Because of her race and gender, Debra Stone recognizes that she does not fit the dominant bicyclist demographic. A lifelong biker, she’s encouraged by a host of recent developments that may make her not so atypical.
Stone, who grew up and spent much of her life in North Minneapolis, lives in nearby Robbinsdale, and serves on the boards of Twin Cities Greenways, a grassroots effort promoting greenway-quality trails to better connect the metro area, and the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, where she is treasurer. Named after Marshall Walter Taylor, a cycling legend, and the first African American athlete to win a world championship in any sport, the club describes itself as “the premier African American bicycling club in the state and Upper Midwest.”
Stone says that much more is happening on Minneapolis’s North Side than many area residents realize. She loves riding Memorial Parkway, Theodore Wirth Cycling Trail, Elm Creek Parkway, and other pathways and trails, which tend to be less well-utilized than those in South Minneapolis.
Venture North Bike Walk Center (1830 Glenwood Ave. N.), North Minneapolis’s first community bike shop, scheduled to open early this fall, is another exciting development, says Stone. The nonprofit’s aim is to expand access to bicycling and walking resources , by selling refurbished bicycles and bike and walking accessories, and offering classes on bike maintenance, safety, and healthy living. Venture North will be run by Redeemer Center for Life.
A main motivation for Stone is to convey information about the health benefits of biking—both physical and mental—to Northside communities of color. This has led to collaborations with the North Community YMCA, KMOJ radio, and others, to get the message out that bicycling and walking are proactive ways of looking after one’s health, and activities that lessen depression.
Getting teens, black women, and people over 65 on bikes is what Stone wants to see happen, but she realizes it’s challenging. Black women, for example, may be fearful because they haven’t ridden before. They may not understand the benefits. Attention to expanding cycling fashions could boost interest, she adds, especially among women in the workplace. Employers also need to offer amenities, such as showers, for employees of both genders—and not just those in suits.
The state of the economy may accelerate the mindset required for a resurgence in bicycling and walking, says Stone. She notes that she now runs most errands under five miles by bike. She urges more study of European models to better understand what it takes to get more people biking for work and pleasure, and hopes to see the state of Minnesota continue increasing the number of bike lanes, trails and pathways.
Corporations can be leaders as well. Stone points to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s role in Nice Ride MN bike sharing, a program she wants to see continue to expand, noting a need for it at places like Robbinsdale’s North Memorial Medical Center.
Depending on where you live, it may seem as if we’ve already entered a new transportation age; a world where bicycling, walking, mass transit, and bike- and car-sharing are no longer fringe activities. Six points of view:
St. Paul Frogtown Shop Reinvents Itself