Interviews

Biking Mama: An Interview

I sat down with Sarah Tschida and her daughter, Willa, to talk about her role on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s board, her experience of biking as a parent, and how we can support new parents and encourage them to bike with their kids. 

Biking in Mpls: Tell me a little about how you got into biking.

Sarah: I have worked at the University of Minnesota now for over 11 years. At the time we were living in Prospect Park and I had a coworker who would bike into work all the time. He would bring his bike into our office. He would always say, “Sarah, you should give biking a try.” Every day my excuse was, “Well, I don’t have a way to carry my stuff,” or, “I’ll show up too sweaty,” or, “My bike isn’t tuned up and I don’t have the right gear.”

One day I finally decided, “I’m going to give this biking thing a try.” I had biked around for fun but had never bike commuted. I gave it a try and it only took me about fifteen minutes. I remember going into my coworker’s office and saying, “I did it! I biked to work!” He was super happy, I was super happy. From then on out I was hooked on being a bike commuter. It’s been a huge part of my life for the last eight or nine years.

How did you end up serving on the board of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition?

A few years ago I was looking for ways to get more involved in our community. I was excited about all the cool things happening in Minneapolis with small businesses, the breweries, new parks, and infrastructure. I happened to see a post come across for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition seeking board members. I had no experience in the bike world or active transportation besides the fact that I did it myself. I went for it and I feel like they took a huge chance on me.

When I first joined the board about two years ago, I thought it would be about how we just need more bike lanes and that would be the extent of the work. It’s been so inspiring. The people that I work with on the board have been super inspiring. It’s made me think about our community and how we can each contribute to making it strong. Making sure our spaces are safe for people biking and walking contributes to people being out, getting out of their cars, getting out of their houses, and meeting people. It’s a way to reclaim the city from a more car-centric design.

How did you end up deciding to bike with your kiddo? Was it a natural progression?

Yes, I would say it was a natural progression for the most part. I biked a lot while I was pregnant. I’ve always had this attitude, ‘I can do it, I can do whatever!’ I felt that when I was pregnant. There’s so much fear that comes from articles, from physicians, even midwives. Luckily I had some strong women in my network who were moms and who were good role models. They told me to carry on my daily life and, yes pay attention, but still keep up with it. I took that mentality for biking and continued to bike throughout most of the pregnancy. At the end it was a lot easier to bike than it was to walk. I was just so huge and so uncomfortable. I was having lower back pain and being on a bike helped quite a bit.

I figured we’re going to be the kind of family that biked around. Willa’s going to grow up on a bike and whatnot. I had these visions that I’d be on maternity leave for four months and Willa and I would to bike around and it’s would be grand. Then I started to read more about biking with kids, and there’s a ton of fear around that too, especially with babies. The American Medical Association recommends that you wait until your kid is at least a year until biking with them. That was a really tough realization right around the time that she was born. I was going to bike on my maternity leave with her! But then I was told that I couldn’t do that.

One of the things I kept reading about was about how when your baby doesn’t have neck control, being on a bike and going over bumps can be damaging to their little bodies. That got me thinking about about how I was walking around the neighborhood with her in a stroller and she’s bouncing around quite a bit and I’m driving her in a car and she’s bouncing around there too. Why is there this notion that it’s okay to walk around with your baby in a stroller but not put them on a bike?

I didn’t bike with her right away. When she was about six months we put her in the Burley and took her out. She had her carseat bungeed in there and was all bundled up because it was December. We biked and it was great. It was really tough in the beginning coming to the realization that I was going to put off biking for at least a little bit. That was the right choice for me at the time.

Now, it’s great. She enjoys it almost all the time. I want her to be able to get around safely herself when she’s old enough to ride a bike. I want to be able to get around with her now. I want her to be able to bike and walk to school safety. That’s propelled me with the Bike Coalition work and working here in this neighborhood with the Kingfield Neighborhood Association to advocate that we can do better. We can take some easy measures to make traffic calmer, to make it easier for people to get around with kids.

Have you talked to other parents about biking with kids? Do you know what the main barriers are for them?

I think there’s a lot of fear and gear can be a barrier because it’s expensive. Like everything with a kid, they grow out of stuff. It can be a big investment. One of the things I would love to see is a network where you can swap and test gear. Out in Seattle there’s a family bike organization that holds a gear fair where families can bring their gear so you can try out different gear and talk to about what it’s like to bike with that gear.

The amount of logistics you have dealing with a kid, it’s incredible how long it takes us to get out of this house any time we need to go anywhere: did you grab the diaper, did you grab the bottle, did you grab an extra set of clothes? That’s already so intimidating in general, so to add the bike helmet, and sunscreen, and a blanket, it can be overwhelming.

What I’ve found is that biking might take me ten or fifteen minutes longer to get there, but it’s going to be much more enjoyable for the two of us if we go by bike. That extra fifteen minutes helps me get some exercise in. I don’t have time to work out all that much, so that’s where biking for me is like killing two birds with one stone. I can bike to work and get my workout. I can bike to daycare and pick her up while getting a little exercise in and getting her some fresh air.

If you look at the big picture, going by bike is very beneficial.

What do you think would help new parents decide to bike with their kid?

Seeing more people do it and celebrating biking with kids. I haven’t been the direct recipient of parent shaming, [when people say] “Oh I can’t believe you’re putting your kid on a bike, it’s so unsafe.” But I know that’s out there. The more of us that can own it, like, “Yes we bike and we’re biking with our kids and we’re going to be okay.”

Having a place to connect with other people. This past summer I wanted to go to ArtCrank in Northeast. Nick was out of town. What I really wanted was to meet up with someone in my neighborhood and bike over together. I tried to look online to see if there was any way to connect with other parents who might be biking. It got me thinking, we have so many niche bike groups in the cities but as far as I know, I don’t know any specific group that’s for moms biking. I don’t know that there’s anything for parents biking in general. Being able to easily connect with people to meet up for rides as well as to talk about gear and getting tips could really help with some of the barriers.

I feel like everyone I’ve talked to who bikes with kids has a big community of people who do it.

I think it’s really necessary. Becoming a parent can be isolating in some ways especially if there aren’t a lot of kids in your friend group. I think biking is a great way to find a community. It’s important to support one another and to not feel like you’re the only one out there being a crazy biker with kids.

What’s your favorite thing about biking?

There are so many things that are my favorite thing. I think it comes down to the connection. The connection that I feel to getting exercise and getting fresh air. The connection that I feel to having a quiet moment to think. I feel like that’s where I come up with some of my big ideas. It helps me to reflect on things that happen at home or at work or life in general. My bike time is my thinking time. That connection to my body, that connection to my thoughts. The connection to the community and talking to people and interacting with people I would have never interacted with had I been in a car.

I think about all the time I was biking when I was pregnant. I distinctly remember this guy yelling out, “You go, mama!” And I was like, “Yeah!” We would’ve never had that interaction. It made me smile and I think it made him smile too. When the Blaisdell protected bikeway was finally finished, Willa and I were biking on there. The pure joy that was probably on her face was so apparent to people that were walking around. There was this guy walking his dog he said something to the effect of, “I bet you feel so great biking on this street now!” And I was like, “Yes I do!” That human interaction that you don’t always get. It’s so easy to walk around and put your head down and not interact with people. You notice things more [on a bike]. You miss so much by not getting out of your car.

Sarah Tschida is a cyclist, parent, and board member of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner and daughter.

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Bikers come in all ages: An interview

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The 8-80 Cities project promotes healthy communities where people ages eight through eighty can feel safe and comfortable navigating by whatever mode they choose. My interviews thus far have explored how adults in their twenties through forties get around by bike, but I’m looking to expand the conversation. Reed Nicholls is nine years old and just finished 3rd grade at Northrop School. I sat down with him and his mom, Amy Brugh, to hear his perspective on riding a bike in Minneapolis.

Biking in Mpls: Tell me a little about how you ride your bike, do you ride with friends or with family?

Reed: Mostly with my family.

Biking in Mpls: When you’re going places or just for fun?

Reed: Sometimes we just go on bike rides because we don’t have anything to do. Sometimes because we are going to a place.

Biking in Mpls: I heard you have two bikes, a tandem and your own bike, which one do you like best?

Reed: I definitely like my own bike because the tandem, whenever we have to go up a hill and down a hill, on the last gear it always gets me off on biking. It moves the pedals. It’s just weird.

Biking in Mpls: Do you ever do any tricks on your bike?

Reed: I remember my brother and I we used to want to know how to do a wheelie. Sometimes when I’m riding I’ll try and pop up into a wheelie.

Biking in Mpls: Has that ever worked?

Reed: No

Biking in Mpls: What are your favorite places to ride?

Reed: I like riding down at [Minnehaha] parkway and other times I ride around on the square that the streets have made with 46th, Bloomington and Cedar, and 42nd.

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Amy: Could you tell Lindsey about what your school does on bike day?

Reed: We have a bike-a-thon. A whole bunch of kids bring their bikes to school. For the smaller kids you only bike two miles, I think. But for third grade and up, that means me, we bike over eight miles.

Biking in Mpls: Where do you go on the bike ride?

Reed: We go way down by the Mississippi by Fort Snelling State Park.

Biking in Mpls: Do they do that throughout the year or just once?

Reed: Once a year.

Amy: What would you think if they did that more often?

Reed: It would be fun.

Amy: Could you tell Lindsey about what you’re doing this summer?

Reed: I have the STEM program, which is a summer school but it’s not a summer school. I’m pretty sure there’s some biking involved in that.

Amy: It’s at Pillsbury which has the bike fleet. I think they ride their bikes every day. It’s a MPS school program. You get to ride a bike with your class and you get to learn about how to maintain your bike and fix bikes.

Reed: That sounds good. That’s happened where the chain comes off. I was trying to fix it and when I finally got it back there was stuff all over my hands.

Biking in Mpls: Do you ride to school?

Reed: Sometimes.

Amy: Why don’t you bike to school more often?

Reed: Because of Cedar. I have to wait there a whole long time because some cars just don’t mind to stop. Sometimes when I’m biking, like at stop signs or red lights, I can see people looking down at their phones.

Biking in Mpls: That drives me crazy. How do you feel about that?

Reed: I feel mad. When the light turns green for me, I still don’t go because they’re texting. Sometimes the car is on the crosswalk, because I go on the crosswalk with my bike to get across instead of in the middle of the street. When I go on the crosswalk, all the time the cars inch forwards until they’re blocking the crosswalk so I have to go around them. That means I still have to go in the middle of the street.

Biking in Mpls: What would make you feel better about biking to school?

Reed: A bike lane!

Biking in Mpls: Do you feel like biking is important?

Reed: It’s definitely better for the environment. For driving, it gives off the exhaust. For biking, there’s no exhaust except your air coming out of you.

Biking in Mpls: Are there any other reasons you think biking is important?

Reed: Well it’s important that you get your exercise.

Biking in Mpls: What’s your favorite thing about riding a bike?

Reed: It’s fun. It’s just fun to ride your bike.

Reed Nicholls is a cyclist and future 4th grader living in Minneapolis.

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Biking in flouncy skirts: An interview

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Karen Canady is a cyclist based in LA. She has a women-specific bike apparel line called Bikie Girl Bloomers. She was in Minneapolis recently, so we met up to talk about biking and her clothing line.

Biking in Mpls: How did you get started cycling?

Karen: I’ve been riding my bike off and on since I was a kid. That’s how we got around the neighborhood with the gang. I fell in love with bicycling right after college. I went to college in Oregon where there were beautiful rolling hills and lakes nearby. My friend invited me to ride bikes out to the lake and I was like, “Wow, this is great.” My first purchase with my first job after college was a bicycle.

Biking in Mpls: How long have you lived in LA?

Karen: Since 1996.

Biking in Mpls: Has biking in LA been a challenge? I know LA is very car-centric.

Karen: When I first moved there, I couldn’t imagine riding a bike on the streets of LA. It felt like such intense car culture. I never saw anyone riding their bikes. If I did it looked like they were really wishing for suicide. As you get to know the city streets you realize it’s more doable than you thought.

Biking in Mpls: Have you seen the culture change since then?

Karen: It has changed. A lot more people are on their bikes. You can tell drivers get used to it. There are parts of LA where you see more bicycles and you can tell that the drivers are used to sharing the road.

Biking in Mpls: Has there been new bike infrastructure?

Karen: They’re adding bike lanes like crazy. Especially since the mayor before the one we have now was a bicyclist. He had an accident on his bike and broke his elbow. He became determined to add more bike infrastructure in LA. That really turned a corner for us.

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Biking in Mpls: Tell me about Bikie Girl Bloomers and where that idea came from.

Karen: About five years ago, I was trying to explore why I wasn’t commuting on my bike more often. My office was really close to my house. It seemed like I shouldn’t have any excuses. One of the factors was thinking about what I would be wearing and realizing how much I like riding in a skirt, but trying to figure out the best thing to wear underneath my skirt. I looked to see if anyone else was carrying what I thought would be the ideal shorts and I wasn’t finding them. I thought, “Well, there have got to be other people who wish they have this too.” If you don’t know how fun it is to ride a bike in a skirt, I encourage people to discover that.

I worked with a friend of mine who knows the apparel industry well. She helped me figure out how to get them made. We have a garment district right there in LA, so it’s pretty lucky for me that all the resources are right there.

Biking in Mpls: Have you seen an enthusiastic response from women?

Karen: My favorite thing was a friend of mine who saw the Bikie Girl Bloomers outfits, the skirts and the shorts, and said, “Oh those are so cute, I want to start riding a bike just so I can wear that.” She actually became a bike commuter and wears the bloomers. That’s my favorite story.

Biking in Mpls: That’s a thing I like to think about too. Part of the reason I don’t wear a helmet is because I just want to look like a normal person riding a bike. Is that your same perspective?

Karen: I want to help people break out of the notion that it’s only an athletic endeavor or something you do for recreation. It can just be how you get around doing your normal things. There’s an idea that, “Oh I can’t bike to work because I’d have to change my clothes.” Well, I’m lazy. I don’t want to have to change my clothes just because I went where I was going on a bike. The idea is to have very normal clothes. These aren’t big on reflective gizmos or special technical features. It’s just about being comfortable both on and off the bike.

Biking in Mpls: You have the spandex bloomers for under skirts. What was the driving factor behind making the skirts and the shirts?

Karen: I love riding a bike in a skirt so I wanted to make a skirt that was my ideal cycling skirt. I chose a fabric that was really light and flouncy with a big sweep to the hemline so it would flutter in the breeze as you ride along and blow up in a carefree way because you’ve got these cute shorts underneath. That’s how the Hitchable Flounce Skirt was born. The hitch refers to the ‘skitch’ which I can use to lift up the hemline to show a peek of the cute shorts underneath while I’m riding and drop it out of sight when I get where I’m going.

I chose a material for that that’s really soft and light and drapes really nicely. Something that’s both really comfortable, like wearing your jammies, but that looks dressy. If you’re going to put a blazer on and be in business-woman-mode, you can. Or you can go out dancing or out to dinner. The fabric is also nice because it’s sustainably produced. It’s a modal blend. Modal is made from processed beech trees. Beech trees don’t take very much water to grow. The chemicals that are used to make the fabric can be recycled so it doesn’t put nasty stuff out into the environment. I like that too.

Biking in Mpls: I noticed that many of your shirts have a scoop neck, is that a personal preference or an intentional decision?

Karen: Because the fabric is so soft and comfy, I wanted to make a top out of it too. I wanted to choose a design that would have both elegance and comfort and be flattering to a broad range of figures. The drape neck is something that lays nicely and looks dressy when you want to, but works for casual when you need it.

Biking in Mpls: Has being more involved in women’s bike fashion changed anything else about the way you dress or your general perspective on fashion?

Karen: I’ve learned so much about how apparel is made. I’ve learned what goes into fast fashion now that there’s mass production of really cheap clothing using really cheap labor and cheaper manufacturing techniques. I used to get excited about finding clothes that were really cheap. Now I appreciate the price that is paid in human costs and environmental costs. I’m more supportive of other apparel manufacturers who are doing things in an independent or small-manufacturing way or are made locally. I want to support that kind of fashion.

Biking in Mpls: Do you see your Bikie Girl line as being for everyone or is there a particular target market?

Karen: It’s designed to fit a wide range of ages and figures. I think most of my customers are in the 35 to 55 age range. Women who are a little more carefree about picking their own style. I’ve had women who buy these things for square dancing or salsa dancing. The kind of woman who’s a carefree or independent spirit. She may be younger than other people her age, if you know what I mean.

Biking in Mpls: What is your overall favorite thing about riding a bike?

Karen: I think the way I feel so connected with the world, like my spirit is soaring with nature while I ride.

Karen Canady is a cyclist and the creator of Bikie Girl Bloomers. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Bikes, dating, and spandex: An interview

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Biking in Mpls: What’s your bike origin story?

Anthony: I had a bike in college, got it stolen, then didn’t bike for a long time. Then summer after my first year of law school one of my friends, who was also in law school at the time, he was sort of into biking. He had a fixie and a steel-frame Fuji that was really cool. I decided to borrow that bike, which he was cool about, so I borrowed it for a long time. I just noticed that getting to class and everything was just so much more efficient. And I’d also been getting ticketed and scofflawed with my car. I lived in Loring, so I had that hazard permit parking. You can just park within a certain radius, it doesn’t matter where but in this block. It is convenient, but after a certain time everyone comes home so parking becomes very scarce. The whole five-foot from a driveway thing, I was getting parking tickets all the time. The scofflaw thing is if you have four or more unpaid then they just tow it and make you pay all the tickets and then go to the impound lot.

Biking in Mpls: Oh no!

Anthony: Then there was street sweeping. So in one year of school I had my car towed four times. It was devastating.

Biking in Mpls: That’s painful, I’m so sorry.

Anthony: I started to know people at the impound lot by name. That was when I decided, I’m just gonna try this out. I left my car at my parent’s house. Eventually my brother took it to Chicago and then we sold it. I don’t own a car now. That was right around the time where I found my single speed, so I bought that and I had my own bike. The fall of my second year of law school was when I decided I was going to gear up and slowly try winter cycling. When you first start doing it, it’s a lot of layering up, not always so great and not always so warm but, you know, I made it work.

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Biking in Mpls: In your email, you mentioned that dating without a car has been hard. Do you want to tell me a little about that?

Anthony: I’ve got an array of social dating apps: Bumble, Hinge, Tinder. Each with their own utility value and degree of fruition. That’s a whole different dynamic. So let’s assume that I’ve successfully navigated to a texting situation, which probably means we’re going to meet up. At some point we probably discuss interests and I mention that I bike year-round. Sometimes if I’m not super into it I might just show up in this jazz [spandex bike clothes]. Sometimes I might try a little harder and I bring clothes so then I’m temporarily naked in a public bathroom because I’ve got to put on chinos and not spandex. So that’s a thing. Most have been pretty cool about it. A couple haven’t. They ask in a very accusational and hostile way about not having a car. I think it’s more the absence of that degree of romance of having a guy pick you up and take care of the logistics.

Biking in Mpls: It’s probably a very different gender dynamic when you tell someone you don’t have a car. I was doing online dating when I did not have a car for about nine months. Dudes would be super into it, they’d be like, “you’re such a badass.” I tend to like people who ride bikes, but that was a weird gendered dynamic of, “oh you don’t have a car, you’re so hip.” Putting me in this weird box of ‘this is who you are because I know this one minor fact about how you get around.’

Anthony: Yeah, almost fetishizing.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah, I experienced that a fair amount. I also remember being on OkCupid and people having in their profile, “I’m not going to deal with someone who doesn’t have a car.”

Anthony: Really? I could see smokers or everyone has the obligatory “not here to hook up.” But that’s aggressive. I assume you didn’t pursue anything with those guys.

Biking in Mpls: I was also like, I don’t want to own a car. I have a car now, and I want to own like a third of a car. I want to have two roommates and I want to have one shared car together. So the perspective of someone coming into a potential dating or relationship situation being like, “We must both own our own cars,” that’s a value differential that’s probably insurmountable.

Anthony: It just speaks to somebody’s ability to accomodate, understand, and empathize. The assumption is that you’re going to safely arrive at wherever you’re going to meet. You’ll do everything to can to get to a place where you’ve committed to going.

Biking in Mpls: Right. I am very happy to go pick people up. My boyfriend doesn’t have a car so if we want to go for a hike, even if it’s out of the way I’ll go pick him up. It’s a 15 minute drive, it’s not a big deal to me. He doesn’t ask to be picked up, but I’ll offer because it’s a nice thing to do. Especially if we’re going for a hike far away, does it really make sense for him to bike half an hour to my house? No. I have a friend who lives in Northeast who’s married and they share one car, so yeah if we’re driving somewhere together, of course I’m happy to give her a ride. I think it’s such a luxurious thing to have a car in the first place that I want to spread it. 

Anthony: I think that speaks to how you value your friendships too. For me I try to operate under the assumption that I’m always responsible for getting myself home. Sometimes I’ll meet up with friends who are married, friends from law school who got married and live over on Girard. I know that oftentimes at the end of the night they’ll offer to drive me home. Sometimes I politely decline because I want the exercise. But I appreciate those gestures, so sometimes even if I would prefer to bike I still accept the ride. I just want to validate their offer.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah I think it makes people feel good to be able to do something nice by giving a ride.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s a thing we allow our friends to do to help us. That’s a demonstration of care and trust.

Biking in Mpls: The whole online dating landscape is really weird, but I felt like there were some extra layers when I didn’t have a car, which it sounds like you’ve experienced too.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s not always seen as cool, or as an indicator of my ability. Yeah, as you know, sometimes it really sucks out there. But it’s determination, planning, and knowing what I need to do on my ride to stay warm. The women who’ve reacted to it poorly see it as an irresponsible kind of thing. To them, driving is clearly the better option. So they wonder if it’s a stubborn willfullness to not be a motorist.

Biking in Mpls: There’s still very clearly status associated with owning a car in America. Also there may be a fear that if you don’t have a car it’s because you have a shit ton of credit card debt and you can’t afford a car, or something like that. Those are wild inferences to go off on based on this one small fact, but I feel like those both probably contribute.

Anthony: You see people’s reactions to it early on. I appreciate the presumption that I can take care of my own shit. I will get there. You don’t have to worry about me, we don’t have to wrap up dinner early because you think it’ll be dangerous. It’s not a weird manipulative way for me to suggest, “Hey, instead of biking all the way home, could I just stay over?” I’m not going to do that. So yeah, I’ve had some interesting experiences with it.

Biking in Mpls: Do you think not having a car has changed anything else in your life, for good or for bad?

Anthony: Yeah, definitely. As far as errands go and collecting things for living, like groceries, that’s definitely changed. I have to plan. I got to the grocery store almost every day. I don’t own a gym membership since I don’t feel compelled to work out ever.

I have to plan more, very rarely do I not have a pack with some clothes. I usually have to bike with work clothes. This is the first year I’ve gotten into this jazz [spandex bike clothes]. I notice people noticing that I’m dressing inappropriately to be in public. You just have to get over it. Sometimes people will snicker or jeer. If I do some work after this and meet up at a happy hour, I’ll probably be the only one dressed inappropriately. But I just deal with it. People can look and think, “Yeah that’s really kind of graphic in that area” but I’m like “whatever, I’m warm and I biked here.”

Biking in Mpls: Do you wear spandex year round?

Anthony: Only recently have I had to migrate. My waist is a certain size and my legs have started to be wider. I can’t find a saddle that’s comfortable that doesn’t rip my pants, basically. I’ve ripped too many pants and too many shorts. Otherwise I need to [wear spandex] to preserve my other clothes. I don’t know if it’s my saddle or what.

Biking in Mpls: I’ve never really ripped pants. I don’t really wear pants, I wear skirts and dresses. Those are perfect for biking, I can wear as many thermal layers of leggings as I need under a dress and still show up to a place and look fairly appropriate.

Anthony: It’s a pleasant contrast when you see ladies out there either all geared up or looking nice, going out with friends.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah, I love seeing all the different types of clothes people wear. All these people from all these different backgrounds, riding their weird bikes and dressing how they dress. I love it.

Anthony: It’s fun, this time of year you see more of the fatties, you see people geared up.

Biking in Mpls: Is there anything else you want to tell me about biking? Anything that inspires you, or that you’re excited about?

Anthony: It’s changed my lifestyle in a lot of ways. I eat a lot more. I feel more capable and independent. My alone time is definitely on the bike. I spend a lot of time just obsessing over cleaning things. Just in the last year I’ve gotten a lot better at maintenance. So saving money on labor but being able to tinker and put a lot of love into it.

I feel like a stronger individual. I can go be involved in my friends’ lives and do social things, and then bike 13, 14, 15 miles home. The things you get to see, like some things are so picturesque in the winter. Sometimes at night I’ll turn off my lights and just go by natural light. There are so many things I want to take pictures of, and there are other times where I’m like this is just for me. Just being able to keep those memories.

I have certain periods of my life associated with playlists, since I almost exclusively bike with music. Some rides are good and some rides are bad, and some rides I’m just trying to bike off some aggression, or some rides I’m bummed about some bullshit social dating thing. Then there are super happy moments. Some of my favorite times in the spring and summer are when you get home and you’ve done a bunch of stuff but you feel almost called back out there. No biking is enough until you’re just dead. You just keep going and going. Those times are so much fun.

Biking in Mpls: Well you kind of answered this question, but what’s your favorite thing about biking?

Anthony: You find different ways of motivating yourself. For me, in my last relationship, when I was biking and hustling to go see her, in my mind and in my heart I needed to move faster because I wanted to see this person. I was going to a place where I was going to enjoy myself. She never really heard about that, and doesn’t really know. She didn’t know how much love was going on in those rides to get me to her.

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Anthony Q. Truong is a cyclist living in Minneapolis.

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Let’s talk about St. Paul

Mike Mason lives and rides bikes in St. Paul, he also works to make St. Paul a better place for riding bikes. We talked about the differences between the two cities and what that means for biking.

Biking in Mpls: What bicycle stuff have you been involved in?

Mike: Early on, I worked with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. Now that I live in St. Paul, I’ve been involved with the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition. Not as an active member or participant but just coming out for the various things and attending public meetings. As we’ve initiated our comprehensive bicycle plan, I’m just trying stay involved and work with my city councilperson. I also worked on Powderhorn 24, because a lot of my friends have been involved with setting that up over the years. I volunteer for that every year. I do lots of rides. I go bike camping with my kids, which has been lots and lots of fun. That’s the thing I love to do most. I commute a lot. With my old company I started a group that helped get us certified as a bicycle friendly business. Lots of trying to casually put myself out there as willing and able to help anyone and everyone who has questions.

It’s starting to get to the point where I feel like I need to do a little bit more active participation in joining some of the local organizations. From both an advocacy standpoint, to ensure things happen, and just having more time now that my kids are older.

Biking in Mpls: It seems like the community around cycling in St. Paul is more tightly knit than in Minneapolis. Obviously there’s a community in Minneapolis, but there’s more political support, so not everyone knows each other.

Mike: They also have a longer-standing group. I mean you have the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition which has full funding and staff and dedicated resources towards advocating for all things bicycle infrastructure within the city. My mom was on the Minneapolis Park Board in the early 90s to roughly late 90s. She had two terms, I want to say. She was on while they were putting in the Midtown Greenway and while they were building out the Kenilworth Trail, a lot of the early infrastructure in Minneapolis that’s now is kind of taken for granted. She helped initially with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and that group had more interest and influence from established political folks within the city of Minneapolis.

Where in St. Paul it’s very grassroots, a few of us keep calling and advocating for different things. Bill [Lindeke]’s great because he’s actually gotten onto some different commissions as he’s been active. It is funny to think about because it reminds me of how the bicycle scene was in Minneapolis for a long time. You’d see the same 10-20 people and you’d be like, oh hey there’s Bjorn, or hey there’s Jessica. Now in St. Paul as I’m riding around I have a little bit of that feeling of when you’ve really liked a band for a long time but now everybody really likes it. Oh look at all these bikers out here, it’s great but I don’t know any of them! There is that.

Biking in Mpls: That’s kind of my impression. 

Mike: I think because St. Paul is at a turning point with investment and building out their infrastructure, the Grand Rounds and having approved their comprehensive bicycle plan and trying to get that work actually put in place, a lot of us now that are a part of the St. Paul – I hesitate to say even St. Paul bicycling scene – those of us who ride bikes in St. Paul are trying to make sure we pressure the right people to ensure it happens. There is the demonstrated backlash against this type of progress that I’ve seen in Minneapolis and repeated in other cities. It’s just a matter of continuing to make sure that those people who are in charge of making sure those things happen have good positive evidence and influence to do that. There’s a lot of rolling back of progress because unfortunately people speak out loudly against all types of change. There’s a lot of change aversion in the city of St. Paul, to the point where there’s a mock T-shirt that says “Keep St. Paul Boring.” Which I love.

Biking in Mpls: Are you going to get one?

Mike: I probably will, I probably will.

Biking in Mpls: It’s also the design of the T-shirt is so terrible, it’s like Times New Roman. It’s in title case. It’s the worst T-shirt.

Mike: Yes, everything about it is perfect. It’s something I’m hoping will show up at City Council meetings.

Biking in Mpls: I was following that parking meter shit show.

Mike: That got out of hand. I don’t know how people do not know how to behave in a public environment.

Biking in Mpls: Yeah, it was a mob mentality over something that’s so absurd.

Mike: I was reading a Richard Scarry book to my daughter. I found this image of Dingo the dog running over parking meters and there was a little frightened parking meter. I sent out to the rest of the St. Paulites who has laughed at that whole thing unfolding. It’s hard because, like anywhere and especially in our state and country, we’ve built up a culture of independence associated with automobiles. The Baby Boom generation that’s moving from being the producers to retiring, a lot of their identity is built up with that mythos of the automobile. Anything that threatens that feels like a personal attack. Getting people past that is difficult in some ways. I’m often surprised by those who are most vocal against some of these things are not that audience, at least in St. Paul when I’ve gone to meetings.

Biking in Mpls: Oh really? I’m picturing them all being really old men.

Mike: There’s a degree of that, yes. But there are also some people with the Cleveland Avenue bike lanes in particular who were young people with families, with kids younger than mine, who own a business or own a building along that way. They have sent out a lot of misinformation and invested their own time and money to create a negative campaign against that stuff. It just floors me. I think of myself with a family, it’s how I think we should set the priority. Let’s make safety and a human focus a priority in our infrastructure.

Biking in Mpls: I was really surprised during the Grand Avenue parking meter debate. I feel like social media right now is a cesspool, no matter what you say you can get attacked. I waded into those waters during the Grand Avenue meter thing. I responded to something on Facebook and it was a mistake.

Mike: Yeah, I haven’t done that but Bill, and Matt, and Mike will dive into the neighborhood pages that tend to bring out some of the worst elements. It’s one of those things that always floors me. This is a neighborhood listserv or Facebook page, and people’s names are on there. It’s not hard to figure out who these people are but they’re just spouting off.

Biking in Mpls: I responded to one woman who wrote how she didn’t want to have to pay a dollar to go get a loaf of bread. She said, “I’m not cheap we just think it’ll hurt the neighborhood if we have to pay to go to the stores that we like.” And I said, “Well if you live in the neighborhood you could walk there.” I said that people pay for parking no matter what, you pay for it through your taxes. It’s more fair for people to pay for what they use versus everyone paying through taxes even if they don’t use it. Eventually her husband chimed in saying, “I pay for things I don’t use with my taxes like public school since my children go to private.” And I’m thinking, you send your kids to private school but you can’t pay a buck to park? Really? After that I didn’t even respond, clearly nothing I could say will get through.

Mike: We’re at a weird point of a lot of different things within the Twin Cities area in particular. That comment of the public school thing reminded me of how the desegregation efforts peaked in the area in the late 1980s, but we’ve re-segregated because of offering school choice. People aren’t acting out of racism but they’re acting out of self-interest. I keep seeing all these arguments, whether it’s bike infrastructure or public schools or what’s happening in North Minneapolis, and people are becoming more tribal, more isolationist in a way that’s very dangerous. Especially as a guy who has three kids, it makes me a little nervous about what’s happening. You have to keep fighting for what you support and to keep putting yourself out there. You have to show up to public meetings, even though I dread them, but you kind of have to make sure you’re being a calm, rational voice for the good that you think can happen. There’s a lot of vitriol. There’s a lot of resentment and fear.

Biking in Mpls: I see it with bike stuff on a constant basis. I’m getting to a point of wondering why I engage with people who say these things anymore. But I don’t care about the person who’s saying the negative thing, I care about the 17 other people who are going to read their comment and say, “oh that’s a good point,” if they don’t see anyone responding to it. It’s a thankless task and who knows if it’s even worth doing.

Mike: They don’t see a counterpoint, yeah.

Mike Mason is a cyclist living in St. Paul.

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