With gas prices around $4 a gallon, it seems like car manufacturers are working overdrive to convince potential buyers of the superior fuel efficiency of their particular vehicles.
But if you’d like to gain the ultimate in fuel efficiency — and decrease our national dependence on foreign fuels — look no further than … yourself!
Unlike motor vehicles, which rely on finite fossil fuels, your personal motoring energy comes by consuming naturally renewable foods and beverages. Solar power is responsible for growing or producing ingredients for nearly everything we consume: from fruits, grains and vegetables to livestock, fish and beverages. (I’ll leave it to others to talk about the various carbon-based inputs to food production and transportation — a topic all its own!)
Further, by considering yourself the optimal fuel-efficient vehicle, you help keep the American economy more robust. Currently, about half of our motor vehicle fuel is imported. The money that pays for imported fuel permanently leaves our local and American economy.
By contrast, most of the money you spend to fuel and equip yourself for transportation — on food, beverages, shoes, bicycles and more — stays in the local economy. Your personal energy providers — local farmers, grocers, restaurateurs, bike shop owners and more — all personally benefit from your purchases.
A new study from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs provides a local case in point. Researchers studied the economic impact of Nice Ride stations, finding that “as the number of Nice Ride bike-sharing stations in the Twin Cities has grown, so has the economic activity in the areas surrounding them.”
According to CTS Catalyst, “The researchers also found that Nice Ride users spent, on average, an extra $1.29 per week on new trips because of Nice Ride. Projecting that out for the overall survey sample amounted to more than $900 per week in new economic activity, or about $29,000 over the Nice Ride season (April through November).”
The top destinations of these Nice Ride users might also match some of your top destinations: restaurants, coffee shops, bars or nightclubs and grocery stores. As I’ve noted before, about 40 percent of the places people go are within 2 miles — perfect for bicycling or walking. This list of destinations seems to match that idea pretty well.
Bicycling and walking into downtown
OK, so you’re a well-fed and well-equipped personal transportation machine — where to go next?
Well, for starters, you could be like thousands of Twin Cities residents who rely each day on themselves — by bicycling or walking — to safely arrive at their downtown Minneapolis workplaces and other nearby destinations.
According to the most recent data, about 4 percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work. The city hopes that by 2014, about 7 percent of the population will commute by bike. Fortunately, there are several good bicycle routes into Minneapolis. If the city is going to reach its commuting goal (and surpass Portland), more people need to jump on their bikes.
Considering downtown Minneapolis as your destination — as it is for approximately 160,000 people each weekday — there are ample bike routes available into and around downtown. Here are some options:
From the northwest, 7th Street North/10th Avenue North provides dedicated bike lanes into downtown from North Minneapolis.
From the west, the 4.3-mile paved Cedar Lake Trail runs from St. Louis Park (and incoming routes to the west) all the way to the western edge of downtown, along a nearly flat former rail line.
From the south, bicyclists have multiple options: the relatively new 1st Avenue South and Blaisdell Avenue South routes (a pair of one-way streets) provides 5.4 miles of dedicated bike lanes.
Further west, the Bryant Avenue Bicycle Boulevard runs from near 50th Street in South Minneapolis up to Loring Park, using a wonderful bike/ped bridge to cross over Lyndale Avenue and access the bike path that runs parallel to Lyndale and into Loring Park.
From the southeast, Minnehaha Avenue and 20th Avenue South route enables connections from the Longfellow neighborhood to the Cedar-Riverside area and the University of Minnesota East Bank campus. Bike lanes continue through campus, in front of the Humphrey School, by the law school, and into Northeast Minneapolis on 10th Avenue (which intersects with the 5th Street bicycle boulevard).
Once you arrive downtown, you’ll find plentiful, accessible and secure bike parking options outdoors and within most major parking ramps. In addition, the City of Minneapolis has more than a dozen secure bike lockers at locations throughout downtown, as well as at other key destinations, including the University of Minnesota and along major transit lines. To learn more about locker availability, call the Government Center Ramp at 339-2560.
Hilary Reeves is communications director for Bike Walk Twin Cities.