News from the Bike Library Program at Cycles for Change News from the Bike Library Program at Cycles for Change

By Marianne Baum, Cycles for Change staff and guest blogger


Editor's Note: In 2009, through the nonmotorized transportation pilot program, Bike Walk Twin Cities/Transit for Livable Communities provided start-up funding for the Community Partners Bike Library (CPBL). Because of accomplishments fulfilling the mission of the pilot and especially of reaching equity goals established by the TLC board, BWTC has continued to fund CPBL through several additional program years. Since its official launch in April 2010, the Community Partners Bike Library has raised the capacity of social service and economic opportunity organizations by providing access to bicycle transportation to their clients. Here, Marianne Baum looks back on 2012, sharing highlights from what sounds like another busy and successful year for staff, partners, and patrons.


The Community Partners Bike Library program (CPBL) at Cycles for Change has just wrapped up its third year of making bikes and safe-cycling education available to members of under-served communities in the Twin Cities. In 2012, the CPBL partnered with 19 nonprofit and social service organizations, loaned out 254 bikes and 22 trailers, and provided 23 classes on site at our Community Partner organizations.


Bike Library patron at a Learn-to-Ride class at Minnesota Council of Churches, Minneapolis. (Photo credit: Angela Lundberg)


The CPBL also piloted an expanded Learn-to-Ride series for adults, particularly women immigrants, who have never had the opportunity to learn to ride a bicycle. One patron who learned how to ride through the CPBL said, "Before I thought it was really hard. Now, not only with biking but with everything, if I practice, I know I can learn it."


Through 2012 CPBL programming, including Learn-to-Ride and Riding-in-Traffic classes, group rides, and safe-cycling workshops:

  • 57% of Bike Library patrons said they learned or relearned how to ride a bike;
  • 89% improved their bike riding skills;
  • 95% learned more about bike safety.



Riding-in-Traffic class at Hope Community, Minneapolis. (Photo credit: Bruce Silcox)


The outcomes of the Bike Library program in 2012 show that our work continues to positively impact participants' health. This is especially significant because the CPBL serves populations where gross health disparities exist and where opportunities for healthy living are often inaccessible or unaffordable. In 2012, 96% of our participants indicated that  bicycling helped their health. Patrons reported the following health benefits as a result of riding a bike:

  • 69% had more energy;
  • 45% lost weight;
  • 60% reported being in a better mood;
  • 35% said biking helped them make other healthy choices, such as drinking more water, quitting smoking, and eating more vegetables.


Katelyn, a Bike Library patron, at a group ride to Open Streets MPLS 2012. (Photo credit: Claire Stoscheck)


The CPBL is providing a critical resource for people who need reliable transportation to pursue their professional and educational goals. In 2012, 35% used their bikes to get to work, and another 26% used their bikes to get to school. Additionally, 28% of patrons rode their bikes to English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The provision of a bike and safe-cycling instruction also helped patrons commute to jobs that are impossible or difficult to access by bus alone. Katelyn, a patron in 2012, told us: "I ride my bike to a place where I can get a ride to work, because work is very far away. The bike saved my life the other day [when] I was late to work ... thanks to the bike I got to the bus station in just 10 minutes and even beat the bus I thought I'd [missed]." By biking to work or school, patrons also experienced financial benefits, saving money on bus fare, gas and parking; 77% of patrons said they saved money by using a bike in 2012.


The Bike Library also piloted leadership development projects in 2012, including educational internships with stipends for four patrons of Cycles for Change, increased patron volunteer engagement, and Train-the-Trainer workshops for patrons, Community Partner staff, and community members to learn the skills and strategies for teaching adults how to ride a bicycle. In 2012, three interns collected testimonials from patrons about their experiences biking and learning about bike repair and safety; the interns compiled these testimonials into a book called, Pedaling Forward: Stories from the Community Partners Bike Library. (The book is available electronically at www.cyclesforchange.org and in print at Cycles for Change, 712 University Avenue West, Saint Paul.)


Patrons Glen and Jacquie at the annual Bike Library celebration at Goodwill Easter Seals, Saint Paul, Sept. 2012 (Photo credit: Angela Lundberg)


The Community Partners Bike Library will continue working for transportation equity in the Twin Cities in 2013 with a continued focus on access, education, and leadership. If you want to volunteer with the Bike Library or receive  the Cycles for Change monthly newsletter, please send an email to bikelibrary@cyclesforchange.org.


All photos courtesy of Cycles for Change.



How much money does it

How much money does it actually cost to loan a bicycle to someone? What is the budget for loaning out 250 bicycles in a year. This other bicycle place in town gave away over 750 bicycles last year and runs on under $15,000 per year. How does your program's budget compare with them?

Thanks for your question.

Thanks for your question. Increasing access to bicycles in under-served communities is just one aspect of the Bike Library program. As part of the larger movement for transportation equity and sustainable, healthy living, the Bike Library also offers education and leadership development opportunities to all participants. Our customized programming supports patrons to learn to ride (if they have never had the opportunity to learn) as well as learn safe cycling, riding in traffic and basic mechanics skills. Leadership development and civic engagement opportunities through the Bike Library further support patrons to become leaders to help build a transportation equity movement that is representative and inclusive of the needs and interests of all communities in the Twin Cities.