Off the Chainring, Live in Minneapolis

It wasn’t planned this way, but it worked out that we got to take a mini-tour before our tour. Three weeks ago we took the train out to Minneapolis for this year’s Twin Cities Zine Fest. This was the trial run for our Bikestravaganza program, and we were relieved to find that it went smoothly. “The best program Zine Fest has ever had,” is how the organizer described it. And we had a blast!

We ran through our presentation, telling the story of the bicycle movement and recent transportation activism in Portland with photos and movies. A panel of four local bicycling advocacy rock stars joined us to discuss their work and Minneapolis’s rise to be anointed as the best bicycling city in the U.S.

The panelists covered the spectrum of the bike scene, including representatives of the statewide advocacy organization and a local community bike repair project. We were especially inspired by the work of Browning the Green, an organization of Latinos and Latinas working on environmental causes including bicycling. “Being able to focus on a single issue is a privilege,” pointed out speaker Jose Luis, describing his organization’s boundary-redefining efforts to train and encourage Latina teens to become bike mechanics.

Minneapolis was kind to us. We didn’t get a chance to ride around much, but marveled at how many people were out bicycling around despite a near lack of bicycle lanes or any other infrastructure (the city has a few extensive off-road bicycle freeways—paved former railway lines—that earn it a lot of points), causing me to question Portland’s mantra of “if you build it, they will come.” It looks as though bicycle culture in Minneapolis built itself, and the city is happy to contribute to the comfort and safety of bicycling now that it’s been proven. This model appears to be working; the mayor avidly embraces cycling, and brand new Nice Ride rental bicycle kiosks were in frequent use, mostly by businesspeople and tourists.

Our hosts for the weekend, talented artists Sarah Morean (the Zine Fest organizer for four years running) and Will Dusinski, patiently took us to all the best places to get cupcakes and wifi. We spent some quality time at the temporary Pop Punk Emporium, where Joe brought the crowd to tears (of pain) with his contributions to the bad zine reading event. We made new friends, ran into an old friend, and heard a feminist, literary chamber rock band. Life was good.

Next we headed to a small town in Wisconsin for a very different experience. Stories and photos coming soon!

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