It’s a freezing cold weekday in Minneapolis, and hardy Upper Midwesterners are on their way to work - on bikes.
This American city has been cited 27th in the country for the highest percentage of two-wheel commuters, and also the U.S.’ most bikeable city.
Cold, warm or in-between, parks spokesperson Dawn Summers notes, "There are people who do it all the time."
Ramsey Peterson, M.D., adds to the above statistic himself, biking to work occasionally. Peterson, his wife and two young children live just south of the big city, and he practices family medicine at Allina Health Richfield Clinic, which is about a mile and a half from his house. "Every day, we’re out walking around in the neighborhood or biking up and down (nearby) pathways," he says.
"From our house we can see a creek that runs from one of the farthest west suburbs all the way to the Mississippi River. There’s also a huge park that runs right through Minneapolis."
In addition to biking, the city’s list of kudos can fill a page or more. Many are related to healthy living, such as a best city for walking, most athletic town, number-one park system and, shared with St. Paul, its twin city across the Mississippi River, America’s fittest city. Other noted pluses: top in U.S. for volunteering, Top Tech City, third most literate city and, noted by Forbes magazine, the world’s fifth cleanest city.
Five of the city’s companies are among the Fortune 500, including Target Corporation, the U.S.’ second-largest discount retailer (after Walmart).
In recent years, the city’s downtown area has undergone dramatic changes. The new look includes buildings by avant-garde architects, but, most recently, the spurt has widened to luxury downtown condos and apartment buildings, plus a new football stadium for the Vikings. Comments spokesperson Kristen Montag at Meet Minneapolis (CVB), "There are a lot of cranes in the air right now."
As in most cities, hospitals are major players both in health care and employment. Allina Health, Peterson’s employer, owns or operates 12 hospitals and more than 90 clinics in the state and western Wisconsin. The former Abbott Northwestern Hospital is part of the group and, under various names, dates back to 1882. In 1940, Sister Elizabeth Kenny chose Minneapolis as the site to train U.S. health providers in her revolutionary polio treatment regimen. Her rehab institute was located at the then Northwestern Hospital. The name Allina was adopted in 2012. Recently added treatment offerings include an alternative medicine department, music therapy and a voice clinic that includes videostraboscopy, a technique involving insertion of a strobe light into the throat to create slow-motion pictures of vocal chords in action.
The University of Minnesota Medical Center and University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital are components of University of Minnesota Health and also represent a consolidation of healthcare facilities under the aegis of Fairview Health Services.
Another area provider, Hennepin County Medical Center, dating to 1887, has added a discipline assembling a team of medical interpreters and physician specialists to treat deaf immigrants who haven’t learned English.
Peterson notes that both nearby Northfield and Maadi, Egypt, are his hometowns. "My mom is Egyptian," he says, "so that was pretty influential in my childhood, and I attended middle school there. I’m a dual citizen, but I take after my father." By the time he got to high school, the family had settled in Northfield, where his mother was a sociology professor at St. Olaf College. His connection to the college is strong: He and his wife, Anna, are St. Olaf graduates, and they’ve named their son and daughter Soren and Signe. "We thought we should choose Norwegian names for them so they’ll fit in when they go to St. Olaf," he jokes.
Peterson earned his medical degree in a University of Minnesota program split between Minneapolis and Duluth, where he was in a program focused on primary care, then completed two residencies - one in St. Paul and the other with Allina.
Although there was no opening as such at the Allina clinic of his choice, "a couple of doctors who saw value in me took me on." He eventually became a full-time associate, not to mention a nearly full-time participant in "back office" activities, as well as committees with the Allina organization, which he praises for its inclusion of medical professionals in decision-making operations.
He praises his own clinic as well. "I think we’re very progressive. We do a lot of internal education that Allina doesn’t ask us to do. We also run our own ’educational hour’ once a month, and we do our own chart review." But his unending personal satisfaction comes from developing long-lasting relationships with patients. "I enjoy treating entire families," he says. "That is what I am trained to do."
Peterson and his family welcome winter with open arms. The city also more than satisfies appetites for sports and culture. The city supports teams in all four major league sports, while hosting cultural blockbusters such as the Minnesota Orchestra, the Fall Fine Arts Show, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center. The Guthrie Theater, with three stages, is a nationally renowned drama center, and the Minnesota Fringe Festival is the U.S.’ largest non-juried performing arts festival.
With 520 stores, 50 restaurants and the country’s largest indoor theme park, there’s also the Mall of America - the country’s largest retail and entertainment complex.
To demonstrate its continuing support for good, old-fashioned camaraderie, the city offers six summer "neighborhood friendship" celebrations titled the Open Streets Event. It’s a chance for residents to schmooze and enjoy walking and biking, while kids are encouraged to play in the streets the old-fashioned way.
Says Doug Kress, the city’s development services director: "It’s exciting to see Minneapolis continue to grow. It’s a testament that we are a city where people want to live, work and play."