CORRECTED 8/17/2012 • It’s later than hoped for, but Spokes-Bike Walk Connect should be up and running this month with a grand opening party scheduled for Wednesday, August 22 from 5 PM to 8 PM. Spokes is located at 1915 E. 22nd Street,—just across the Hiawatha LRT line and bike trail from Phillips.
SPOKES’ goal is to remove barriers to biking and walking for residents of Phillips, Seward and Cedar Riverside.
Sheldon Mains, director of SPOKES, traces Spokes’ origins to three key sources: a Bike Walk Twin Cities call for community-based ideas for non-motorized transit, the City of Minneapolis’s Great Streets program—an aim of which is to make the neighborhood more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, and a survey designed by Katya Pilling, former associate director at Seward Redesign.
Pilling’s survey revealed a primary reason many people don’t bike: they don’t know how, in many cases due to cultural and gender barriers. A pilot program last spring, led by Seward Towers community organizer Nasra Noor, and interim organizer Farhia Asaro, was highly successful, getting more residents—both adults and children—on bikes, than expected. Other barriers are cost, concerns about riding in traffic and having a place to store the bike.
To continue the work of promoting bicycling and walking, Spokes will offer a range of programming, including:
- Earn-a-Bike, the opportunity to volunteer to earn a bicycle, helmet, and lock.
- Community Partners Bike Library, allowing low-income community members to check out bikes for six months.
- Youth Junior Mechanics Classes, providing opportunities for youth to learn bicycle maintenance skills and fix a bike to keep.
- Free and low-cost classes on safe cycling, commuting, year-round biking, maintenance, and adult-learn-to-ride.
- Women-only classes, rides, and open shop hours to ensure a welcoming space that bridges gender and cultural barriers.
- Open shop hours for the entire community, as well as for specific groups who typically don’t repair their own bikes.
- More involvement with “Share the Road” and “Complete Streets” programs.
When the project was voted on by the Minneapolis City Council, Council member Robert Lilligren stated that he and his colleagues at Bike Walk Twin Cities gave the plan “an extremely high ranking” because of Spokes’ mission of getting non-traditional groups biking. The project passed the council unanimously with strong support from the three council members who serve Phillips, Cedar Riverside and Seward–Cam Gordon, Gary Schiff and Lilligren.
In mid-July, Spokes received the final paper work from Minneapolis, allowing the project to start. Major funding for SPOKES is provided by Bike Walk Twin Cities, a federal non-motorized transportation pilot program administered by Transit for Livable Communities through the Federal Highway Administration. This funding is facilitated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development of the City of Minneapolis. Other support is coming from the Seward Coop Market and Deli, Dero Bike Racks, Welna II hardware and Quality Bike Products. Two primary partners in the program are The Hub Bike Coop and Cycles for Change. Once Spokes is up and running, more businesses in Cedar Riverside, Phillips and Seward neighborhoods have expressed interest in being involved.
SPOKES is a program of the Seward Neighborhood Group but residents of all three communities have been involved in starting the program. SNG has formed a separate committee for SPOKES. It will have membership from Cycles for Change, The Hub, SNG, and the broader communities.
Looking ahead, Mains says there are several ways people can help. One is by donating used, repairable bikes for programs and to sell. In addition, volunteers are needed to help prepare Spokes’ space by doing build-out work, painting, and building storage shelves and racks. Volunteer evenings are every Thursday from 4 PM to 8 PM—all levels and all kinds of skills welcomed. Repairable used bikes can be dropped off during the volunteer evenings.
CORRECTED 8/17/2012 • It’s later than hoped for, but Spokes-Bike Walk Connect should be up and running this month with a grand opening party scheduled for Wednesday, August 22 from 5 PM to 8 PM.