Devon Olson and others with Minneapolis Bike Parks knew that kids wanted fun places to ride, but they had trouble convincing the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board and the general public at first.
So, in 2018 they built some small features at a few Open Streets events, and they were a hit.
“We had huge turn outs and kids cried when their parents told them it was time to go home,” recalled Olson. “We took that success to the park board with a plan for what would become the Nokomis Skills Park.”
Carved out of an aging tennis court just north of the Nokomis playground along Minnehaha Ave., the skills course features from Progressive Bike Ramps were funded via donations from Quality Bicycle Products, People For Bikes, and People for Parks.
“With a permanent bike park we were able to create a Girls Bike Adventure program through MPRB that incorporated bike skills, bike safety, and park board naturalists to expose young riders to the joys of biking and the natural space around them,” said Olson, who is the father to two female bikers, ages seven and nine. “That location has been a huge success and has proved that if you build it they will come.”
Bike parks for the 70,000+ kids in Minneapolis
The goal of Minneapolis Bike Parks is to create accessible, exciting, and safe bike parks for the 70,000+ kids who call Minneapolis home.
“We would love to see a bike park within a 10-15 ride from all Minneapolis homes. We want to remove the barriers that prevent people from being able to experience the thrill of a bike ride. Those barriers are access, cost, time, and representation,” observed Olson.
Some kids are traveling to Isanti for the indoor BMX track and others go out to Cottage Grove’s extensive bike park.
“They have the parents who ride, they have the gear, the ability to transport multiple bikes, and the time to drive a 40-mile round trip on top of the ride time. The same holds true for most of the folks driving from Minneapolis to any of the local mountain bike trailheads like Battle Creek, Lebanon Hills, Carver, etc. Those experiences aren’t always an option for kids whose parents aren’t riders,” Olson explained.
“Minneapolis lacks opportunities for kids to get excited about biking. Kids in the city, in almost any city, lack dedicated, fun spaces to ride and learn on their bikes.
“We want to see permanent locations around the city that draw kids, and riders of all ages, to them for various reasons. Some parks may be better suited for younger kids, some parks may have a pump track, other parks may have both or something completely different. When more kids ride, more parents start riding.”
What’s coming next?
Minneapolis Bike Parks has been heavily involved in every MPRB master plan in the last three years.
“In the beginning people looked at us funny when we said we wanted to see bike parks on our parks, but once we engaged with the park board and community it became evident that these new features would be a great addition to the system,” said Olson.
The South Minneapolis Service Area Master Plan was completed before the Minneapolis Bike Parks group could give input, so they are exploring options to amend it. There are two bike parks that are part of the Minnehaha Parkway Regional Trail Master Plan, that happen to be in South Minneapolis.
To date there are about 12 bike parks in master plans and three pilot skills parks in the system (Bryn Mawr, Nokomis, and Northeast Park).
Olson, who is a Nokomis resident, frequents the Nokomis Bike Skills Park. “People really appreciate the park’s simplicity, its location in the neighborhood, and that fact that it’s always there,” he said. “Bike rodeos and pop-up bike parks are cool, but they only last a few hours and don’t allow riders to master their skill.
“It’s pretty incredible to see how many people frequent the skills park and how confident riders get on two wheels because they go at their own pace. There is also an element of positive peer pressure and, of course, a small amount of risk, but arguably no more than a regular playground or sports field.”
This year, the long-awaited pump track and natural surface skills area will be constructed at Perkins Hill Park in north Minneapolis (300 34th Ave. N.) after a one-year delay. “It will be the first of its kind in Minneapolis or St. Paul and will provide the youth of our city with a pretty cool experience,” stated Olson.
“Bike parks get kids riding bikes and riding bikes helps connect us with nature, combats obesity, provides an alternative to traditional ball and stick sports, encourages active transportation, and introduces youth to lifelong sport/activity,” remarked Olson.
Introducing people to power of a bicycle
It’s fairly common to see bike parks in the suburbs or near a big city, but not in the city itself, observed Olson. “Minneapolis is in a very unique situation where we have a chance to be a leader in this space with as many bike parks as we have in the master plans – it’s a matter of getting the projects prioritized and funded. The creation of the pump track at Perkins Hill will really help bring additional visibility to the pump track and hopefully help expedite other builds.”
Over the course of the last couple years people in other cities like St. Paul, Eden Prairie, Bloomington and Hudson have noticed the progress Minneapolis has been making, and have started to ask questions about how they can get started in their community.
“I am hopeful that as a region we can build off of each other and continue to introduce more people to power of a bicycle,” said Olson.
“The last year has been tough to create opportunities to get involved because of so much uncertainty, but as we start to make the turn we are hoping to identify opportunities to get engaged follow us on Instagram or Facebook at @Mplsbikeparks to get the latest info,” said Olson. “Ask your neighborhood rec center to offer biking courses or better yet volunteer to lead one. There are bike parks in the master plans, but there isn’t immediate funding for all of them so if you know of a funding source that would be able to help expedite a park build we’d love to hear about it.”
Learn more at https://www.mplsbikeparks.org/.
Also interested in skate parks? Follow City of Skate, which is advocating for a skate park on the west side of the Nokomis Rec Center, among other locations in the city. The new Elliot Skate Park at 901 S. 8th St. is set to open in June. More at http://www.cityofskate.org/