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.

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