Pictured: Faisa Farah (left) and Nasra Noor (right) stand with Nasra's daughter, and Nasra's new bike. Faisa is a participant in the SPOKES Bike Walk Connect learn-to-ride bike class. Nasra, the Seward Neighborhood Group's community organizer for Seward Towers, bought the bike when she heard about the opening of SPOKES and its learn-to-ride bike classes.
The Minneapolis bicycling boom has largely bypassed the city's growing East African population - until now. On Wednesday, Aug. 22, SPOKES Bike Walk Connect, a new community bicycling and walking resource, opened to serve residents of the Seward, Cedar-Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods.
The goal of SPOKES, located at 1915 East 22nd St. (1/2 block west of Minnehaha Ave.) in Minneapolis, is to create and grow a more diverse and informed community of bicyclists and walkers in the community, according to Sheldon Mains, director of SPOKES.
"While our services and programs are open to all, SPOKES is working especially at helping East Africans in the Seward, Cedar-Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis bike and walk more," Mains said. "A lot of people in this area are not bicycling. We have found there are a lot of barriers. For example: not knowing what kind of bike to get; the cost of a new bike; not knowing how to ride a bike; and not knowing how to ride in traffic."
The Twin Cities has the nation's highest population of residents originally from East Africa - principally from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to estimates from the latest American Community Survey, Minnesota is now home to more than 100,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa, including more than 32,000 of Somali ancestry.
SPOKES will provide bicycling goods and services geared toward bicycling newcomers, including:
Bicycling classes - including adult learn-to-ride classes
Community bike library - starting in spring 2013, SPOKES will lend bikes, helmets, locks and lights
Low-cost bikes - starting in spring 2013, SPOKES will offer reconditioned bikes for sale at affordable prices
Open shop hours - the public will have access to a complete bike repair shop, open from 1-5 p.m. on Saturdays Separately, on the fourth Monday of each month, there will be an open shop for women only.
Youth bike mechanics classes - Beginning this winter, SPOKES will offer an after-school program teaching youth on basic bike mechanics skills
Community rides - Starting Sept. 8, SPOKES will sponsor community rides for families
"One of our first hires at SPOKES was Abdiasis Hirsi - Abdi - our community outreach coordinator, to ensure quality outreach to the East African community," Mains said. "Abdi is originally from Somalia, graduated from the University of Minnesota, and only recently learned how to ride a bike himself, making him an ideal example for our services."
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.