This article was written by Amanda Dobbs
Exciting things are happening along Dowling Avenue these days. Cars and trucks whip down the street and cyclists are often seen on the bike trails along this busy road. Keep your eye on the intersection of Humboldt and Dowling, you might just see the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota’s (BikeMN) van parked in front of Camden Cycles. I had the privilege to interview Helena Howard, a representative of BikeMN. This is what she had to say about the exciting new bicycling opportunities in our neighborhood.
First question, what is the goal of BikeMN? Our main goal is to make biking, walking and rolling safer, easier, and more fun for everyone. We do this through statewide advocacy for better infrastructure and laws, bike and pedestrian education for people of all ages, and by organizing events that gather the community to enjoy these activities together.
How can they work with our community? BikeMN’s education team recently formed a partnership with Camden Cycles to bring biking classes to the community. Every 2nd and 4th Monday, from 6-8 p.m. we host Open Shop, which is a free do-it-yourself repair clinic in which community members have access to tools, bike stands, and 1:1 help from a staff mechanic. These are great opportunities to learn how to repair your own bike, and to maybe make a new friend! In August, we will have a Learn to Ride class in Folwell Park for adults who are brand new to bicycling. We’re hoping to teach bike repair classes and lead some group rides in the future. BikeMN also trains teachers to teach biking and walking safety, through the Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum. This spring we were thrilled to have five teachers from Hmong International Academy attend our training.
What would you like to see BikeMN accomplish? I run the Adult Learn to Ride program, which just started up this summer. It’s still a small program that is limited to the Twin Cities metro, and would love to see it grow into a state-wide program.
What keeps you motivated to stay involved in the cycling community? My main motivation is that bikes are a genius invention that make my life more vibrant and fun, and I want to share that with others. I have also worked as a bike mechanic, and love nothing more than to teach others how to fix their bikes. The bike industry is very white and male dominated, and I am gleeful to do my part in changing that as a brown, queer, female bike mechanic.
What kind of programming would you like to see in our neighborhood? I would love to see kids’ bike maintenance classes, because I wish I had learned that as a kid, and community group rides with fun themes (and costumes?).
What’s your background in cycling and cycling advocacy? I ride my bike year-round, and tell people that winter biking isn’t as hard or scary as it might sound! In the summer, my favorite thing is to get all sweaty biking to a lake, and then jump into that lake. I also love to go bike camping with my dog and my friends. I am involved with Grease Rag, a Twin Cities biking group for people who identify as femme, transgender, and women. I have my first volunteer shift at Twin Cities Adaptive Cycling next week, and am excited to help out with a group ride for bikers with disabilities, along the Midtown Greenway.
What do you think is the best part about biking? The best part about biking is that it can easily be the best part of someone’s day, even if it’s just the commute to work!
Minneapolis has repeatedly been voted the most bicycle friendly city in the nation. The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (bikemn.org) is working to make sure that more people can access bicycles and have the knowledge to ride safely in their neighborhoods. Sign up for the upcoming classes at Folwell Park or stop by Camden Cycles, 1420 Dowling, for more info. Visit camdenbicycles.com.