Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bicycling and Skating: Urban variations?

Minneapolis is a great bicycling city, and Saint Paul is not far behind. On the other hand, we don't have as many inline skaters as one might expect. We invented the darned sport (ignore the cheese heads in the corner please), but our Friday Night Skates occur only twice a month, and we rarely get more than twenty skaters. Our inline skate club is a great group, but we're a bit on the ... experienced side of 40 (I'm going to sign up my 10 yo to drop our average age).

So why do many of these cities have pretty active night skates, not to mention Amsterdam and especially Paris?
... It takes place every Friday night, except when it rains, and can attract as many as 20,000 skaters. Group skates have been around awhile in the United States and Europe, especially since the advent of in-line skates, which provide speed and maneuverability not possible with quad roller skates. But, in scale and longevity, nothing matches the festive Parisian skates, which began in a small way in 1994 and quickly grew to a point where, in 1997, the police decided to become involved for the safety of everyone concerned -- skaters, motorists, and onlookers. Today, the police not only block off roads and provide an escort for the skaters, but about 20 officers on skates join the rolling ranks during the weekly "rando," derived from the French word "randonée," or tour...
Ok, so Paris is bigger and has lots of tourists. Still, you think we'd be able to muster a few hundred!

One theory I've heard is that the bicycling and skating populations are very similar people. In Minneapolis that population bicycles, but in other cities the bicycle routes aren't nearly as appealing -- so skating is more common. Of course that doesn't explain Amsterdam ...

Curious. I do think we ought to try a weekly skate, but since I get free to join 'em only about twice a year I'll have to wait for someone else to make that happen.

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