• Posted Nov 20, 2001

When we consider our commuting options, biking is probably the last thing that comes to mind, if at all. According to U.S. Census data, fewer than 1 percent of Minnesotans bike to work.

"We don't consider it a legitimate transportation option or choice. It's viewed as a recreational tool or toy," said bicycle advocate Paul Chramosta of St. Paul. But in European cities that have built the infrastructure to support biking, such as bike lanes and stations, far more trips to work are on a bicycle. But Chramosta and fellow members of the Minnesota Bicycle & Pedestrian Alliance hope the new, alliance-funded Sibley Bike Depot, at 10th and Sibley streets in downtown St. Paul, will change that. The depot is open from 4:30 to 7 p.m. weekdays and is offering "commuter classes" on topics ranging from cold weather biking to traffic safety to recommended attire. Every Wednesday evening is open shop night, when people can get instruction from volunteer mechanics and use one of six professional tool benches to repair their bikes. When completely operational next spring, the bike station will become a place where people can park bikes, grab coffee and a light breakfast at a neighboring coffee shop, read the paper and hop on the Internet before heading to the office. In the spring, with help from the St. Paul Transportation Management Organization and Metro Commuter Services, bike advocates will be enlisting people who live within five miles of downtown St. Paul to bike to work. "We want the average person to consider it, at least try it," Chramosta said. Don't think you're in shape to commute by bike? Sibley Bike Depot has electric bikes for sale. Don't have a place to shower and change after a bike commute? Depot volunteers will show you how to maintain a "no-sweat" pace. For his efforts to promote cycling as a commuter option, Chramosta, a Web page designer, was recently honored by Metro Commuter Services with a Commuter Choice award for individual achievement. Since 1990, Metro Commuter Services has recognized individuals, businesses and organizations that promote workplace transportation programs that provide alternatives to driving alone. Other Commuter Choice winners include the St. Paul Transportation Management Organization for creativity and innovation in promoting commuting options, including, which provides St. Paul parking and transit information. Chramosta, 46, also is working on a Safe Routes to School demonstration project in St. Paul, which could be launched this spring. Organizers work with parents to map out a safe route in which chaperoned children can walk and bike to school in an effort to reduce traffic congestion around schools that results from parents dropping off their children. TONI COLEMAN Pioneer Press Columnist

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