A bicycling tradition is forming in Minneapolis.
30 Days of Biking, an event in which people pledge that they will ride their bike at least once a day throughout April, will kick off for the third time on Sunday.
Since it started in 2010 as a pledge among University of Minnesota alumnus Patrick Stephenson and his friends, the event has exploded in popularity and expanded to 88 countries, thanks in large part to social media.
Stephenson said 600 people made the pledge in 2010, roughly 2,000 in 2011, and he expects 3,000 to sign up this year.
“I can’t even process it. It’s just so weird that something I’ve helped create has spread this far and that people in other countries are so excited about it,” said Stephenson, who graduated from the University in 2006.
Participants aren’t required to bike a certain distance or keep track of the time they biked. After signing up, it’s up to individuals to hold themselves accountable.
Kurt Stafki, a spokesman for 30 Days of Biking, said the pledge is casual and meant to challenge people on their own terms.
“We’re open to any kind of cyclist, whether you’re a novice, a professional or a Tour de France winner. Anybody can do it,” Stafki said.
Greg LeMond, a three-time Tour de France winner, and Marco Pinotti, a Tour of Ireland winner, have both tweeted their support for the event.
“We don’t care what you ride, how far you ride, and we don’t care why you ride,” Stafki added. “Just as long as you ride your bike and have fun doing it, mission accomplished.”
Nick Manty, a University senior in psychology, said the event helped him get in to biking. After pledging last year, he plans to participate again this April.
“I can bike somewhere to get from point A to point B,” Manty said. “But as opposed to a car or riding the bus, I can have a lot of fun doing it.”
Utilizing social media
Stephenson and his friends became fascinated with the way Twitter hashtags could unite people several years ago.
After a bike ride with some friends, the idea of using a hashtag to promote biking started to get thrown around.
Familiar with the idea of 30 Days of Yoga, Stephenson brought the idea to biking and made the hashtag 30 Days of Biking.
“I proposed the idea to my friends, and they all jumped on it. From there it was kind of a viral sensation the way it took off really fast,” Stephenson said. “That’s just the nature of Twitter; people just stumble upon these things.”
Stephenson expects to have close to 3,000 participants this year but said the biggest signup days are March 31 and April 1. Last year 1,000 people signed up on those days.
In addition to signing up online, potential participants can sign up at Freewheel Midtown Bike Center on March 31 before the official kickoff April 1 at Gold Medal Park.
Even with the event’s early success, Stafki said he expects the event to continue to grow exponentially.
“How big can it be in the future? I don’t know. But I know it’s going to be big.”
Stephenson also expects the event to grow.
“I think it can cross all political lines. Biking is a universal concept — it’s good for your body; it’s good for your mind,” Stephenson said. “Bicycling every day will transform the way you live your life.”