Patrick Stephenson, a copywriter at Minnesota Public Radio, credits his friend Zachariah Schaap for inspiring his passion for riding his bike to work every day. “I always loved bikes but never made the leap in my mind that I could ride to work.”
Stephenson’s bike commuting commitment started in the summer of 2009 and continued through the following winter. “Zach and I created a hash tag winterviking. At the end of the winter we started to discuss what we would use as a hashtag for spring,” he recalls. “We needed a hashtag to unite our biking adventures and interests."
When a friend mentioned she joined a 30 days of yoga challenge, Stephenson jumped at the idea. With his friend Zachariah Schaap the pair founded 30 Days ofBiking. The premise of the event is to motivate local riders to make a pledge to ride every day in April. The pledge can be commute to work or a short spin around the block when the weather is at its worst. The pledge also brings together a community of cyclists.
Three hundred people came to the first event in April 2010. The challenge of riding a bike for 30 consecutive days in Minneapolis’s unpredictable weather attracted attention from local and radio and television stations.
April can be a tough month for cyclists. Mother Nature can deliver warm sunshine, cold rain, snow, and blustery winds all in the same week. “That was a consideration. I like the way that the 30 Days of Biking pledge kick starts your spring. Everyone is ramping up in April and getting exciting about getting back to biking again,” says Stephenson. “There’s also a hint of danger to it. We can get a huge rainstorm or a wonderful sunny day. The weather becomes part of the experience that you have in April. Inherently for most of the people biking 30 days in a row is not a big deal. Doing it in April adds an element of danger to it.”
Twin Cities bicyclists who took the original 30 Days of pledge encouraged Stephenson to repeat the challenge. After events in September 2010, April of 2011, September 2011 there was too much momentum to stop. Stephenson created a formal team to design the web presence, promote the event and look for ways to expand the event’s influence.
“We began a process of trying to determine what we wanted to achieve with the event. Every year it improved,” says Stephenson. “As a team we crafted an idea of what this 30 days of Biking could become.”
Preparing for the fifth annual 30 Days of Biking pledge drive for April 2014, more than 3,700 people have signed the pledge to become ambassadors for local cycling. “ Our event is a way to embrace the bicycle lifestyle. Join a big bike ride with your friends or teach a kid how to change a flat tire,” says Stephenson. “It’s a celebration of what biking means to us as a city and culture. There are a lot of ways to participate.”
This year’s kick-off ride will be held March 30, 11am at Gold Medal Park in Minneapolis. Several hundred riders are expected to attend. Registering for the 30 Days of Biking pledge takes less than a minute but Stephenson is deeply impressed by the integrity of the people who sign up.
“When people sign their name on the website they take the pledge seriously. They are open and honest about their progress,” says Stephenson. “People who have missed a day ask what they should do. I tell them to do some extra credit and ride more in May. People do stick with their commitment.”
When registering, people can offer the reasons they are taking the pledge. “The reasons are varied but a common thread is a passion for biking. Bikes can have a transformative power that cycling can have in your life,” says Stephenson.
Fran the Can: "Cycling is a necessity for this human's spirit."
Nicole Marie Pfeifer: "It's been a long-ass winter!"
Erin Daly: "I want everyone to see bicycle commuters and think, "I can do that too!"
For 2014, Stephenson has added a partnership with [Free Bikes 4 Kids](fb4k.com) . Throughout April 30 Days of Biking rides and events will promote the non-profit and raise funds to purchase bikes for kids. “We are going to set-up campaign to build awareness. We want to reach 9,000 pledges. With sponsor support and a mid-April fundraiser we hope to raise enough money to donate approximately 300 bikes,” says Stephenson. “It’s a good extension of our mission. Cycling can improve your life and our world. This is a way to can expand that idea and bring bikes to kids.”
Founded in Minneapolis, 30 Days of Biking has spread across the country. Chapters have opened in 11 cities including Denver, Boston and Philadelphia. “It’s insanely amazing. It’s about directly communicating with thousands of people and getting them excited about biking and contributing to a cause,” says Stephenson. “Each year we want to add new challenges. We have a core passionate following. I want to get that number to 50,000 or 100,000. We’re just hitting our stride. In the future, our goals is getting more people on bikes and getting more bikes to kids. We are going to make this work.”