The birth of an active transportation commuter

IMG_2009by Kathy Brown

I have always considered myself active. I enjoyed biking or rollerblading after work, talking a walk with friends, sailing etc.

One thing I never considered, though, was a non-motorized “carless” commute to work. Why would I? I have always lived too far away – period. Until I met my husband who asked the question, How far away is too far? 20 miles, 30 miles? Well of course, that’s too far. What about 10 miles or 5 miles or 2 miles? Hmmm, now he got me thinking….

So, in April 2014, after a week of planning, I decided to bike to work. My commute one way was 5.33 miles. Long enough that I had to pack a spare outfit. Long enough that it took my fingers forever to lock up my bike, unstrap my saddle bag, unbuckle my helmet, fumble with my badge and finally walk into the building and punch in. I felt fantastic, though, alive and awake. I DID IT! Then around 3:00 p.m., the thought occurred to me…I have to ride home.

I bike commuted to work 12 times that year and then 2 more times in the spring of 2015. Then we moved up north where my bike commute was only 2 miles one way. 2 MILES downhill TO work! Now I had no excuses… Then it rained one morning. Hmmm, What’s a little rain? So, I found a yellow rain suit that I had just unpacked and I was surprised just how fun it was to ride in the rain! Then the snow hit, and I was done.

Eventually, the nice weather returned and got my bike out again. I started riding every day to work, one day led to the next and the next until I rode 117 consecutive days to work, 151 total bike-commutes in 2016. Then the snow hit, and I was done…or was I?

How far away is too far to walk in the snow? 2 miles? Yes. 1.5 miles via the backyards? That might work…

December 12th was my second walk-commute to work through the snow and the wind and the ice and cold. I felt fantastic, alive and awake. I DID IT! Until the 3:00 p.m. thought returns…I have to walk home…almost all uphill.

Ask yourself the question – how far is too far?



Posted in Active transportation, Advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Bicycling, Bike Commuting, Biking, Commuting, fitness, fun, health, recreation, walking, Women | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Busiest bridges for cyclists in Minneapolis

Stone Arch Bridge - Source

Stone Arch Bridge – Source

Listed below are most recent average daily bicycle traffic counts for 40 bridges in the City of Minneapolis. The are only a small part of some 500+ bicycle and pedestrian traffic count locations throughout the city. Such data being available is a tremendous resource for bicycle/transportation planning as well as for safety and advocacy efforts. Hat’s off to Minneapolis!

  • Bike path (BP)
  • Bike lanes (BL)
  • Protected bike lanes (PBL)
  • Wide shoulders (WS)
  • None/ride in traffic (N)
  • Street sidepath (SP)
  1. Washington Avenue SE Bridge (BP) over the Mississippi River = 7,370 bicycles per day (2012)
  2. Sabo Bridge (BP) over Hiawatha Avenue S. = 2,760 bicycles per day (2014)
  3. E. Franklin Avenue Bridge (BL) over the Mississippi River = 1,780 bicycles per day (2015)
  4. Stone Arch Bridge (BP) over the Mississippi River = 1,650 bicycles  per day (2015)
  5. Hennepin Avenue S. Bridge (WS) over the Mississippi River = 1,540 bicycles per day (2015)
  6. E. Lake Street Bridge (WS) over the Mississippi River = 1,400 bicycles per day (2015)
  7. Dinkytown Greenway Bridge (BP) over the Mississippi River = 1,270 bicycles per day (2015)
  8. Wirth Parkway Trail Bridge (BP) over I-394 = 1,090 bicycles per day (2015)
  9. Loring Bikeway Bridge (BP) over Lyndale Avenue S. = 1,030 bicycles per day (2015)
  10. 5th Street SE Bridge over I-35W = 1,030 bicycles per day (2014)
  11. Intercity/Ford Pkwy Bridge (BL) over the Mississippi River = 930 bicycles per day (2015)
  12. 10th Avenue SE Bridge (BL) over the Mississippi River = 830 bicycles per day (2015)
  13. Plymouth Avenue N. Bridge (PBL) over the Mississippi River = 670 bicycles per day (2015)
  14. 8th Street SE Bridge (N) over I-35W = 640 bicycles per day (2014)
  15. 20th Avenue S. Bridge (BL) over I-94 = 590 bicycles per day (2015)
  16. 3rd Avenue S. Bridge (WS) over the Mississippi River = 580 bicycles per day (2015)
  17. 4th Street SE Bridge (N) over I-35W = 520 bicycles per day (2012)
  18. Riverside Avenue Bridge (BL) over I-94 = 470 bicycles per day (2015)
  19. Washington Avenue S. Bridge (BL) over I-35W = 410 bicycles per day (2015)
  20. Portland Avenue S. Bridge (BL) over Minnehaha Creek = 390 bicycles per day (2013)
  21. Bloomington Avenue S. Bridge (SP) over Highway 62 = 380 bicycles per day (2015)
  22. Irene Whitney Bridge (BP) over I-94 = 350 bicycles per day (2014)
  23. Camden Bridge (BP) over the Mississippi River = 290 bicycles per day (2013)
  24. Penn Avenue S. Bridge (N) over Highway 62 = 270 bicycles per day (2014)
  25. E. 40th Street Pedestrian Bridge (BP) over I-35W = 250 bicycles per day (2014)
  26. 25th Avenue S. Bridge (N) over I-94 = 210 bicycles per day (2009)
  27. Xerxes Avenue Bridge (N) over Highway 62 = 180 bicycles per day (2010)
  28. Van White Memorial Blvd Bridge (SP) over the Cedar Lake Trail = 170 bicycles per day (2014)
  29. St. Anthony Parkway Bridge (SP) over University Avenue NE = 160 bicycles per day (2013)
  30. 7th Street N. Bridge (BL) over I-94 = 140 bicycles per day (2015)
  31. Lowry Avenue Bridge (BL) over the Mississippi River = 140 bicycles per day (2013)
  32. Portland Avenue S. Bridge (N) over Highway 62 = 130 bicycles per day (2014)
  33. Boom Island Pedestrian Bridge (BP) over the Mississippi River = 130 bicycles per day (2011)
  34. E. 24th Street Pedestrian Bridge (BP) over Hiawatha Avenue S. =-130 bicycles per day (2012)
  35. E. 24th Street Pedestrian Bridge (BP) over I-35W = 90 bicycles per day (2012)
  36. Groveland Avenue Bridge (N) over I-94 = 80 bicycles per day (2011)
  37. Broadway Avenue Bridge (N) over the Mississippi River = 60 bicycles per day (2013)
  38. 46th Street E. Bridge (N) over I-35W = 40 bicycles per day (2015)
  39. 49th Avenue Bridge (BL) over Shingle Creek = 20 bicycles per day (2012)
  40. Seymour Avenue SE Pedestrian Bridge (BP) over I-94 = 10 bicycles per day (2011)


Posted in Active transportation, Alternative transportation, Bicycle Commuting, Bicycle Planning, Bicycles, Bicycling, Bike Commuting, bike sharing, Biking, bridges, cities, Commuting, Cycling, geography, infrastructure, placemaking, planning, recreation, spatial design, Statistics, tourism, trails, transportation, Travel, urban planning, Velo | Tagged | Leave a comment

Portland’s busiest Willamette River cyclist crossings in 2014


The following list shows the five busiest Willamette River bridge​ crossings for bicycles in the City of Portland, Oregon according to summer daily bicycle traffic data from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. This data does not include the new non-motorized/transit Tilikum Crossing Bridge over the Willamette River that opened in 2015. In is anticipated that the new bridge will primarily draw riders away from the Hawthorne Bridge

  1. Hawthorne Bridge = 8,287 bicycles per day
  2. Steel Bridge = 4,559 bicycles per day
  3. Broadway Bridge = 4,501 bicycles per day
  4. Burnside Bridge = 2,325 bicycles per day
  5. Morrison Bridge = 805 bicycles per day

Source: Portland Bureau of Transportation

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Crossing the Penobscot Narrows Bridge by bicycle

View from observation deck.

Early last week my wife and I had the extraordinary opportunity to bicycle across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Bucksport, Maine. This handsome cable-stayed structure replaced the former Waldo-Hancock suspension bridge. The new bridge was completed in 2006 and include a bikes/pedestrian lane for non-motorized travel adjacent to the single motor vehicle lane in each direction.

Penobscot Narrows Bridge

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge is also home to the world’s tallest bridge observation deck at 436 feet atop of the West Pylon Tower.  The total length of the bridge is 2,136 feet with a main span of 1,161 feet. The height of the towers to their peak is 447 feet.

Approaching bridge from SR 174.

We parked our car in the lot located off State Route 174 near the northwest corner of the bridge. From there we donned our riding gear, unloaded our bicycles, and proceeded to pedal to the intersection of State Route 174 and U.S. 1. When the traffic signal changed, we turned left onto U.S. 1 pedaling west to east across the bridge. Once we completed the bridge crossing, we then biked across the highway and reversed our course from east to west and back to the parking lot. It was a gorgeous mostly sunny day for our endeavor and cooling winds were blowing off Penobscot Bay from the south.

Traveling eastbound

Crossing the Penobscot Narrows Bridge by bicycle or on foot is quite easy compared to our earlier rides over the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver and the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. For one, the elevation of the terrain on either side of the bridge is high enough where there is no need for a lengthy and/or steep approach to elevate/carry U.S. 1 above the shipping channel. Secondly, the bridge has bike/pedestrian lanes in both directions whereas the Mackinac Bridge has none – the lack of bike lanes or sidewalks on the Mackinac Bridge requires motor vehicle lane closures for special non-motorized events. If you cannot attend one of three events each year, then you are unable to cross the Mackinac Straits in a non-motorized transportation mode.

Traveling westbound

The views from the bridge are spectacular! If you are ever headed to Bangor, Bar Harbor/Acadia, Camden, Belfast, or Rockport, consider a side trip to Bucksport and its incredible Penobscot Narrows Bridge. While there, be sure to check out the observation deck atop the west tower – it is accessed via the entrance through Fort Knox State Park below the bridge and requires an entry fee and ticket for the observation deck. It us truly an unique experience that you will never forget!

View of Bucksport, Maine to the north from the bridge.

Posted in Active transportation, Alternative transportation, architecture, Bicycle Commuting, Bicycle Planning, Bicycling, Bike Commuting, Biking, bridges, cities, Commuting, Cycling, fun, geography, infrastructure, land use, pictures, placemaking, planning, product design, tourism, transportation, Travel, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crossing the “Mighty Mac” by bicycle

Windy conditions and whitecaps the evening before our crossing.

Over the past weekend, my wife, stepdaughter, and I scaled and crossed the five mile long Mackinac Bridge (Mighty Mac or Big Mac) between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The ride was part of the “2016 Big Mac/Shoreline Scenic Bike Tour “ which includes a mandatory 25/50/75/or 100 mile ride on Saturday for the privilege to bicycle across the Straits of Mackinac. Two years ago, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our rented bicycle ride over the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver, BC during our honeymoon, so we were really looking forward to this adventure.

View from atop the Lion's Gate Bridge

View from observation deck atop the Lion’s Gate Bridge

As a resident of Michigan for the past 24 years, tackling the Mackinac Bridge by foot or bike has been a long-term dream. There are limited options for walking (once a year on Labor Day) or riding (three times a year) over the bridge given it does not have sidewalks or bike lanes. The Mackinac Bridge Authority and MDOT gracefully allows such occasional special events on the nearly 59 year-old bridge.

This year was particularly poignant for me as the spring ride fell on the 25th anniversary of my father’s passing. While he was not a cyclist, I have many happy memories of cycling while growing up and distinctly recall several very special gifts of bicycles from my parents. I can also recall some aspects of learning to ride without training wheels.

Saturday was a very comfortable and enjoyable day for our 25 mile ride as it began cloudy and foggy. The sun broke through the clouds mid-morning and shortly after 11:00 a.m. we completed our day’s ride. From that point we explored historic and scenic sites in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace and enjoyed a terrific dinner at the Driftwood. Late in the day the winds greatly increased and we were worried the ride might be called off, as the bridge is sometimes closed due to high winds.

Sunday morning wake-up view from our hotel.

Sunday, we awoke to a lovely early morning sunshine with temps at 50 F at 6:30 a.m. – the appointed arrival time. However, the winds were still strong across the straits, but thankfully not enough to cancel/postpone the event. At 7:00 a.m. sharp, 250 bicyclists riding all kinds of makes and models began their two abreast ride across one of North America’s most scenic bridge crossings.

A portion of the 250 riders.

You will not see any photographs of the actual ride as picture taking during the crossing is prohibited for safety reasons. Given the weather conditions, it would not have been very smart either, though at least one rider had a Go Pro on his helmet.

The minute we turned north onto I-75 from the exit ramp we were met with a stiff headwind of 15-20 mph. This headwind never abated throughout the ride and often gusted to well over 30 mph making the ride a significant workout for all of us. Some of even joked about the lovely hurricane season we were experiencing. The wind was so strong, that there was no such thing as coasting on the downhill portion of the ride, as to keep moving and upright we had to pedal the entire way.

Might Mac from our return trip ferry.

Some seasoned veterans of the ride said this was the toughest trip across the strait by bike in the 30 years they had participated. Needless to say, the three of us and many other riders were worn out by the time we reached the Star Line ferry dock in St. Ignace seven miles to the north, but what an amazing experience! From the wind, to the sunrise, to the harp-like song generated by the wind through the bridge cables, to the ship sailing below the bridge, to the glistening waters, to the varied riders, to the seagulls accompanying us, to the ferry ride back to Mackinaw City, we had a very, very special adventure. It was worth every single penny.

Kudos to all of those involved in holding this particular event twice a year (late Spring and early Fall). This ride/tour should be on every cyclist’s bucket list and certainly goes down as the A, number one bicycle ride of my lifetime thus far. Sorry, Lion’s Gate Bridge, you are now a close second.

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Flower power

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Respect your life – wear a helmet


Took a major tumble while biking to church this morning. Probably the worst I have even experienced. Thankfully my helmet took the shock of the curb and has a commemorative dent to show for it.  Otherwise, my  ribs and left wrist are sore and thighs are torn up. 

For those who don’t wear helmets or who may suggest not wearing them, it only take a split second for everything to change. There is no need to take such risks when there are many varieties of helmets to choose from – including designer ones. Respect your life – wear a helmet. 

Posted in Bicycling, Tandems | 4 Comments

Now this is pedaling for pizza!

I want one of these!  Way cool. 

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Good night, sweet Prince

One of the last photos of this musical genius and icon is of Prince riding his bicycle. Rest in peace and thank you always being true to your Midwestern hometown of Minneapolis-St. Paul. 


Posted in Active transportation, art, Bicycles, Bicycling, Biking, Cycling, Music, Photos, Velo | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tandem bike haiku

 Tandem bicycles –two wheels powered by four feet -double the pleasure.

Rick Brown 2016

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