Lessons Learned: Creating a Successful Community Bike/Walk Center
By Joan Pasiuk, Program Director
Photo courtesy of SPOKES Bike Walk Connect.
In 2011, TLC awarded funding through Bike Walk Twin Cities for a new, nonprofit community bike center in Minneapolis. Submitted by the Seward Neighborhood Group, the plan included strong partners: Sibley Bike Depot (now Cycles for Change), The Hub Bike Co-op, and Redesign. The opportunity was great. The proposed location, between Minnehaha Ave. and the Hiawatha LRT Trail, would serve an area with a significant number of low-income residents and where 25 percent reported themselves as foreign born. The adjacent neighborhoods have significant East African immigrant populations in particular.
There were some hurdles along the way, but SPOKES Bike Walk Connect opened in August 2012 with fanfare of the community--local bands, local food, and many, many neighbors.
Learn-to-Ride class. Photo courtesy of SPOKES.
Open Shop. Photo courtesy of SPOKES.
This summer, the center continues to thrive. Learn-to-ride classes, group rides, group walks, an earn-a-bike program, open shop times, and other offerings draw new and returning patrons. Even in bicycle-crazed Minneapolis people will show up to walk together. At a recent event at Brian Coyle Center, with SPOKES as one of the organizing partners, about 100 elders came out of their apartments to walk the neighborhood; the Oromo, Korean, and Somali populations were all well represented.
SPOKES 2013 Spring Kickoff event. Photo courtesy of TLC/BWTC.
At the one year mark, director Sheldon Mains submitted a lessons-learned report to help spread the word about creating successful community bike/walk centers. A few highlights include the following:
- Don't try to start a new community bike/walk center as a new nonprofit organization
- Build a buzz in the community.
- It shouldn't look like a typical bike shop.
- Have regular hours and publicize them.
- Try to get started in the late fall.
- Plan for earned income.
- Use concrete examples and explain what you are doing.
- Create partnerships.
- Fail fast. Learn as you go. Be flexible.
There are many more insights in Sheldon's report. Take a look here. Congratulations to SPOKES, all the partners, and all the residents enjoying this community asset.