Archive for August, 2012
Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
A new neighborhood bike/walk center will open its doors to the community this week: SPOKES Bike Walk Connect. SPOKES, which is a program of the Seward Neighborhood Group with major funding from Bike Walk Twin Cities, will host a grand opening on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 4:30 p.m. The community resource will provide a variety of services, including classes, open shops, a bike “library,” an earn-a-bike program and community rides, to name a few.
SPOKES is located at 1915 E. 22nd St. in Minneapolis – one block south of Franklin Ave., 1 block west of Minnehaha Ave., and 1 block off of the Hiawatha LRT bike trail at 22nd Street (also near the Hiawatha LRT station at Franklin). SPOKES is open to everyone in the community, with a special focus on connecting with the East African communities in the area.
Sheldon Mains, director of SPOKES, took a break from preparing for the grand opening to answer a few questions about the center, its features and who it will serve.
There are many other bike shops in the Twin Cities; what makes the location of SPOKES special?
There are a lot of bike shops in the Twin Cities. There are also a number of community bike centers in the Twin Cities. SPOKES is unique because while our services and programs are open to all, SPOKES is working specifically to help East Africans in the Seward, Cedar-Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis bike and walk more. Our aim is to grow a more diverse and informed community of non-motorized transit users.
Why is SPOKES needed?
There were three things that prompted trying to start a Bike Walk community center in the area:
1) About four years ago, Seward went though a community planning process that primarily focused on the Seward portion of Franklin Avenue. This planning included a lot of public participation, including significant participation from the East African immigrant community in Seward. One of the goals everyone agreed on was to make Seward a bike- and pedestrian-friendly area.
2) As a follow-up to that planning, Seward Redesign (the Community Development Corporation in the area) conducted a survey asking what kept people from biking. Unease about riding in traffic, the expense of buying a bike and “never learning how to ride” were top reasons people gave for not biking. This was especially true for the East African immigrants in the neighborhood.
3) In late 2010, Bike Walk Twin Cities called for community-based ideas for non-motorized transit. This looked like a great opportunity to address some of the issues that stop people from biking in our area. After talking with our neighboring communities, we expanded the project to include the Phillips and Cedar Riverside communities, in addition to Seward.
Who do you hope uses SPOKES?
Our programs are open to everyone, but we are initially concentrating on helping the East African communities in the Cedar-Riverside, Phillips and Seward neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
How is SPOKES planning to serve this population? What is the community and cultural significance of this effort?
The second staff member we hired was Abdiasis Hirsi (Abdi), our community outreach coordinator. Abdi immigrated to the United States in 2005, has a degree from the University of Minnesota, is a resident of the Seward Towers, and just learned to bike. We’ve already had one adult learn-to-ride class with the East African Community. For the last two years, we’ve participated in Cycles for Change’s Community Partners Bike Lending Library, including last year, with 15 East African participants. This year, there were 40 people interested in that program, but only 15 bikes available. For the grand opening, we’ll be promoting it at local mosques and East African shopping malls.
How were those in the community previously accessing bike-related services? Or were they at all?
A lot of people in this area are not biking. This is especially true in communities where few people bike – people don’t have friends to turn to for answers. We have found there are a lot of barriers that people don’t think about. For example: not knowing what kind of bike to get, the cost of a new bike, not knowing how to ride a bike, not knowing how to ride in traffic.
What sort of services will SPOKES provide?
- Classes – we’ve already had our first adult learn-to-ride class. Fourteen Somali and Oromo men and women participated. We’ll be holding a four-week adult learn-to-ride class series on Wednesday evenings, starting Sept. 12. Other riding classes will include sessions on riding in traffic, commuting and riding in winter. We will also have classes in bike mechanics, ranging from fixing a flat and basic bike tune-up to building a bike.
- Community Bike Library – Starting next spring, SPOKES will be rehabbing used bikes and loaning them (with helmets, locks and lights) to low-income residents for the summer.
- Low-cost used bikes for sale – Again, starting next spring, SPOKES will offer reconditioned used bikes for sale at affordable prices.
- Earn-a-bike – This winter, SPOKES will start an earn-a-bike program. People will be able to earn a bike by volunteering at SPOKES – part of this program will help them build their own bike – and learning how to maintain the bike they receive.
- Open Shop hours – We will provide access to a complete bike repair and retail shop (courtesy of The Hub) – with a mechanic to guide people – for people who want to fix their own bike. We will start with an open shop from 1-5 p.m. every Saturday in September.
- Open Shop for women only – To ensure a welcoming space that avoids gender barriers, SPOKES will have a women-only open shop the fourth Monday of each month. This will be in partnership with Grease Rag, a Twin Cities organization that helps empower female bicyclists.
- Nice Ride scholarships – Nice Ride has provided SPOKES with 25 scholarships to cover its $65 annual subscription. These scholarships are going to local residents from East Africa.
- Youth Junior Bike Mechanics Classes – Sometime this winter, SPOKES plans on offering a multi-week after-school program for youth to learn basic bike mechanics skills.
- Community Rides – Starting on Sept. 8, SPOKES will offer community rides for the whole family – with bikes available to use for the ride. These will be relaxed, 4- to 8-mile rides to different locations in the area. Along the way, we’ll throw in suggestions to improve your biking enjoyment.
- Walking Promotion – Bikes may be our primary aspect but SPOKES will also work to promote walking as transportation – promoting community walking activities and working to improve safety for walkers.
What will be SPOKES’ hours?
We’re just starting out and will be increasing hours over the next few months.
- Open shop hours are Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
- Volunteer night is every Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.
- Adult learn-to-ride classes are every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Matthews Park (29th Avenue South and 24th Street East)
- Community Rides are every Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon
- Women-only Open Shop will be the 4th Monday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m.
Ultimately, what is the long-term goal of SPOKES?
The goal of SPOKES is to continue to grow a more diverse and informed community of non-motorized transit users by working with communities that do not currently use biking and walking for transportation. Our goal is to have an active biking and walking community that includes a significant East African population by the end of the second year of operation. We view the Bike Walk Twin Cities Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program funding as our start-up funding. We plan to continue long after that two-year funding runs out.
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, that originally ran in the Southwest Journal.
If you’d like to get a better idea of a truly avid bicycle-riding community, jetting off to Amsterdam or Copenhagen will give you the best picture. But, if your travel is local this summer, certain pockets of Minneapolis show very strong rates of bicycling to work. One such pocket is Northeast Minneapolis.
Northeast Minneapolis – a haven for bicycling? You mean the traditionally working class community originally settled by Eastern European immigrants and now home to a variety of new immigrants from Africa and Latin America, as well as lots of people who’ve moved in from across the region?
Yes, that’s the one!
As part of overall efforts to raise awareness of new options for bicycling and walking, Bike Walk Twin Cities (a program of Transit for Livable Communities) has conducted surveys of residents at the neighborhood level. The intent is to find out more about transportation habits and attitudes as well as rates of bicycling and walking. Rainbow Research, a Minneapolis firm, conducted a random-sample survey of 135 Northeast Minneapolis residents this spring.
The early findings show that 8.1 percent of the survey respondents most often use a bicycle to get to work or school. Though admittedly a small sample, that rate of bicycle commuting is double the city’s overall current rate of 4 percent bicycle commuters (according to the American Community Survey), and already ahead of the city’s goal of 7 percent bike commuters by 2014. Kudos Northeast Minneapolis!
What other stats accompany the high rate of bicycling in the sample?
Northeast residents are young! Nearly half of the Northeast survey respondents are 34 years old or younger. Ten percent were ages 18 to 24, and another 38 percent were ages 24 to 34. These demographics perhaps reflect how Northeast has changed in recent years. Many of the area’s newest residents are looking to take advantage of the area’s relatively affordable housing, unique urban culture, and ready proximity to downtown Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the University of Minnesota.
Clearly, residents of Northeast are thinking about their transportation choices. When survey respondents were asked if they had thought about using their bikes to get to work, school, stores, or other destinations, more than they already do, 72 percent said yes.
These Northeast residents seem to be picking up on the fact that nearly half of the places people go are less than three miles away, and therefore perfect for bicycling or walking. Using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Local Employment Dynamics data, we know that about 15 to 20 percent of Northeast residents work in downtown zip codes – just a short trip away from Northeast. The 8 percent of survey respondents who regularly bike to work have discovered how easy bike commuting can be!
The survey also suggests that many Northeast residents are discovering the savings that can come from bicycling or walking. When asked about the reasons they bike, 27.8 percent of respondents cited the cost of gas – this was the top score among those who say they bike instead of going by motor vehicle.
Shedding a single car can save you up to $8,000 per year, on average, according to the American Automobile Association. And certainly, people today are looking for ways to save money.
Fortunately, access to quality bicycling routes in Northeast is good – and growing. For example, last fall, two new bicycle boulevards opened in Northeast, providing a higher-quality ride experience to local residents. The new 5th St. N.E. and S.E. bike boulevard extends from 26th Ave. N.E. southward to Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota. The route includes a bicycle-detection stop light at the intersection of 5th St. with Hennepin and Central Aves. It also includes the state’s first bicycle traffic signal at the Broadway Ave. crossing.
A new west-to-east bike boulevard in Northeast extends from Marshall St. N.E. to New Brighton Blvd., with nearby connections to the Quarry shopping center and the Minneapolis Diagonal Trail. The route features many speed bumps and other traffic-calming elements, making for a more relaxing ride for bicyclists. There also are new off-street bicycle trails on 18th Ave. N.E.
Even if you’re not a Northeast resident, you’re welcome to try out these newer bike routes, as well as many other bicycling amenities in the area. One thing is for sure: as a bicyclist in Northeast, you are certain to have plenty of company!
Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
The following post was written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, for the Southwest Journal.
If your idea of a “Minneapolis bike commuter” is a college student or young employee, think again. From Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to downtown office denizens, one of the fastest-growing groups of local bike commuters is white-collar professional employees.
On a typical workday morning – even during the winter – hundreds of employees arrive downtown on two wheels, filling parking ramp bike racks and helping reduce traffic congestion by removing motor vehicles from downtown streets.
Well-dressed professionals who regularly commute to downtown by bike are often asked: How do they do it, and why?
Meet Marty Mathis: purveyor (and wearer) of fine suits, who bikes to his business in the Northstar Center three to four times a week from his home in Edina. “I’ve been biking to work downtown for years, and I love it,” says Mathis, who looks years younger than his age (51). “I’ve biked in double digits below zero, and through six inches of snow. In fact, on the days I don’t bike to work, I often wish I had.”
Due to the nature of Mathis’ business and the fine attire it requires, he is often asked by customers how it’s possible to synthesize bike commuting with dressier clothing. Or in other words, “how do you get to work and still look good?” Mathis says.
The solution, Mathis has found, is preparedness – and ready access to a facility offering a changing room and showers. “Dress appropriately for bike-riding, based on the weather – cool clothing for summer, and layers for winter – and bring your work clothes to work in a garment bag,” Mathis advises.
At the start of each week, Mathis lays out his complete post-bicycling wardrobe for work – all the suits, shirts, ties and shoes he’ll need, based on the number of times he plans to bike that week – and drops them off at work. After his 9-mile, one-way ride into work, Mathis swings by a nearby health club for a quick shower and change of clothes.
“I tell people, ‘look, if I can do it (given the type of work clothing I wear), you can do it too,’” Mathis says. “You just have to get out of bed, pump up your tires, and get going.”
Mathis, a member of the Bike Edina Task Force, has found a favorite route for commuting downtown: north on Edina city streets to St. Louis Park, from St. Louis Park to downtown on the Cedar Lake Bike Trail, and then through downtown to his business on designated bikeways.
“It takes me about the same amount of time to get to work by bike as it does by car: about 35 minutes or less in the summer, and about 50 minutes in the winter,” Mathis says. “I regularly bike for two reasons: to keep my weight down, and to help collect my thoughts at the beginning and end of the day. It’s great – along the way, I’ll often see all kinds of wildlife, such as foxes, eagles, hawks and more.”
Through his years of bicycling, Mathis’ weight has dropped from 185 pounds to a solid 170, his cholesterol levels have improved, “and I’m barely here, from a blood pressure standpoint,” he jokes.
Some bike commuting tips, courtesy of Mathis:
- Wear proper clothing – Bike in visible clothing, especially during winter, and in fabrics that help wick away moisture. Have raingear ready, just in case. “I typically wear a yellow shirt or jacket,” Mathis says.
- Be lit – During three of the four seasons, bike commuters will typically be riding to or from work in partial or complete darkness. “Have plenty of lights on your bike,” Mathis says. “I have a powerful beam on the front of my bike, and two bouncing red lights on the back.”
- Be seen – As a bicyclist, just because you can see the cars doesn’t necessarily mean car drivers see you. “Make sure that cars can see you, especially if you need to ride away from the curb (due to parked vehicles or road debris),” Mathis says.
- Be courteous – Obey traffic rules, and be mindful of pedestrians crossing the road.
For more information about bike commuting in Minneapolis, including the Guaranteed Ride Home Program (which provides registered participants with ride-home reimbursement up to four times per year), visit the City of Minneapolis bicycling Web site.
The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, that originally ran in the Downtown Journal. Now that Nice Ride bikes are tucked away for the winter, consider using the bus for your quick trips to lunch, meetings, doctor’s appointments, or shopping. Using Metro Transit is an ideal way
The following is a post written by Bri Whitcraft, Special Projects Coordinator, Bike Walk Twin Cities. It all started with a video as inspiration and a Tweet as declaration. (My mom thought it was a joke.) Map & Route From my home in South Minneapolis, I biked to St. Paul to borrow the trailer from
The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, that originally ran in the Southwest Journal. Practical, affordable and surprisingly rewarding, winter bicycling has become increasingly popular in Minneapolis, recently named one of the top five cities in the nation for winter bicycle commuting by MetaEfficient. That’s amazing when