in the middle of the street yelling, "Closed!  Closed!"  Does the Park Board really approve of its employees yelling angrily at park users? I'm guessing not on both accounts.  (Hmmm... and would staff be willing to follow those orders?)

This is not the first time I've found a major commuting route inadequately marked/detoured for pruning during rush hour; last time it was in Loring Park.

This experience was especially ironic given the blog post I put up early this morning, "Questions for the Park Board."  It led me to ruminate a bit more during the remainder of my ride, and I have a couple additional questions.

I love biking to Minneapolis beaches with kids - the one just south of the boathouse on Calhoun is perfect, with its playground.  However, once there, it's tough to get home.  I'm a fan of the one-way trails, but for my 7-year-old niece, biking all the way around the lake to get home is too far, hauling bikes up the steep stairs to ride on the busy parkway is beyond her, and I'm not a fan of biking on the pedestrian path or riding the wrong way on the bike path.  Got any suggestions?

Lastly, can you get some Nice Ride kiosks similar to these rentals found in Minnehaha Park?  I understand the Grand Rounds is on the National Historic Register, and there may be some concerns on that front, but I'm pretty sure the big parking lots aren't historic, and the razor wire around the lock and dam at the Stone Arch Bridge isn't historic, and the playgrounds aren't historic.  Anyone willing to make odds that Wheel Fun Rentals is?

This morning, I felt relief when I got off the West River Road trail and back onto Hennepin County's Cedar Lake Trail.  When I realized that, I felt very sad.  MPRB, please go out of your way to welcome cyclists.  Not just me, but also bicycle commuters, tourists and locals using Nice Ride, and my nieces who just want to swim.

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