Winter Cycling Conference in Twin Cities shows how bikes can be used year-round


The first-ever Winter Cycling Congress to be held in the United States has been going on in the Twin Cities this week.

The fourth-annual congress aims to share information that will help cities be more bike-friendly in the winter, a news release says, with the goal of tackling problems winter cyclists face in an effort to encourage more people to ride their bikes in the snow, the Calgary Herald explains.

Public health and tourism officials, legislators and city leaders, planners, engineers and bike advocates from around the world are among those in town for the three-day congress, which runs through Thursday.

They discussed how to make safer, more reliable infrastructure to accommodate winter riders, as well as educating people on riding in snowy and slippery conditions, Gear Junkie explains.

And this week was a good week for it, with the Groundhog Day snowstorm providing a perfect opportunity to show that two-wheeled transportation isn't a bad way to get around in the winter.

Can bicyclists assist in times of disaster?

Not only did city leaders and planners discuss how to make biking safer and easier in the winter, but cycling enthusiasts also demonstrated how bicycles can assist their community in times of disaster.

Wednesday's event, according to the Winter Cycling Congress' website, involved participants biking roughly 30 miles around the Twin Cities to complete realistic tasks, like moving 40-pound bags, getting to their checkpoints quickly and riding in winter conditions on alternative routes.

The Star Tribune says 20-30 bicyclists took part in the demonstration, which simulated a hypothetical situation where power has been knocked and traffic gridlocked, preventing ambulances, police and fire departments from reaching disaster scenes.

“Should there be a disaster that affects traffic, communications or infrastructure downtown, having bicycles navigate alternative routes could prove to be an essential resource to perform emergency and disaster response activities," emergency physician Dr. John Hick, Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Hennepin County Medical Center, said in a news release.

Steve Durrant, who is organizing the drill along with Hennepin County Medical Center, told the paper the exercise's goal is to give first responders the idea they can use bicycles as another response tool, noting the snow was a "nice coincidence."

Durrant also spoke with MPR News about using bicycles in disaster relief situations. Listen to the interview here.

Bicycling in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis and St. Paul have been recognized as some of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States, and winter biking has been growing in popularity.

"Much of this is possible because of our city’s efforts to maintain off-street trails year-round to allow people to continue riding," Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a news release.

The news release also highlights how the Twin Cities maintain winter biking trails, as well as future plans to improve cycling in the area.

For more on winter biking in the Twin Cities and around the world, check out MinnPost's in-depth story that previewed this year's Winter Cycling Congress.

The Winter Cycling Congress is a project by the Winter Cycling Federation, which was established in 2013, and aims to promote winter cycling around the world. Read more from the congress on the event's website, here.

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