As a bicyclist with decades of experience negotiating perilous city streets, I can attest that what’s been accomplished over the past two decades is nothing short of amazing. Biking was high-risk behavior in the 1970s when I came of age as a rider.
At one point in the ‘80s, I nearly sold my bike after encountering a dead bicyclist at an intersection just steps from my apartment near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Her body was severed at the waist after being hit by a truck. She was riding in a bike lane—one of few in the country at that time—and had been following all the rules of the road. That was not enough to keep her safe.
Instead of giving up my bike, I called my city council member with a plea to make biking safer around town. She connected me to a citizen’s advisory council exploring what could be done to improve biking conditions. I moved out of town shortly afterward, but upon returning three years later found Minneapolis a better place to ride.
The outright hostility I experienced from many drivers in the 1980s has dwindled to an obnoxious few. With increased bike traffic, motorists are now accustomed to sharing the road—and indeed many folks behind the wheel may be heading home to ride their own bikes. According to the American Journal of Public Health, the severe injury rate (per miles traveled) for Minneapolis bicyclists plunged 79 percent between 2000 and 2015.
Progress is being made in towns, cities, and suburbs all across the country thanks to tireless bike advocates, smart elected officials and everyday folks who are discovering the joy of biking. Bikes are poised to become part of the American Way of Life as more people of all races, ages, incomes, and genders are seen riding.