I got an email last Friday from Dorian Grilley, Executive Director of Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN), and at the bottom of the email he attached a photo of him standing with his new mountain bike. He said that his experience on the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System at PedalMN Bicycle Summit this fall won him over. (See my blog post about the Summit: Minnesota is a state that works for mountain bikers).
Many of you reading this blog were not even a gleam in your father’s eye in 1973 when Time magazine featured Governor Wendell Anderson on its cover for a story titled Minnesota: A State That Works. (Anderson just celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year.)
But I thought of that cover story after attending the 2013 PedalMN Bike Summit this week, a two-day Minnesota state government-hosted conference involving four state agencies, several non-profits, and representatives from more than a few bicycle-related businesses.
When it comes to bicycling, Minnesota seems to be a state that works. And for state’s mountain bikers, the success of the two-year old Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail system (CLMTBT) is the epitome of government, non-profit, and industry leaders effectively collaborating to get something done that’s been huge for our sport in the state. In short, Cuyuna rocks. (In MN mountain biking circles, the word ‘Cuyuna’ is the most commonly used short-hand for the mtb trail system in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area – CCSRA.)
Read the timeline of the creation of Cuyuna. You’ll see the names of these people, most of them more than once: Gary Sjoquist, Dan Cruser, Courtland Nelson, Mike Van Abel, and Hansi Johnson. All of them were there this week, as were others from their organizations (MORC, IMBA, DNR, QBP).
I got up to Cuyuna early on Monday morning, as it was a gorgeous autumn day and I wanted to ride every single trail in the Huntington east and west units (AKA as the Mahnomen Unit on the DNR’s map of Cuyuna). I rode some more than once, including the steep and short Screamer which I rode five times, trying to get better/faster at it with marginal success. But what fun.
For most participants, the day’s activities started shortly after lunch with “experiential workshops on bicycles in the field.” Groups gathered in the Croft Mine parking lot in Cuyuna’s Yawkey Unit. The blurb for those doing the experiential mountain bike ride:
Experience firsthand what makes the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails an IMBA-certified Ride Center. Learn about purpose-built trail design and weekly trail maintenance. See why cycling is now-year round in the Cuyuna Lakes area.
Find out how state, county and city governments have partnered with residents and the cycling industry to achieve the shared goal of becoming an international mountain biking destination. Members of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew will lead ride participants through an interactive tour within the Yawkey Unit of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.
This bike tour is purposefully designed for cyclists of all skill levels to enjoy their time on the red dirt. Riders will be separated into advanced, intermediate and beginner categories.
Organizers set up six guided ride stops out on the trails, each staffed with someone explaining:
- Purpose Built Trails and Riding
- Trail Maintenance
- Community Connections for Economic Development
- High School Mountain Bike League
- Year Round Recreation
- Safety and Grassroots Support
I followed the advanced group around and IMHO, it was a very cool way to show/teach a large number of people in a short period of time the important aspects of a modern mountain bike trail system and its wider impact. After the guided stops, ride leaders took their groups back out on the loop trails for more riding until everyone convened back at the parking lot for topical Q&A at various tables.
There were more than a few mtb muckety mucks on hand to help.
Left: Karl Erbach (Trek), John Schaubach (CLMTBC), Seth Nesselhuf (QBP)
Center: Steve Weber (DNR), Gary Sjoquist (QBP)
Right: John Gaddo (QBP), Reed Smidt (MORC)
We then gathered for socializing and dinner at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd, where DNR Parks and Trails Director Courtland Nelson introduced the evening speaker, IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel. Mike and IMBA have a long history with Cuyuna (Hansi’s got a good summary in his June 2011 blog post, shortly after the park opened) so it was fun to hear some of Mike’s stories of that history. His message to the audience of 200+ participants was clear: the pursuit of IMBA’s mission (“to create, enhance and preserve great mountain biking experiences”) goes far beyond the sport and IMBA’s members. Communities and regions all over the continent are seeing that the environmental, economic, and public heath benefits of mountain biking are significant and growing.
One of Tuesday morning’s breakout sessions was dedicated to mountain biking. Mike moderated a panel consisting of IMBA’s Hansi Johnson, MORC’s Reed Smidt, and CLMBT’s Aaron Hautala.
One thing that stood out for me was Reed’s comment about MORC’s role in the state. Despite the word ‘Minnesota’ in its name, MORC has recently become more focused on mountain biking in the Twin Cities metro area, as the IMBA Chapter Program has produced many chapters throughout the state. But with 3 million residents and thousands of mountain bikers in the metro area, MORC plays an important role in producing and supplying a significant number of mountain bikers who like to travel to the mtb trail systems throughout the state and midwest region.
So my take-away from the Bike Summit: I’m damn lucky to be a resident of Minnesota, a state that works for mountain biking. And the work that others have done to get us to this point inspires me to help keep it going and do what I can to get others to join the effort.
I’m in a Duluth coffee shop as I write this. I’m going riding.
Northfield City Administrator and Faribault resident Tim Madigan alerted me to a Bikeable Community Workshop hosted by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism last week. I contacted Kymn Anderson, Chamber President, to see if there was room for any Northfielders and she graciously allowed me to attend. Northfield City Councilor Suzie Nakasian was there, too.
The Bikeable Community Workshop brochure (PDF) states:
A Bikeable Community Workshop trains local, county and regional staff, and advocates on how to plan and support more Bike Friendly Communities to encourage more people on bikes more often in Minnesota. Participants enjoy a short bike ride to assess their community’s bicycle facilities to base an action plan on. Target audiences include engineers, law enforcement, planners, public health practitioners, school administrators, elected officials, and advocates. The course includes a short bicycle ride auditing your community.
The workshop was presented by staff from the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. These folks knew their stuff and presented it well.
My take-away? We need to begin working immediately with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota to form a Northfield area bicycle advisory committee so we can begin tackling a myriad of bike-related issues. The City of Minneapolis’ Bicycle Advisory Committee page spells much of it out:
Advise the Mayor, City Council, and Park Board on bicycling related issues; help advance the state of bicycle infrastructure; encourage more people to bike; educate the public; work towards more compliance with traffic laws; help the City and Park Board make bicycle plans; work to increase equity between bicyclist and other modes of transportation; review and suggest legislative and policy changes; recommend priorities for the use of public funds on bicycle projects; help ensure Minneapolis keeps and improves its status as a bicycle friendly community; serve as a liaison between Mpls communities and the City and Park Board, coordinate between difference agencies that interact with bicyclists.
Props to Kymn Anderson at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and the Faribault area bicycle advocates for hosting the session. It was inspiring.
In late Feb, I attended the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s (BikeMN) third annual Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill, noting that I was "trying to get smarter about the state of bike advocacy in Minnesota…" (Blog post here.)
A few weeks later, for the same reason, I attended the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill which led to having lunch here in Northfield with Executive Director Brett Feldman and Northfield’s First Ward Councilor Suzie Nakasian in which we explored the pros and cons of forming a Northfield area regional bicycle council. (Blog post here.) Brett encouraged us to get in touch with BikeMN’s Executive Director Dorian Grilley.
During the meeting, my eyes widened as we heard details from BikeMN staff and board members about the myriad of bike-related activities, projects, collaborations that they’re involved in. (See the Education and Advocacy pages on their website for a glimpse.)
Dorian is well-connected and versed in national bicycle advocacy issues so I was pleased to hear some of the latest news, including the repercussions from Trek CEO John Burke’s speech last fall at Interbike (my blog post here).
Afterwards, I did have a chance to talk with Dorian, as well as with Nick Mason, BikeMN’s Education & Technical Assistance Program Manager. Both offered their help to get things rolling in Northfield with a start-up of a local bicycle advocacy group and hopefully, one or more of their Bicycle Friendly Programs. (March blog post: Bemidji has earned ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ status. Why not Northfield?)
And as I wrote back in March:
There are other [Northfield area] projects and developments that have a bicycle-component: the Northfield Depot; the East Cannon River Trail segment; the TIGER Trail (aka the Northfield Modal integration project); Safe Routes to School; the Gateway Corridor Improvement Plan; Northfield Roundtable’s Framework Plan; and the Cannon River Corridor recreational concept.
I also put on my mountain biking hat (helmet?) and with MORC Board members Reed Smidt and Mark Gavin, chatted with Dorian about how BikeMN and MORC could work more closely together. One idea: give communities with mountain bike trails and pump/jump/BMX parks extra credit when they apply for Bicycle Friendly Community status.
Click and scroll through the photos either one at a time or via a slideshow. (Memo to self: use a flash when taking photos with my smartphone of people indoors.)
I attended the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s (BikeMN) third annual Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill yesterday, as I’m trying to get smarter about the state of bike advocacy in Minnesota and who the players are. I became a BikeMN member a couple weeks ago and am impressed with all that they’re doing and how well-organized yesterday’s Summit was.
Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht (@BemidjiRita) was one of the featured speakers, talking about Bemidji’s new designation as a Bike Friendly Community. I’ve crossed paths with Rita recently in my consulting work so I was pleased to introduce her to two of my Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC) pals, John Schaubach and Jenny Smith.
I was also pleased to get a photo of former 8th District Congressman Jim Oberstar with Jenny and John as they were preparing to head over to the Capitol Rotunda for his keynote. When Oberstar was chair of the U.S. House transportation committee, he helped secure $700,000 in federal funds for the creation of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails (CLMTBT). See this June 2011 article by Brett Larson in Silent Sports magazine, Cuyuna Lakes Reclaimed, for more on the role that Jim, John, Jenny and many others played. It’s a marvelous story of how the organic process of bike advocacy can work.
Other speakers at the Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill: