We should all be able to walk or bike a mile (or few) to local destinations without fear of being hit by someone driving a car. We should be able to feel completely safe and comfortable doing this. Some of us can. Some, not so much.
Vadnais Heights, for example, is a city of islands – little neighborhoods surrounded by Ramsey County roads with fast traffic and no safe place to walk or bike. Within a just mile of my and my neighbors houses are our elementary school, a dozen restaurants, Target, Wal-Mart, a grocery store, a bike shop, Vadnais Heights City Hall, a church, and numerous other destinations. But most people don’t walk or bike to these places. Not so much because of time or distance, but because they don’t feel safe doing so.
The slightly less than one-mile trip from my house to Panera takes about five minutes at a fairly leisurely pace, about 1 minute slower than driving (unless parking is tight in which case riding is faster). By the time I get home I’ve burned 100 calories, saved $1 or $2 versus driving, and enjoyed riding. Unfortunately, there are no cycle paths or lanes which makes riding or walking somewhat less than pleasant for many.
Vadnais Heights Elementary school is less than a mile away. There are stacks of studies of the benefits of children riding bikes to school, from better health to improved academics, yet students, even within just a mile, a 5 minute bike ride, spend 30 minutes on a bus every day because the roads leading to the school are too dangerous for them to ride on. The 80 buses in our White Bear district drive over a million miles each year, burn over 158,000 gallons of fuel, and each bus emits fumes that are about the equivalent of 114 cars*.
We have a terrific lakeside trail near our house for hiking and biking in the summer and snowshoeing and nordic skiing in the winter. But getting there requires walking about 200 feet along a busy county road with a sharp curve that during the winter often has no shoulder. Several of us in the neighborhood have nearly been hit so, at least during the winter, instead of walking this 200 feet, we drive a mile to a safer entrance.
That’s my local mile. Numerous places I’d like to go, but limited safe ways to get there.
This blog is focused primarily on these local miles in the Northeast Twin Cities metro. Roughly east of 35W and north of 94. It’s about getting from our homes and workplaces to nearby destinations.
This is not about wearing lycra shorts and styrofoam helmets to ride 20 mph on a $5,000 carbon bike. It’s about wearing whatever we have on and riding to school, to dinner, or to have a pint with friends.
This isn’t about ‘cyclists’, terrific people they may be, it’s about the rest of us who just want to walk or ride our bikes to local destinations.