Archived Story

Getting around is key for getting income

Published 9:38am Friday, August 1, 2014

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“Now that’s a sad bike,” I told my wife as we walked to the pizza place. Locked to a pole was a scratched up pile of metal that certainly once had tires, pedals, and properly bent handles. What was secured to this pole looked more like a downed gazelle after lions had finished their meal. Welcome to the city.

We were in Minneapolis visiting family when we came across the bike. Based on the remains, it seemed sporty, something a serious rider would use. It was not appropriate for kids or tricks like many bikes are built for these days. This was someone’s mode of transportation, and it’d been scrapped for as many parts as thieves could successfully take from it. The lock now held the bike frame to the ground, serving as a reminder to visitors that this was no place to keep your valuables.

What is that bicyclist going to do now without his bike? If cycling was his primary mode of transportation, he’d no longer be able to get to work. A lack of income could result in losing his apartment and suddenly finding himself homeless. Transportation matters.

Parked just up the block was the “new” bike — a small car available for rent by the minute. You could now affordably go farther without needing to strap on a helmet, and you can bring a friend along! The juxtaposition between the shiny new car and the trashed bicycle spoke volumes. Transportation is important, and innovative ways are changing the way we get places.

Just this week Sera and I talked about if we need to get a second car. She recently started working and is interviewing for a second position as well, meaning sharing one car is beginning to get a little complicated. With her working potentially more than one job and my job regularly having off-site meetings, it’s definitely a conversation we’ll continue having.

Zipcars and other new transportation methods have yet to take hold in Rochester, and I don’t expect it to change very soon. My city does have an extensive bus system, but their website is so dysfunctional I’m struggling to find what route I would take, let alone if it would actually be cost effective.

Public transportation should be easy, and one reason large populations still avoid it is because it simply isn’t simple.

The perks of riding a bike or taking the bus to work mean fewer cars on the road creating pollution. Becoming more dependent on a bicycle also means a healthier lifestyle.

With Blue Zones returning to Albert Lea, transportation should certainly be considered in the wellness plans for residents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, public transportation users take 30 percent more steps per day than people who rely on cars. If Albert Lea hopes to continue to be a model for this initiative, it’s certainly worth a look.

As Sera and I continue to evaluate our need for a second car, we’ll need to consider more than just what is easily affordable and improves our health. It’s one thing to ride a bike to work in the summer, but when you have a foot of snow on the ground, bicycle wheels might not work too well.

When we encountered the distraught bike over the weekend, we were hopeful it was an isolated case. On the next bike rake we found a bike missing its seat. My father-in-law actually took a photo when he finally found a bike in working condition, as if it was some sort of endangered species. A friend recently gave us her bike for Sera to use around town, and we debated the necessity for even purchasing a bike lock. Of course one is now attached to her bike, ready to use after each trip. It’s unfortunate that it’s necessary, but when you’re sharing one vehicle, all other forms of affordable transportation become much more valuable than you’d initially think.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.