August Commuters of the Month: Laurie McGinley and Mark Thieroff

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These intrepid bike/bus commuters share their stories about why they do it, why they love it, and all the nitty gritty of their daily rides. This series profiles folks who live or work in St. Anthony Park and commute in an alternative way. Read the interviews with July’s Commuters of the Month.

Where do you live, and where do you commute?
MT: I live on Buford Avenue in north St. Anthony Park and work in downtown Minneapolis.

LM: I live in South St. Anthony Park and commute to the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus

How often do you bike or bus commute?
MT: Every day year-round, except when the snowplows have not been around yet. Fresh snow is the biggest weather challenge, I find. On those days I take the bus.

LM: In the last year I’ve biked, bussed or walked almost every day. We moved to St. Anthony park to be closer to work and school to make a drive-free commute a reality. Our household became a one car household in March because it is very convenient to commute from this neighborhood. Since then I’ve biked to work almost every day.

How long is the commute? What route do you take?
MT: Four miles, via Como Ave and the Stone Arch Bridge.

LM: My commute is 3.5 miles. When I’m biking I take Raymond to Energy Park to the transit way. If I bus I take the campus connector.

What motivates you?
MT: Lots of things. I find it a great way to wake up in the morning and switch off after work.

LM: I’m motivated to bike, bus and walk in order to reduce my carbon footprint. The fact that it is hard to park on the East Bank campus helps motivate me on the days when I am feeling too tired to bike. Once I got used to it, I realized biking is the most fun and easiest way to get to work.

What is your favorite piece(s) of gear?
MT: A hand-me-down pair of lobster claw gloves from my father. My hands never get cold. Runner up would be my bike locker downtown. The $50 annual rental fee is the best parking deal in Minneapolis, and keeps my bike out the weather. Third place would the bike racks on the buses, which have helped out tremendously with my three flat tires this year (so far).

LM: My fenders because they keep me clean and dry.

What’s the best part?
MT: I enjoy the many sights I would not see from a bus or car, like the return of the cormorants each year to the same tree along the river and the different boats and barges in the locks. Plus, I just really like biking, and can always use a little more exercise.

LM: The best part about biking is the exercise. I’m not much of a morning person and exercise wakes me up. The bike commute helps me unwind in the evening. I like taking the bus because it is so easy. If the weather is too bad for biking, it is a convenient alternative.

What could be better?
MT: The biking infrastructure in the Twin Cities is great and getting better all the time. If I had to pick one further improvement, I’d suggest that St. Paul look at connecting the Como Avenue bike lane in St. Paul with its counterpart in Minneapolis. Right now it stops on the St. Paul side at Cleveland, while on the Minneapolis side it comes to the city boundary [Note: This project is in the works, contact Renee at 651-649-5992 for more info]. In general I think connectivity between the two cities could be better coordinated.

LM: Raymond Avenue. The section under the rail bridge just north of Energy Park drive is really dangerous for bikers. The road narrows around the curve and the shoulders are full of pot holes. There really is not much room for a car and a bike in the lane.

Any words of wisdom to new bicycle commuters?
MT: Just try it. I think conditions are much better than many people expect. I have found the average driver careful and willing to share the road, especially along routes with many cyclists (such as Como). There are lots of great programs to make it easier, too, like Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home program that covers taxi fare if you need to get home urgently, bike lockers, and the excellent local bike maps available at bike shops. One tip for newcomers would be to plan a route along or near a bus route. It’s nice to know you can catch a bus if you have a breakdown or some other problem, and all buses now have bike racks. As for winter, it’s all in the gear. I rode for a few years before I started riding year-round, and it was not nearly as difficult as I had expected. The winter riding clothes are really effective.

LM: If you are thinking of biking I highly recommend it. I thought it would be more of a hassle than it is. This is going to be my first winter biking and I’m excited about it after starting this season at the beginning of March. It is invigorating to be on a bike in the cold.

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