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The guys who brought you 30 days of biking

Somehow I stumbled upon this plot to get people to ride their bikes for 30 days in April. It all got started by a couple of bike fanatics in Minnesota who decided to use the social network power of twitter to convince people to use pedal power as their prime source of getting around.

I pledged to ride and have had moderate success keeping up on a daily basis but I was curious about this site 30daysofbiking.com and wanted to learn more.

I contacted the organizers, Patrick Stephenson and Zach Schaap and asked them what inspired this project and how has it been going. Here is my Q and A with Patrick along with pictures from one of the group rides that recently happened in the twin cities.

Name, age and where you live.
My name is Patrick Stephenson. I’m 27-years-old and I live in Saint Paul, MN, four blocks away from John Dillinger’s former Lexington Estates hide-out. I once biked the alleyway he escaped the feds down and felt Dillinger’s spirit pass through me. True story.

What bike(s) do you own.
My primary bike is my single-speed Surly Steamroller, the ninja-black edition with skinny blue Conties. No bike matters before this one, but I also have a Schwinn Traveler III, a mountain bike, another single speed, and a junker POS I hide in the garage.

What will be your next bike purchase?
I haven’t given this much thought, because I’m very happy with my Surly. I’d like to buy a frame and build a bike of my own for the first time in my life. I want the marrow-deep connection to my bike my friend, and #30daysofbiking co-creator, @zachamon has to his Schwinn Beesh. Right now, the connection is only bone-surface-deep.

How often do you ride? To commute, play, exercise?
I ride my bike every friggin’ day. My commute is almost 18 miles, and lately I’ve been riding 150-200 miles a week. All of this is to play and exercise, and just to get around. I think of it as a vehicle, now, a tool as well as a toy. The bike has become an extension of self.

What’s it like biking where you live?
Awesome! Bicycling magazine just rated Minneapolis/St. Paul the #1 city for biking for a reason, and the Cities have pledged another $25 million to bike paths and bike-friendly streets. There are plenty of viable commuting routes between St. Paul and Minneapolis, for instance. I could choose a different one every morning depending on how I’m feeling. Do I feel like biking with rush-hour traffic? Do I want massive hills and views of the Mississippi River? Do I want to bike the Midtown Greenway, paralleling railroad track in an old gorge beside Lake St.? I could even take the potholed University Ave., but I never do.

The drivers are pretty good. You get the occasional asshole SUV driver who bears down from behind and honks his horn, then drives past dangerously close. Mostly, though, people wait for you to cross; they even wave you across.

What’s the bike culture like?
It’s amazing here. Minnesotan cyclists are some of the friendliest and most helpful you’ll find. I get asked if I’m all right if I’m standing on the side of the path on my cellphone. They’re always willing to offer a tool or a part. There are billions of stores around here, from Angry Catfish, the new coffee/bike bar on 42nd and 28th Ave., to Cars R Coffins, One on One, Freewheel, The Hub, and others; most offer a place to hang out and drink locally made coffee, like Peace Coffee, in addition to a place for bike stuff.

Events-wise, Critical Mass meets every month, in the park—Loring Park—right outside my employer. I’ve never been. I’ve heard they get beaten up and gassed by the cops, undesirable for the sake of bike advocacy even for a bike advocate like me. Bike polo games are currently every Thursday in McRae park. There are some awesome rides, like the Grand Rounds, a 50-mile ride that takes you all around Minneapolis’ beauty sights. @zachamon and I and some others biked that in the rain a few nights ago. Some friends and I are doing the Minnesota Ironman later this month; it offers 30-, 65-, and 100-mile options. We opted for the century.

What inspired 30 days?
We love bikes! We also happen to love social media, like Twitter. #30daysofbiking brings the both of them together into this perfect, lightning-in-a-bottle mix, allowing people from around the world to talk about their biking adventures as they either (1) encourage themselves to bike every day, or (2) force themselves to bike at all. People are commuting to work for the first time because of us. After not having ridden a bike for 13 years, a girl in our challenge used it as an excuse to commute home from work, 10 miles, for the first time. She threw up for 10 minutes when she got home and biked again the next day.

Basically, we wanted to get people—and ourselves—biking as much as possible, and we’ve succeeded.

How did it spread?
WOM, Word of Mouth, most of it through Twitter. Since I joined Twitter in 2007, it has been endlessly amazing to me as a device for getting people together and celebrating what you love. @zachamon and I have tried to start memes on Twitter before. All of them failed, or succeeded to a very small degree. We haven’t had to do much work in promoting #30daysofbiking at all. It’s like hundreds of people were waiting for a push to bike, and then tweet about biking, and all this has done is give them that push. It’s been immensely viral.

We have bikers in China, in Korea, in France, in England, in Indonesia, in Australia, and in tons of other places. I haven’t kept a record. I’m continually surprised by how far this has reached.

How has it been going so far?
Amazingly. People fill up the stream with #30daysofbiking tweets on a daily basis—hundred a day, bunches every hour. Our site had almost 1,000 hits on the very first day and it’s been exploding ever since. The proudest accomplishment of this, for me, is that it inspired my dad, who is 58-years-old, to bike to work for the first time this morning. He left me a voicemail, “Hi, I rode my bicycle to work! Bye.” It’s giving people a reason to ride with their families. Family-time shit, away from the TV and the computer and the fkn iPods. It’s a push to get out and do something, like eat at a restaurant or see a show, when you would’ve stayed home—because you need to get those miles in.

It’s also a way to meet people. The #bikegangride we set up last week had almost 40 people attend. Seeing 40 people bike around Minneapolis’ Lake Calhoun, in a huge cohesive group, and knowing you’re a part of that is… great.

How many people are signed up so far?
Almost 400.

Future plans to develop 30 days?
Zach and I don’t know how to think that far ahead. We live in the moment. The moment right now is #30daysofbiking. We’ll figure out what’s next afterward.

Future cycling goals?
Finish the Ironman century without pooping my pants. Talk about #30daysofbiking on live television tomorrow without exploding into a sweaty, nervous-wreck bubble.

I’m not going to miss a day of #30daysofbiking, I guarantee it.

Anything you’d wished I’d asked you?
Here is the origin story I wrote up for someone else: A Twitterer named @lizbastian came up with #30daysofyoga, and I proposed a biking alternative—#30daysofbiking—to begin April 1. People, including the original group of cyclists we assembled for our St. Patrick’s Eve bike gang ride—latched onto it immediately. I compiled an information brief and distributed it through Twitter, then a friend of mine and Zach’s set up 30daysofbiking.com. It EXPLODED from there. 24 hours later we had more than a hundred people signed up and we were working on getting sponsors for the party we’re hosting at month’s end. The website has turned into this mini biking mecca where we can post photos and video, philosophize about biking, and have people explain why they’ve signed up, whether to lose weight or face a fear of biking in traffic. All of this happened because of Twitter, and all of it happened within the last five days.

For more info on all this, visit their site: 30daysofbiking.com
You still have about 15 days to play along. Join the twitter feed and follow along.
Listen to a on air radio interview with Minnesota public radio, here.

4 comments to The guys who brought you 30 days of biking

  • Jay

    Been participating in 30 days of biking in Minneapolis. I’ve already met tons of new bikers around the city. Thanks for piking this up out east, it’s done wonders out here in the Minne-apple.

  • Joe

    Could just be the optimism of spring getting to me, but I don’t remember a time where I’ve seen this many bicyclists out on the streets and paths in Minneapolis before. What a great time to be a cyclist!

  • Anne

    I’ve pledged to ride my new Yuba Mundo named BlueBelle for 30 days of biking around Iowa City. I’ve only missed one day so far and that was a lazy Sunday where I stayed home! A friend of mine borrowed my wheels to do an errand, though, so at least the bike got out. Thanks for thinking of this, guys!

  • [...] me about re-posting an interview I did with Zach Schaap and Patrick Stephenson who put on 30 Days of biking in [...]