Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

December 14, 2014
by julie

NSC Velodrome in Danger — What Metrics Matter?

The NSC Velodrome is in some danger of demolition.

The facts are pretty straightforward. A wooden track, built in 1990, is beyond its design lifestyle — especially in a climate like that in Minnesota. Repair isn’t cheap ($750,000); reconstruction isn’t cheap ($1.2 million or so).

But the numbers being held up don’t tell the story either.

First, the number of riders. There are about 200 riders every year, not necessarily including the Fixed Gear Classic. A number of those riders have won Masters World Championships or competed in the Junior Nationals.

Second, the number of spectators. Cycling isn’t typically approached as a spectator sport in much of the US. The bleachers at the Velodrome have a fairly limited seating area for a couple hundred a week. Could they support more spectators than currently come in? Sure. But should we be judging the worth of the facility on spectators?

The truth is that track cycling is a very niche activity, much as something like speed skating or running the steeplechase is. It has a relationship to an activity with broader appeal, but requires specific equipment, venue and training to participate in. The events also require some knowledge to view with any degree of knowledge. (C’mon, tell me what a Madison race is.) While the sport is much more popular in places like Japan and Korea and even the Netherlands, so is speed skating (and short-track speed skating).

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Cycling Center group have been pitching a new indoor cycling center near the Shoreham Yards area of Northeast Minneapolis. While the facility has been positioned as also hosting concerts and conventions, the cost of that facility — which probably wouldn’t cause explosive growth in track racing, given the niche nature of the sport — is estimated at $15-20 million. It would be more central, and closer to the Minneapolis population hub, rather than associated with Blaine’s NSC. On the other hand, Blaine’s NSC is also the largest youth/amateur athletic complex in the US, and is even the site of Olympic team training for women’s hockey.

There are a lot of ways to spend that kind of money, be it $750,000 or $17 million dollars. There are opportunity costs. Even tearing down the existing Velodrome has costs, since the space would need work to convert to anything else. (It’s not level, for instance, to make another soccer field.) These issues must be considered. But holding up just spectators and participants as the metrics is probably inadequate. It’s also a standard that isn’t being applied to other development, such as the St. Croix Bridge (which is costing 5 figures per daily user).

I, personally, would be sad to see the velodrome go. While I’ve only ridden it once, I am a regular spectator. My son dreams of the day he can do the youth course at the track. I’d hate to see him not get that chance.

June 10, 2014
by julie
Comments Off on Alert: Big Rivers Trail Closed Between Lilydale & Mendota

Alert: Big Rivers Trail Closed Between Lilydale & Mendota

Mudslides have forced the closing of both Highway 13 in Mendota from 2nd  Street and Lexington Avenue, and the closing of the Big Rivers Regional Trail from the Lilydale Trailhead to Mendota at Highway 13.

Highway 13 is in danger of coming down on the trail; mud certainly has. Current expectation is that the closure will last through June 17 for the highway. No ETA on the reopening of the trail has been provided.

Motorists are being advised to use Highway 110 or 35E as alternates. Generally, the best alternate for the Big Rivers Trail in that corridor is Highway 13 (oops). There are a variety of other routes through the area — but it depends on if you’re up on the top side of the bluff to start, or if you’ve crossed at the 35E bike bridge or come via Lilydale Road. Either of these routes leaves you a very limited group of options to get to the same end point as the trail does. Highway 13 down to Victoria and the Victoria Curve is one potential approach to get to Mendota, should you wish to do so. Dodd Road to Mendota Heights Road is a reasonable route to the southern Big Rivers Trailhead, although Dodd may be higher speed than many Big Rivers aficionados prefer.

In general: You may wish to consider riding/skating/running elsewhere for a bit.

UPDATE: Fellow Streets.mn board member and St. Paul Bicycle Coordinator Reuben Collins has posted this picture of the mudslide to Twitter. Don’t think you’ll dodge the barricade and just ride through. You won’t.

May 14, 2014
by julie
Comments Off on Introducing… The Improved Minnesota Bike Events Calendar!

Introducing… The Improved Minnesota Bike Events Calendar!

It’s true. I have fully updated the Minnesota Bicycle Events Calendar to provide new functionality, including legibility.

It’s populated through June 2014 right now, with ongoing work to add events. I’m managing about a week each day and should be updated through Labor Day by the end of next week.

Each event now has its own page, with organizer data, maps to event sites and whatever else makes sense.

You can view either the calendar, or a list of events. Categories are also available, with ongoing enhancement planned.



May 12, 2014
by julie
Comments Off on Take the MNDot Statewide Bike Plan Survey

Take the MNDot Statewide Bike Plan Survey


MnDOT is seeking out inputs to the Statewide Bicycle System Plan. Beyond local workshops across the state, MnDOT is seeking input via a survey.


They want to know:

  • Where do you feel comfortable biking?
  • What destinations do you want to reach by bicycle?
  • What highways affect your biking experience?
  • How should MnDOT prioritize its biking improvements?

They’ve built an interactive map to identify routes and issues
. They’re also offering workshops in St. Paul on May 14 and Minneapolis on May 15.

Everyone can take the survey online at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/MnDOTBikePlan

May 11, 2014
by julie
Comments Off on Google Celebrates Biking Mom for Mother’s Day

Google Celebrates Biking Mom for Mother’s Day

Google 2014 Mother's Day Doodle

In honor of Mother’s Day 2014, the Google Doodle is celebrating Mom. On a bike.

While the cape is a nice touch to suggest “Super Mom!” the use of both a helmet and a cape is contradictory. Having tried to ride in a cape (it was Halloween, okay?), I don’t recommend it. Cape + wheel is pretty hazardous, a la the classic animated feature The Incredibles.

Capes: A bad idea.