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Cycling In The Cities: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

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(credit: Metro Transit)

(credit: Metro Transit)

Yes, this blog is about my mission to become a bike commuter through all seasons, but it’s also about trying to change my transportation default to anything but car. And Metro Transit has come a long way in the last 20 years to broaden your commuting options. It is a far cry from the MTC system I grew up on in the 1970s and 1980s. Remember “Big Red?” As a kid who traveled the 4, 6, 17, 21, 28 and even the 5 throughout Minneapolis I have love-hate memories of the big red buses (flashback photo here). Back then routes were much less frequent. There was no light rail or air conditioning. The windows either wouldn’t open or wouldn’t shut. But the fares were just 20-cents and the bus gave me the freedom to explore the city without asking my grumpy dad for a ride.

Metro Transit’s gotten creative over the years to entice people to hop on. They have a really cool way for you to log your commutes and track how your no-car mileage decreases your carbon footprint and saves you money on gas. The Commuter Challenge is all about getting you to walk, bike or bus. And you can win prizes. Then there’s the Ride to Rewards program. It gives you points for riding which you can then spend at stores and restaurants. Miss your bus or train because you had to work late? The Guaranteed Ride Home service will reimburse you up to $100 a year for cabs or other backup transit. Sign up and you’ll also be mailed two passes for free Metro Transit rides. And it’s easy to take advantage of the free bus services to annual events. The Art Pass will let you hop free rides between the Uptown, Loring and Powderhorn Art Fairs this weekend. Second Saturday Rides get you a free trip to the Children’s Museum in St. Paul and a discount on museum admission. And of course, the bus can be a low hassle way to get to the State Fair. Buy your Express Ride ticket before August 25 and you’ll save $1.

But I think the coolest evolution of our mass transit system since I was a kid is that it embraces the bike commuter. Every bus and train has a bike rack. And if you’re like me, a person who worries about fumbling to load my bike on the first attempt and angering the load of impatient passengers, just practice. Metro Transit has practice racks at four locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Whew. I’ll have to get ready for bike-bus commuting soon. It’s comforting to know there will be a safe harbor for me and my bike if I wuss out come February.

Angela Keegan Benson is the Assistant News Director at WCCO-TV and a mother of two. On August 1, 2011 she began her quest to live one full year as a bike commuter. Follow along as she figures out how to mesh the cycling culture with the demands of parenthood and an affinity for 4-inch heels. And yes, she’s committed to sticking it out through February storms. For more Cycling In The Cities, follow @Angela_Keegan on Twitter.

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