Author Mark Hertsgaard, explains why Minneapolis and Portland could learn a lesson from a part of the country usually associated with the automobile. Led by Mayor Bob Foster, who tries to bike 100 miles a week, and backed by state and federal grants, the city has installed 130 miles of bike trails, built protected bike lanes, created bike boulevards, and installed 1,200 new bike racks.
However, as Hertsgaard points out, "Perhaps most innovative has been the city's effort to establish bike-friendly shopping districts -- the first in the country, officials say -- engaging local merchants by showing them how, contrary to common belief, biking can actually bring more customers and vitality to shopping districts.
"The math is pretty simple," says April Economides, the principal of Green Octopus Consulting and the leader of the city's outreach to local businesses. "You can park 12 bikes in the amount of space it takes to park one car. And someone who shifts from owning a car to a bicycle tends to have more discretionary income, because, for a commuter, the typical cost of a bicycle is $300 a year, compared to $7,000 a year for a car."