In a city known for its many bicyclists, a new facility will soon offer sanctuary for those who commute on two wheels.
The Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is set to open behind the Midtown Exchange along the Midtown Greenway on May 16.
The center, modeled after one in Chicago, will offer typical bike shop services such as sales and repairs, as well as valet bike parking, locker rooms and showers. There will also be after-hours service and a coffee shop for tired cyclists.
Owner Kevin Ishaug said the center is more than just a store because of what it offers to commuters.
“The focus of this facility is a little bit different than the traditional bike shop,” he said.
Ishaug, a University alumnus, said the center aims to get more people out of cars and onto bikes.
Freewheel Bike and the Midtown Greenway Coalition plan to team up to engage the community by working with youth. Ishaug said they want to get young people to think of biking as a form of transportation and recreation.
According to recent U.S. Census data, Minneapolis has the second-highest percentage of people who bike to work in the nation.
University graduate student Elizabeth Pezalla, who studies landscape architecture, lives about a mile away from where the center will be.
She bikes to school every day, she said, and although she can handle most repairs on her own, she’d use the center if she needed to pick up something before a long ride.
“I think Minneapolis cares about its cyclists,” Pezalla said. “It’s a good town to bike in.”
The city of Minneapolis, a federal grant, Hennepin County, Allina Health Systems and Ryan Companies contributed to funding for the center, which will be located on Allina’s property.
The company donated $75,000 to the project to encourage employee bike use and to benefit the community, Allina spokesman David Kanihan said.
Freewheel Bike will offer its services for a price, and added benefits will be available to those who become members.
When it opens, the center will have parking for about 250 bikes, and Ishaug said there’s plenty of room for expansion
“We can probably store up to 2,000 bikes in there if we see the demand for it,” he said.
And it’s possible a similar facility could come to the University.
Steve Sanders, campus bicycle coordinator, said he’s been talking to local bike shops, including Freewheel Bike, about bringing a bike-repair facility to campus.
It wouldn’t be on the same scale as the Midtown center, but Sanders said such a facility could exist by this fall.
“It’s fair to say the University is interested,” he said. “It’s more than just thinking about it. It’s being pursued.”
As for the popularity of the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center, Ishaug said it doesn’t look like gas prices are going to go down, so four-wheel commuters could turn to other modes of transportation.
“We’re in the right place at the right time,” he said.