A homegrown movement uniting joyful cyclists around the world

Updated: April 16, 2015 - 3:06 pm

What motivates a person to ride a bike on a rainy April morning while dressed in business attire and toting a laptop?

Ask Lisa Lind, a 51-year-old mother of two, who found herself doing this just earlier this month. Everyday in April, Lind has posted a photo or video about her biking experience on Facebook, and she didn’t want to let her friends or herself down. She also didn’t want to lug her bike down three flights of stairs after a long day of work so she rolled up her dress pants and hopped a Nice Ride.

Lind is one of the 8,100 people participating in 30 Days of Biking, a homegrown April tradition that’s gone international thanks mostly to it’s “low barriers to entry” —  as 30 Days founder and director Patrick Stephenson describes it — and the power of Twitter.

It’s a simple idea: participants pledge to ride their bikes every day in April. “People ride around the block, and then they realize, ‘that wasn’t so bad,’ and so they ride a mile, and once you ride a mile, you can ride 10 miles,” Stephenson said. He has observed a shift in thinking as people realize the distances they travel in daily life — trips to the supermarket and library — are not insurmountable.

Lind has pledged to 30 Days of Biking for the past four years, but she said she had a few false starts and it wasn’t until last year as Minnesota began to slowly emerge from the dreaded winter of 2014 that she really took her 30 Days pledge seriously riding every single day. Participating in 30 Days of Biking group rides, “helped me learn to navigate in the cities,” Lind said, and she’s not the only one. At this year’s kick-off ride, Lind’s son Oliver joined his mom — and 300 other people who turned out despite the cold and rain — it was only his fifth time riding a bike without training wheels.

The Thursday evening and Saturday morning group rides that take place during 30 Days of Biking, bring together all types of cyclists from kids like Oliver to experienced bike commuters, like Carol Cafferty and Paul Stewart. Cafferty and Stewart joined a recent Saturday morning Pastry Ride on the recumbent tandem they use to make the hour-and-15-minute journey from their South Minneapolis home to their jobs in Eagan.

Cafferty got into bike commuting because she was looking for a consistent form of exercise. Stewart began biking and using transit about 10 years ago when he gave up his car after his third car accident. They acknowledge biking can be more challenging for families with young children, and Stewart said, biking is not “one size fits all,” but with some experimentation, they’ve realized biking is doable for them, even in winter.

Stephenson came to the same realization when he fell in love with bike commuting back in 2010. In winter 2009-2010, he kept riding and shared the experience on Twitter where he also stumbled upon #30daysofyoga.

He translated the concept to biking because he figured everyone needs a Zach. Zach is Stephenson’s friend and the person who inspired him to get into bike commuting simply through providing an example — biking everyday from South Minneapolis to St. Louis Park. With the idea that everyone who is interested in biking more but reluctant to do so for one reason or another, needs a mentor who can normalize biking, Stephenson created #30daysofbiking.

From a hashtag and 300 participants, Stephenson has nurtured a “mentor movement,” which has been embraced by Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Minsk, Belarus — where the local chapter includes 600 participants — Spanish-speakers in many different communities who’ve popularized #30diasenbici and thousands of others around the world. This year, 275 kids will receive free bikes as a result of sponsorships, which are backed by pledges.

The combination of personal reward and social experience that 30 Days provides is giving casual riders, new riders and experienced bike commuters alike a reason to get on their bikes regularly despite April’s wily weather and connect with one another. Although 30 Days of Biking is almost over, anyone can join a group ride. Saturday morning pastry rides leave from Calhoun Cycle and Thursday evening rides leave from the Dunn Bros in Minneapolis’s North Loop. For those who missed the chance to pledge, or who want to keep riding after 30 Days of Biking wraps up, more group bicycling fun is coming up in May during Minneapolis Bike Week

Annie Van Cleve is a freelance writer, blogger and volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. 

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 30 days of biking in April brings Minneapolis Bike Week in May! Here’s what’s coming up during Minneapolis Bike Week:

  • Bike to School Day: Wednesday, May 6
  • Fix it Day — Monday, May 11
  • Go by Bike Day — Tuesday, May 12
  • Nice Ride Day — Wednesday, May 13
  • Women’s Day — Thursday, May 14
  • Bike to Work Day — Friday, May 15
  • Bike to Local Businesses Day — Saturday, May 16
  • Family Parks Day — Sunday, May 17