Bike/Walk Center idea needs a tuneup?


It’s back to the drawing board, or the sounding board, for North Minneapolis Bike/Walk Center proposals. After questioning the sustainability of the proposal city staff recommended Dec. 1, at their Jan. 5 meeting the Minneapolis City Council’s Public Safety and Health Committee voted 3-2 to reject all proposals and issue a new request for proposals (RFP).

For more stories about Bike Walk Center, check TC Daily Planet’s Getting Around section.

The carrot is a $350,000 Communities Putting Prevention to Work city grant, from federal money, to get the enterprise started. The goal is to increase healthy bicycling and walking by having a place to sell and repair bikes and other merchandise, meet other biking and walking enthusiasts, have spinning classes, etc.

While there are more than 80 bicycle shops in the metro area, there are none in an area from the Mississippi River to Highway 169, Highways 394 to 694, it was stated at the Dec. 1 meeting. If there was enough market interest to sustain such stores, one or more would have started on their own, some business people say.

It’s been generally stated and quoted bluntly, “black people don’t bike,” and “the area’s not safe to bike in,” though recently Northside bikers have started blogging that they would like to have stores closer to them. The Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota started Northside rides last summer, and the Tour de Camden has had successful summer rides.

Fourth Ward Council Member Barbara Johnson, in framing her Jan. 5 motion, said she wanted it clear for the record that at the time the original RFP was issued, it did not require that the grantee be a non-profit organization (required by the funder), and this motion fixes that. “The new RFP should also cover a broader geographic location, and the review team should include both business expertise and project management, and the city council members,” she said. She, along with Third Ward Council Member Diane Hofstede and Tenth Ward Council Member Meg Tuthill voted to issue a new RFP.

The grant was approved in March 2010 and the RFP issued Sept. 15, due Oct. 27, 2010. The one recommended was Major Motion, by Cultural Wellness Center and the Major Taylor club, a group of black bicycling enthusiasts. The other was called TREADS, fronted by Behind Bars Bicycle Shop (owner Chuck Cowan is a North Minneapolis resident) and facilitated by the Pohlad Family Foundation whose officers said they and a consultant they hired spent nearly a year gathering support and ideas from seven community organizations and partners including Redeemer Center for Life.

The Pohlad Family Foundation withdrew the TREADS proposal “in order to protect the intellectual property that we created,” according to a post by Marina Munoz Lyon on the Folwell Neighborhood Association blog. Kristen Klingler, the city staffer who managed the process, said she had scheduled a telephone conference after the staff decided on a recommendation, to let each proposer know their status. Pohlad canceled their conference and withdrew their proposal. They had no comment for this article.

At the Dec. 1 meeting, council members requested to see the actual proposal from Major Motion, and they were furnished with copies after the meeting. It’s been reported that they also eventually gained access to other proposal.

Fifth Ward Council member Don Samuels, who with Second Ward Council Member Cam Gordon voted against issuing a new RFP, stated he is “hoping there’s a way we can get these questions answered and get a convincingly sustainable proposal out of this.” Gordon said he hoped those involved would stay the course and answer the questions.

In the hall after the meeting, Atum Azzahir, the head of Cultural Wellness Center, conversed with various parties involved in their proposal. Her son, Anthony Taylor of the Major Taylor club, conversed with another group. He told NorthNews they would all have to talk about whether and how to proceed.

Taylor mentioned the Urban Bike Festival held in St. Paul in conjunction with Rondo Days, which he said cleared $15,000 after expenses in its first year, 2010. He said the club knows how to make money. “If we get a decision in February, maybe March, we can be up and running in June” to get traction when bikers are out in greatest numbers. (The request for proposals dictated that a shop would need to be open by October 2011, but the grant would expire in March of 2012.)

He listed off several commercial enterprises in various aspects of the business who were willing to provide expertise or do some joint purchasing to help keep costs down. Tracy “Cubs” Farr, currently manager at Now Bikes & Fitness, confirmed he is the intended manager of the bike shop operation in the Major Motion proposal.

Dawn Williams, director of Emerge Ventures, located on West Broadway, said Emerge would partner with the Major Motion bike/walk center to provide youth to be employed. For stores like this, labor is the big cost, and staffing is a challenge because the business is so seasonal, Williams and Taylor said, and the youth would help solve that.

An in-house coffee shop modeled after Peace Coffee would also help smooth out the seasonal nature of the business. The health department, which let out the RFP, defers to the city’s Regulatory Services department for how that coffee area could be configured, and to the city’s normal site plan development review process for facility design.

It’s unclear what exact process and timeline will be used to issue and evaluate responses to the new Request for Proposals.

Klingler said the original RFP review panel for the Bike/Walk Center consisted of eight individuals including City staff and community members with relevant expertise:

  • Patty Bowler-(Director of Policy and Community Programs, City of Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support)
  • Erik Hansen-(Principal Planner, City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development)
  • Don Pflaum-City of Minneapolis Public Works (was invited to participate because of his close involvement with the development of the Midtown Greenway Bike Center)
  • Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson-Northside community resident (was invited to participate because of her knowledge of biking and walking issues, specifically in North Minneapolis and because of her former position as the Program Coordinator of the Bike Walk Ambassador Program)
  • Steve Sanders-University of Minnesota (was invited to participate because of his current involvement with the opening and operation of the new bike shop at the University)
  • Dan Breva-Nice Ride MN (was invited to participate because of his managerial and business development experience with the Midtown Greenway Bike Center and because of his expertise related to the start up of the Nice Ride system)
  • Paul Bauknight-Northside community resident and small business owner (was invited to participate because of his North Minneapolis residency and his small business expertise)
  • Tammy Dickinson-City of Minneapolis Employment and Training Program (was invited to participate because of her expertise in youth employment and mentoring programs)

Klingler, coordinator for Communities Putting Prevention to Work, is at 612-673-2910 and email