This is my second time staying in Minneapolis over the summer break doing research, and guess what I have been doing when I am not working on my research projects or studying for the GRE? I get out and bike! Well, not ALL the time, but fairly often! Minneapolis is ranked as the #3 biking city in the country and #2 biking commuting city (US Census Bureau). The city has a plethora of scenic bike trails which take you from county to county, along and across the river on bridges, by greenways and alongside light-rail tracks. This is a fantastic way to explore the city using low cost transportation, exercise your leg muscles and obtain a getaway with fresh air, all in one. If you can take friends along on a group biking expedition, even better!
If you decide to bike in Minneapolis, these are a few of destinations/trails I highly recommend (biking time from campus in parentheses):
- Stone Arch bridge (10 min)
- Lake Calhoun (30 min)
- St Paul campus (20 min)
- West river parkway (5 min)
- Harriet Island, St Paul (especially the bridge on the final stretch) (45 min)
Biking directions to these destinations can be looked up on google maps. There are also several sign-boards and roadmaps displayed on the pavement for your reference along the way. There are a few more resources on bike trails and destinations in the Twin Cities, at the end of this article.
Besides being a wonderful recreation, biking also has several practical uses. It is a useful means of personal transport in the summer and fall, often-times faster than taking the bus/public transit to go places. You could easily fit a basket to the front of your bike and use it to carry your groceries from the Target Express in Dinkytown or Cub Foods at the Quarry shopping mall. If you're getting late for class, biking will take you there in half the time it would take for you to walk across the sprawling UMN campus (depending on where your class is located). If you're returning home late from the library or from a friend's place, biking will bring you home faster and keep you safe from any night-time straddlers on the sidewalks. Buses and trains have bike racks fitted on them such that you could easily board a bus or light rail back home along with your bike, when your biking soujourn has worn you out.
Putting all this aside, let us finally get to the fundamental question; how do you get hold of a bike? For starters, if you would just like to try it out the first time, you could either borrow a friend's bike or use the 'NiceRide' city-wide bike rental system. More details on this system are in the links provided below. If you decide to buy a bike, note that the price of a new bike is quite high, on average $100. Students often obtain second-hand bikes for much lower prices, sometimes as low as $20, through the annual re-usable bike sale on campus or through Craigslist online advertisements of bikes being sold. A few checks and precautions to be taken before buying a bike: the tyres must be properly fitted and not wobbly, both sets of brakes (front and back) must be present, the gear (if applicable) must be adjustable, and that the bike must be in overall good condition. Also get to know if bike thefts are common in your area and accordingly make sure that you have a secure bike rack outside your aparment or space inside your house where you can trust that your bike will be safe! There are bike repair shops and free air pumps located on and near campus, in the case that you need to get anything fixed on your bike