Paving the Way: Molly Sullivan

As Our Streets Minneapolis celebrates our 10th anniversary, we're taking a look back at some of the volunteers and groups that helped us get where we are today. As a community driven organization, we depend on local folks lending their skills and time to our movement. 

Molly Sullivan became a core volunteer for what was then the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition in 2012 and went on to serve as the Chair of the Board of Directors. Molly's work with our organization included advocating for pedestrian infrastructure, pushing for improvements to Park and Portland, and organizing at Open Streets Minneapolis around the Bikeways for Everyone campaign

Join us as we thank Molly for building our movement and paving the way for our future. Check out the interview below to learn more about Molly's motivation for doing this work, and her vision for our city.

Molly Sullivan biking with her family at Twin Cities Bike to Work Day 2019
Molly Sullivan (second from right) biking with her husband and three children at Twin Cities Bike to Work Day 2019.

Tell us a little about yourself. How do biking and walking fit into your life? 
Our family values taking care of the environment and we're busy, with work, school, child care, and volunteering taking place all over the Twin Cities. I bike, walk, and take transit most days of the week. Walking and biking allows me to get some exercise while getting where I need to go. Taking the bus or light rail allows me to get some reading and writing done while en route to my destination.

When we ride the bus with our three young children, we almost always fall into conversation with others around us. It's fun! My husband and I fell in love on our bike rides too and these days, we have some our best discussions while riding our bikes!

What is your favorite place to walk in Minneapolis? What do you like about it?  
I love the short walk from our house to our son's elementary school because we have great conversations on the way to Kindergarten!

What inspired you to work for better biking and walking in our community?  
I was an occasional cyclist in New York City until my friend Eric died when a drunk driver killed him on a bike path. In response to his senseless death, I began volunteering for Transportation Alternatives and eventually went to work full-time for this non-profit advocacy group which focuses on transportation equity in New York City. Now that I live in Minneapolis, I'm still as passionate about creating better conditions for walking and cycling for everyone in the city.  

How did you first become connected to Our Streets Minneapolis? 
I became involved through my husband's involvement in an advocacy effort to get the protected bike lane on Washington Avenue. The group was entirely run by volunteers, meeting at coffee shops and libraries at the time. Lisa Bender was such a welcoming presence and included me into the life of the advocacy efforts, and I will be forever grateful! I quickly became fully immersed in the volunteer efforts of what was then called the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

What was biking and walking like in Minneapolis when you first came to Our Streets Minneapolis/Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition? 
When I first moved to Minneapolis, I rarely saw people walking around unless I was on the UMN campus. I think that the number of pedestrians has increased in recent years but its still very low compared to other cities. 

How has the city changed since you first started doing this kind of work? Are there any specific examples that come to mind? 
I see more families bicycling. There are so many different kinds of family cargo bikes available and it has increased how families can use bicycles for their everyday transportation needs. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced in this work? Do you think the challenges in our movement have changed over time? 
I think that advocacy efforts focusing on bicycles need to expand to focus on transit as well. Transit provides the greatest opportunity for people to leave cars behind but it has to be efficient, convenient, and comfortable. 

What is your vision for the future of transportation in Minneapolis? 

One in which transit is ALWAYS faster and more efficient than riding in a car.

If you could change one street in Minneapolis overnight, which street would you change? How would you change it?
Lyndale Avenue. I'd make it one lane of car traffic with bus rapid transit lanes on either side.


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