Anne spoke with Richard Arey, long-time director of the St Paul Bike Classic and the Mankato River Ramble. These are extremely popular, non-competitive bike events for people of all ages and abilities. They benefit the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. Check them out at www.bikeclassic.org and www.bikeriverramble.org.
Anne: How popular is biking?
Richard: It continues to grow and to move in new directions. This year we will be up again with about 6,500 people riding in the St. Paul Bike Classic. Minnesota is ahead of the curve being the #2 bike-friendly state in the nation. An interesting trend is that the Minnesota high schools are creating cycling leagues. They are creating a mountain bike sport for kids that aren't into ball sports. They’ve had great success in CA and great response here. Next year is the first official season.
Anne: What other trends are you seeing?
Richard: There are lots of new NICE ride bike sharing stations, that’s new. We are one of the leaders on that where you can rent a bike right off the street with a credit card. We’re a couple years ahead of NYC on that, beating the east coast trends. Blue Cross/Blue Shield is a major sponsor of these bike stations.
For the Bike Classic, we are getting more people interested in a scenic longer route. The short routes are also popular so this year we’ll have 15, 30 and 41 miles options. Half of our riders are women.
Anne: What about commuting? I’m noticing more and more people on the roads, and lots of people using the dedicated bike lanes. Everybody is biking.
Richard: I’m especially noticing younger people commuting than ever before, seriously using bikes for transportation. I’m also noticing more independent bike shops opening up. I think that’s great because it is important when you are buying a bike to have it fitted to your body by a skilled bike technician.
Anne: Any other trends out there?
Richard: Unfortunately, I’m still seeing a fair number of people biking without helmets. Equipment is getting more high tech all the time, and color is everywhere. A wacky trend are the single speed bikes that don’t have gears and maybe no brakes! You literally have to be pedealing all the time—it’s for young people! High end bicycles are the real trend. People that are retiring and have money are spending $2-3,000 on a beautiful bike.
Anne: Any advice on what to wear?
Richard: At the Living Green Expo they had a bicycle fashion show, but anything loose and comfortable works!