by PAMELA EYDEN
“Are you that lady who rides her bike up and down Fifth Street in a skirt?” a stranger asked Mary Farrell on the street one day.
“Yes,” she said, laughing. She didn’t know she was so recognizable.
Ever since she bought a “step-through bike” (the style previously known as a girl’s bike) at a charity auction a few years ago, she rides almost everywhere, often in a skirt.
She goes to work and church, does errands and visits friends. With collapsible baskets on the back, she carries groceries home from the store. If she attaches a cardboard box to the back with a bungee cord, she can carry pies to potlucks and plants home from plant sales.
Except for biking the path around Lake Winona, which she said she never gets tired of, she primarily rides on paved streets. Winona is pretty good for street biking, she said. Best are the roads that have room for a bike lane in between the dedicated parking lane and the traffic, such as near Winona State campus on Main Street between the lake and Broadway. She wishes there were more of those.
Farrell is a cautious street rider. She always wears a helmet and bright colors, stays alert to traffic and potholes, and keeps one hand ready to grab the brakes. After a driver stopped her to warn that she was almost invisible against the dark background, she bought a luminous green safety vest.
As a kid on the Iron Range of Minnesota, Farrell and her friends rode everywhere. They didn’t need bike lanes. “There wasn’t much traffic and the woods were just a hop, skip and jump from my house.”
Farrell said she is looking forward to riding out to Prairie Island again, after Riverview Drive is repaved with a wider shoulder. She’s definitely in favor of Winona building a bike path on the levee, all the way to the east, and she can hardly wait for Winona’s bike trails to connect with those of Wisconsin. The view from the new interstate bridge is a dream after work, she said.