Photo courtesy of BLM
In the previous article, we described “ride to your ride” as one of the founding concepts of urban mountain biking. We also talked about a model urban mountain bike trail plan. Yet, as we mentioned, no place has the model implemented perfectly and its doubtful many cities could implement that model without some real work. That left us with the question of whether ride to your ride was a myth and fantasy, or something obtainable.
Let’s look at three very different locations and show how ride to your ride happens in the real world.
An iron ore town on the shores of Lake Superior that is seeing a renaissance based around creating public nature based actives in and around town. The existing shared use trail systems that existed in the parks in Duluth have, in recent years, been stitched together via a trail called the Duluth Traverse. The Duluth Traverse winds thru the Duluth Forest Preserve, creating a 90+ mile long integrated hiking and mountain biking trail system. For nearly all residences of Duluth, Proctor and Piedmont are only 1.5 miles (2.4km) from the trail or a trail head. Duluth doesn’t have the breakdown as far as neighborhood, district and destination trails. It doesn’t need it. While Duluth’s public transit system only consists of 4 routes, two of which run along the shore, one that goes to Proctor and one into Superior, WI, it serves the Duluth trail system quite well, allowing access to the northern, central and southern sections of the Duluth Traverse. This allows residents to go to different part of the trail system without having to drive or ride long mileages. The connection to Superior allows its residence to use public transportation to access the trail also, extending the ride to your ride aspect.
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Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Many people know that the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on The Trust for Public Land’s Park Score. What they may not know is that both cities have urban trail systems adjacent to their respective downtowns. Theodore-Wirth in Minneapolis and Battle Creek in St. Paul. They are sized at 6.8 and 8.2 miles respectively. Currently, neither city has the neighborhood level of trails that they could sustain. Yet, ride to your ride is not dead in Minneapolis & St. Paul. The region has a fairly robust transit system (bus & rail). In addition, Minneapolis contains one of the fastest growing bike lane networks in the county as well a mind-blowing amount of off-street bike infrastructure, including the Grand Rounds, Midtown Greenway, Luce Line and many other trails. On paper, at least, Minneapolis/St. Paul is missing a lot of urban mountain biking infrastructure. Yet, due to the connectivity of trails, transit and bike lanes, it’s possible to ride to your ride from nearly every part of these two cities. (It should be noted that with the growth of NICA high school mountain biking in Minnesota that steps are underway to create more neighborhood sized trails in the Twin Cities. Also, Battle Creek is slated to be expanded into a 20 mile long trail system.)
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Note: Orange is rail & BRT, cyan is bikeways, bike lanes or off-street bike infrastructure.
Huntsville likely is more representative of many cities in the United States then either Duluth or the Twin Cities. Geography, history, racism and poor planning have conspired to create a perfect storm of concentrated public lands near residents with Euro-North Asian heritages, poor bus service and bikeways, that while numerous on paper, in practice are less useful than they should be. For those living close to trails, or those willing to putter through the bus lines or brave/crazy enough to ride the bikeways, ride to your ride is very much a reality. Let’s be honest here, Huntsville is nowhere near the top of the list for best ride to your ride locations in the United States. (Though, just to be clear, Hunstville has amazing mountain biking, better then you are likely imagining.) The further one gets from the trails on Huntsville’s south side, the harder the ride to your ride becomes. Quite frankly, the northern half of the city is lacking in appropriate trails. This makes ride to your ride difficult in these areas. But even with all this stacked against them, the real lesson of Huntsville is that ride to your ride still is a reality. At this juncture, maybe not for everyone in town, but with dedication and some more work, it could be.
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Reality is complex and so is ride to your ride
There are things you can do to make ride to your ride more likely in your city, however.
Ride to your ride is the goal at the end of the day. But reality doesn’t often allow for a bullet pointed to-do list. It’s going to require tradeoffs and imperfect solutions. Some cities may get closer to obtaining that goal than others. You may have the misfortune to live in a place hampered by the previous generation’s choices. But that doesn’t mean ride to your ride is a myth or unobtainable. It just might look very different than the model. That is okay. Keep working at creating good urban mountain biking experiences where you can and slowly but surely, ride to your ride will be an option for everyone in your whole town.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.