December 26, 2019 Update

Dear C4C community –

During this turbulent time for Cycles for Change, the board has been working hard to figure out options going forward. We have struggled to keep everyone updated to this point, including staff, donors, program participants, and others. This letter is an update following the December 17 community meeting and with an eye toward possible futures for Cycles for Change.

While Cycles for Change has a widespread community, the lifeblood of that community has been the staff. They built a welcoming space for anyone to join in all things bike. They were patient, kind, and supportive. Their knowledge and expertise were substantial, and their passion and energy were contagious. Many of the staff are BIPOC, trans, queer, or disabled, and they worked tirelessly to foster a sense of community among the staff and with all visitors and participants. The staff truly embodied the mission of C4C. For all of that, thank you.

Many variables came to a head in early November. As a result of the dire financial situation, immediate action was taken in the form of laying off most staff. While the board acted to ensure that these staff members would not work hours for which they could not be paid, we recognize that the layoffs had very adverse effects on their livelihood. We were unable to provide warning or severance. And we took far too long to connect with staff again after the layoffs. We apologize.

After ceasing operations and laying off staff, the board assumed management of the organization. The board, which is all volunteer, had not until this point been involved with operations. We apologize for the time we took to become familiar with and act on operational issues. 

A majority of the activity has revolved around legal and financial obligations. First and foremost, since C4C had defaulted on its bank loan, the bank had frozen all C4C assets. We could not pay anyone until the bank was paid. The loan was paid off in December through generous support of an anonymous donor. After paying off the bank loan, attention shifted to accounts payable, which included: payroll, payroll taxes, accounting services, utilities, software rental, contracting services, rent, etc. Priority was placed on payroll owed to two employees who worked well into November, taxes, and accounting services; we are still in the process of addressing all business expenses. We continue to monitor accounts payable and have been negotiating with vendors wherever possible. After the December 17 community meeting, we suspended all new fundraising until and if next steps are determined.

A sincere thank you goes out to C4C’s landlord, Seward Redesign. Their willingness to work with and support C4C has been invaluable. We also express heartfelt gratitude to Voices for Racial Justice, who has been flexible in overdue payments for the office space rental. We also want to thank other vendors for their support, flexibility, and understanding.

While the priorities have been to address the financial situation, not enough attention was focused on outreach and communication to the staff and community.

A sincere apology goes out to Grease Rag. The Grease Rag organization and community were strong partners with Cycles for Change. The board failed to actively engage and update them throughout this process. As an organization led by and for FTW cyclists, they also truly embody the mission of C4C. 

It was clear from the December 17 community meeting that trust in the C4C board is strained among many community members. We thank everyone for voicing their feelings, ideas, hopes and concerns. The board is taking all comments and concerns into consideration while figuring out viable next steps. 

It was also clear from the meeting that community members value greatly the contributions of C4C to the community, including open shop, adult learn-to-ride classes, and the welcoming environment within the shop and programs. Cycles for Change has filled a much-needed niche in the bicycling community by engaging diverse communities. As noted, successful community engagement has been due to the efforts of the staff and partners. 

Over the past year and more, the board has worked with C4C staff leadership to try to find a viable business plan that would address the loss of major, ongoing funding sources. We approved a 2019 budget that called for increasing shop sales and individual giving and raising targeted grant and contract support. That plan did not work. We now recognize that we should also have involved the full staff and community in the process. 

The board is committed to seeking community input about next steps for Cycles for Change, including:

  1. The shop. We heard at the December meeting that the shop is a vital gathering place not only for customers and open shop participants but also the community as a whole. Yet, shop sales did not pay for the cost of operations. 
  2. The future of C4C programs. To what degree can we transition or transfer open shop and adult learn to ride classes to other willing program partners? 
  3. The future of C4C as an organization and ensuring resources are reinvested into the C4C community. 

The board is organizing another community meeting on January 7 to provide updates and invite input about options going forward. See details below for a community meeting:

  • Tuesday, January 7, 2020, 6:30 pm-8 pm
  • Matthews Recreation Center
  • 2318 29th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Comments can also be submitted to [email protected]

We appreciate the feedback that you have contributed via the community meeting, on social media, and by email. Additionally, we ask for your assistance in forwarding this information to anyone who may not have access to it electronically. We continue to believe in and support the mission of working to build a diverse and empowered community of bicyclists. 

Sincerely,

C4C board

December 13, 2019 Update

You are invited to a Cycles for Change Community Meeting on Tuesday 12/17 from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Matthews Park Recreation Center. Join the board of directors for updates on Cycles for Change and listen to community questions and input.

Date: Tuesday, December 17
Time: 6:30pm-8:00pm
Place: Matthews Park Recreation Center
2318 S 29th Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

To receive more details about this meeting, please RSVP here. More details will also be posted on this page closer to the event.

December 9, 2019 Update

Dear friends of Cycles for Change,

The Cycles for Change Board of Directors would like to update you about the status of Cycles for Change. The short version is:

  • We are not shutting down;
  • We are preparing a new organizational plan, which will involve changes; 
  • We are planning a community meeting to share more about the situation and ask for input about our plan to restructure, particularly how it matches up with community needs. 

We appreciate all the messages from people about Cycles for Change and what the organization, staff, and programs have meant to the community. We heard a lot of questions about what happened. We would like to take this opportunity to explain more about the current situation and highlight some details about the organization’s future. 

Even as we recognize that our current financial position means we have to scale back, we also are energized and excited about finding ways to continue programs that serve and empower a more diverse community of bicyclists. 

What happened?

For the last few years, Cycles for Change has operated with the benefit of large, multi-year grants and contracts. This funding, along with support from individuals and other smaller grants, and revenue from our community bicycle shops, allowed us to offer multiple programs: Youth Apprenticeship, Slow Roll rides, Open Shop, and Adult Learn to Ride classes. 

We knew as an organization that the coming end to that long-term funding would present fundamental challenges. The last couple of years also have seen a leadership transition. And, as a result of both the funding challenges and leadership transition, we’ve recognized the need to address internal operations, to tighten up systems, and achieve savings and efficiencies where ever possible. To address our changing financial picture, we:

  • Built a cash reserve going into 2018 to help us through a planned Executive Director transition. A new Executive Director was hired in summer 2018.
  • Instituted several improvements in internal operations, from payroll to financial management to shop operations. 
  • Closed our Saint Paul shop in late 2018 because of higher costs and lower sales at that location in combination with a rent increase if we had stayed. 
  • At the end of 2018, launched an individual fundraising campaign to help broaden support and prepare for the 2019 season.
  • Adjusted our staff size and reduced salaries to alleviate financial pressures and adjust to the new operations of one bike shop.
  • Hired outside grant-writing and individual giving consultants to help secure new grants and bolster other sources of income.
  • Worked hard to deliver high quality programming. Minneapolis shop sales increased 28% over 2018. We increased the number of Open Shop opportunities, resulting in a 97% increase in participants. The Adult Learn to Ride program served 163 participants from across the metro. 

Over the last few months, we have been faced with an increasingly difficult and unsustainable financial picture. While shop sales have increased, shop revenue is insufficient to cover shop operations. We were unsuccessful in securing new long-term funding. As funding for programs was not replaced, our revenue structure broke down. In November, we laid off staff and closed our doors, suspending programming. 

What’s next?

Cycles for Change consistently has welcomed and served a diverse community, providing a place to become familiar with bicycle transportation as a means to greater independence and empowerment. The stories on our blog about the people we’ve served attest to this. We’ve been a particularly welcoming place for people of color and immigrants, people expressing all gender identities and people of lower wealth backgrounds. Doing this work well requires paying attention to people, acknowledging their different backgrounds and taking time to understand and address their needs. 

It is this work that we plan to continue, although it will be in a more limited way than in the past. We are preparing a new business plan focused on resuming the programming that isn’t offered elsewhere. While our Adult Learn To Ride Program is partially funded in 2020, we are unable to continue to operate the shop and are talking with potential partners about possible collaboration. We’re especially interested in partnerships that would allow us to resume Open Shop in our current location. 

We are very grateful to the individual donors who have stepped up over the last few weeks to allow us to deal with financial obligations. With this support, we are nearly debt-free, though do face continued operating expenses. We also are grateful to our landlord and to other suppliers, vendors, and partners for their support and understanding as we work on a new plan.

What can you do?

  1. Make a contribution. Every dollar helps!
  2. Spread the word about C4C within your community.
  3. Share what you value about C4C with us by email at [email protected]
  4. Stay tuned as we continue to provide updates and bring together a community meeting. 

Thank you for your continued support as we navigate this restructuring. It takes a village! We appreciate any level of support you can provide—whether it’s contributing financially, sending positive vibes, sharing your love of C4C with friends, or connecting us with partners or donors. We look forward to working with you and the greater community to bring C4C into a strong position in 2020.

With gratitude,

C4C Board of Directors

December 3, 2019 Update

Dear Cycles for Change Community,

As of November 2019, the Cycles for Change shop in Minneapolis is closed and programming has been suspended until further notice.

Changes in the philanthropic environment have led to a loss of several significant, long-term sources of funding. Board and staff have been working hard to find a sustainable structure. While we are encouraged by strong 2019 results at the shop, in terms of sales and participation, current income does not cover expenses of operations. 

 We value and appreciate the various ways people have connected with Cycles for Change: via the store, Open Shop, Learn to Ride classes or other programming over the years. The shop culture is unique: welcoming and inclusive. We are one of only a few organizations offering adult “Learn to Ride” classes. These are programs that are highly valued in the community and deserve our ongoing support. 

In light of that past support, the Cycles for Change board of directors still believes in our mission to build a diverse and empowered bicycle community. We are deeply grateful to staff, donors, customers and community members who have supported us over the last 23 years.

The world is a very different place from when we first launched as the Yellow Bike Coalition back in 1996. We have worked hard over the years to adapt to both the challenges and opportunities in the bike community, the nonprofit environment, and the world as a whole. Now, in 2019, we find ourselves faced with one of the largest challenges yet. 

We have only a few weeks to determine next steps, and we welcome your feedback about what you value about the organization (email us). We also greatly appreciate contributions to help us meet our financial obligations. 

Sincerely, 

Cycles for Change Board of Directors

2019 Learn to Ride Season Recap

Learn to Ride is a very special program at Cycles for Change. It is a class aimed at adult learners, with the goal of getting people up to speed on how to ride a bike safely in Minneapolis. With the support of some great staff and volunteers, the Learn to Ride program assisted in 100 people learning how to pedal this year!

Learning how to bike as an adult is daunting. Whether we are traumatized from falling while trying to learn when we were younger, or trying and failing to teach ourselves, or we have embarrassment or shame about not being able to ride, it takes a lot of courage to sign up for a class. We build our classes to be supportive, encouraging environments. We have staff and volunteers who are enthusiastic about biking and just want to help people achieve their goals of riding with their kids and partners, going to work, or for fun.

This year we hosted 19 learn to ride classes in Minneapolis and St. Paul from May through September, totaling 252 hours practicing with new riders. We went on group rides on neighborhood streets where we practiced spacing, controlled braking and shifting, signaling, scanning, and rules of the road. This program is a life-changing experience for many of our participants and extremely rewarding for volunteers.

Kaja, bike voucher recipient

2019 was especially wonderful for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who were also FTW (Femme, Trans, Women). BIPOC FTW who learned how to bike were given a $400 voucher to buy a bike, lock, lights, and helmet from Cycles for Change. This was made possible by a Community Connectors grant from Our Streets Minneapolis, a local bike advocacy group. We were able to give these vouchers to new riders, allowing them to pick bikes that fit their bodies and tastes. We are so happy we were able to connect so many people with bikes after they worked hard for the skills to ride them.

Learn to Ride is an important program that impacts many lives, mostly Black/African American, over 75% as BIPOC, and almost as many FTW. Not to mention, how encouraging new riders affects the richness of our bike community. Please support this program specifically by donating $90 (which is the cost of teaching one adult to ride a bike in Learn to Ride) and help us continue changing people’s lives. Donate here.

C4C Staff Member Attends Trans Equity Summit

By: Tom Parker

On Thursday, September 26, Cycles for Change Operations Coordinator, Tom Parker, attended the 6th Annual Minneapolis Tran Equity Summit at the Walker Art Center. The event started with an opening plenary session during which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey pledged his allegiance to the Transgender community here in the Twin Cities. He acknowledged that while Minneapolis has often led the way nationally in creating trans-positive legislation and policy, there is still so much more work to be done. Mayor Frey then introduced City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins. Vice President Jenkins was an absolute inspiration and began her address by naming the 19 different trans women of color who have been killed in the U.S. in 2019. She not only listed their names, but their ages, where they lived, and their race, bringing attention to the fact that while the quality of life for many trans folks has improved in the last decade, violence towards Black trans women, especially, continues to escalate due to systemic racism, anti-blackness, and police/ICE brutality. 

After Vice President Jenkins’ address, a panel of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) transgender, gender non-conforming, and Two Spirit folks spoke to their own experiences and encouraged the crowd to pay reparations to Black trans women. This important call to action closed the address and attendees were then able to attend educational breakout sessions of their choosing which covered a wide array of topics including a BIPOC caucus, a listening session with the Trans Equity Council, a DIY Oral History project, a poetry workshop for queer and trans youth and many others. Simultaneously, in the Walker pavilion, there was a job fair and healing tent offering free massage, acupuncture, and Reiki. 

All in all, the summit was an interesting contrast of inspiration and oppression. Held at the Walker, an institution known historically for its racism, classism, and colonial structures, it felt a bit incohesive to be a part of a group of individuals who would most likely not find themselves welcome or safe at the Walker otherwise. Meanwhile, many BIPOC trans folks led immensely impactful panels and breakout sessions which further solidified the necessity for action from allies and white folks to do our part in taking reparative action against the forces of white supremacy and colonialism that perpetuate transphobia and to give up power and policy making decisions to our Black and Indigenous community members. As an organization by and for BIPOC, queer, transgender, and disabled folks, Cycles for Change will continue to grow and strive in lifting up ourselves and our community members.

C4C Staff Attend Youth-led Climate Strike


By: Gunther Melander

Last Friday, September 20, Cycles for Change staff attended the Global Climate Strike, an international youth-led action to stop climate change. With the Minnesota capitol lawn full of young and old alike, we heard stories from young Black and Indigenous leaders about how climate change is destroying their communities and about the need to fight together for a better future.

Why is it important to come to actions like the climate strike? One march or protest will never stop injustice on its own, but each protest is an important step to create lasting change. First, attending an action can foster a sense of community and give people an opportunity to stay involved. There is a lot of work that goes into running a movement and there is always room for more hands. Second, the more people in a crowd, the better the message for the movement. From names on a petition, to people in a crowd, every person involved increases the the momentum to influence change for any movement. 

Why do you participate in actions? What does climate change look like in our community here in Seward? Email Gunther Melander, Administrative Coordinator, at [email protected] with your stories and thoughts.