Updated: Nov 14
ACER inc. (African Career, Education, and Resources inc.) and BikeMN partnered to provide an adult learn-to-ride bicycling program for community members.
For a few hours once a week BikeMN instructors Helena Howard, Morsal Azizi, and CJ taught a small group of diverse adults the basics of bike riding at the near-empty parking lot of Redeemer Covenant Church. For 4 weeks, the unsteady bikes of a few neon-helmet-wearing adults could be seen zigzagging through the open parking lot of the local Brooklyn Park church. Most of the riders were black and most were women. But they all shared the same goal to learn how to ride for the first time. Each had their own reason for attending the class; some had an accident as a child and fear kept them off a bike, some never had a bike to ride, and others wanted to move on from riding a tricycle to riding a two-wheeled bike. Despite their varied challenges, the students were able to learn the basics of balancing, pedaling, and road safety. Finally, the class ended with a short mile-long ride through Brooklyn Park's residential streets and bike trails. Each rider received—at no cost—a bike, a helmet, and a bike lock for completing the class.
BikeMN began teaching these courses after Cycles for Change, a community bike shop that previously directed the program, closed. Community members saw a continued need for the classes, so Cycles for Change gave BikeMN its funding and curriculum. Initially, the classes were taught only in the Minneapolis area, but BikeMN wanted to expand the program to the wider metro area, reaching out to partners like ACER to collaborate.
BikeMN instructor Helena Howard thought the classes went really well:
“This program is really new so we’ve only done classes with a few different groups. Part of it going well was smoothing out some kinks and figuring out what works for us, but this group that came was really enthusiastic and encouraging of each other. They had a lot of fun, so I think that makes a big difference and it also helps people relax which makes you learn faster, especially if you're really nervous…Laughing with each other and not taking yourself too seriously really makes a difference.”
Having completed a set of successful classes in the metro area, Helena and BikeMN plan to spend the winter revamping their programming. They hope to find more partners, offer more courses next year, and continue their relationship with ACER. Helena expressed her hope that BikeMN partners and students would help teach future students so that the program can stay in the community even if BikeMN is not able to teach it themselves.
“I’ve had a lot of fun teaching this class. I was very nervous [at first] because I never taught anyone to ride a bike before, but just seeing people ride a bike for the first time has been the best feeling,” says Helena Howard.
If you wish to learn more about BikeMN, partner with them, or learn to ride, email@example.com