From welcoming a new Executive Director to celebrating our 10th anniversary, 2019 has been a huge year for us. At Our Streets Minneapolis we are grateful for your continued support as we work for a city where biking, walking, and rolling are easy and comfortable for everyone. With only six staff this year, we depended on our local community to make this all happen. Thank you for working toward our shared vision of a city that puts people first!
Join us as we look back on all we accomplished together this year and look ahead to what we have planned for 2020. Plus, be sure to read to the end of this post for an update on our financial situation.
One of the ways we work for a better city is through local advocacy to make streets places that put people first. Our advocacy is guided by community and carried out by our volunteer work groups and staff.
Downtown Bikeways Work Group volunteers talk to commuters about an improved Downtown/Whittier connection on Twin Cities Bike to Work Day.
The Our Streets Minneapolis Pedestrian Work Group continued to advocate for a better city for folks who walk and roll. In 2019 their efforts resulted in:
- Heightened visibility for walking conditions on Hennepin County owned streets like Lyndale Ave S
- $300,000 in the 2020 City budget for improved winter sidewalk maintenance
Our Downtown Bikeways Work Group continued their legacy of securing tangible improvements to the Minneapolis bike network. Here are some of their accomplishments this year:
- Buffers returned to Park & Portland
- Protection added to parts of Blaisdell Ave S
- Improvements scheduled to parts of 1st Ave S through the City Capital Improvement Project program
- Bollards returned to 26th St
- Partnering with local groups to stop a parking garage from being built in the North Loop
Our Streets Minneapolis staff also led on some of our 2019 advocacy work. Staff led projects included:
- Working with our new partners at Lyft* to get them to remove their driver’s license requirement for scooter rentals
- Organizing around the Transportation Action Plan through activating our network and hosting local community conversations to amplify the needs and concerns of people of color, people with disabilities, and folks with low income
- Changing the conversation about the role of enforcement in Vision Zero both locally and nationally. While we are disappointed enforcement will play a role in Vision Zero in Minneapolis, we are proud of how our advocacy sparked discussions about how enforcement impacts safety on our streets. Notably, the final Vision Zero Action Plan does not call for a traffic enforcement unit at this time. While Mayor Frey plans to reinstate the traffic unit anyway, Council Member Cunningham hopes to lead a work group to monitor the impact of this traffic unit on our city, paying close attention to impacts on communities of color.
As we move into the new year we are beginning to organize local communities around making big changes to Hennepin County owned streets like Lake St, Lyndale Ave S, and Franklin Ave. We chose to focus on Hennepin County owned streets because these streets are dangerous by design; 40% of the most dangerous streets in Minneapolis are owned by the County. Hennepin County streets in Minneapolis are also disproportionately home to people of color.
Through our community organizing we plan to change how the County designs and implements transportation projects in Minneapolis. We will do this through a citywide campaign, centering and amplifying the voices of folks who have historically been left out of the transportation decision-making process, including people of color, folks with low income, and folks with disabilities.
We’ve already started working on organizing around Hennepin County streets with local partners like Hope Community, Lake St Council, Seward Neighborhood Group, St. Anthony East Neighborhood Association, West Bank Business Association, and Safe Streets Save Lives, and our Downtown Bikeways and Pedestrian Work Groups. Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and eNewsletter for opportunities to help with this important work.
In addition to advocating for better streets, we also carry out programs to encourage folks to take advantage of their streets by biking, walking, and rolling. This year we carried out three main encouragement programs: Bicycle Connectors, #WeWalkMpls, and Minneapolis Bike Month.
Cleveland Neighborhood Association Cycle Sisters biking at Open Streets West Broadway.
2019 was the second and final year of Bicycle Connectors, our program where we collaborated with local organizations to use bicycling as a vehicle to connect and empower folks who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and/or people of color and are also femme, trans, women, and/or non-binary. This year we provided funding to seven local partners to carry out their own bike-centered programs in their communities. Together, our partners reached 518 community members across Minneapolis.
Instagram posts using the #WeWalkMpls hashtag.
This was also the second year of our #WeWalkMpls project. For #WeWalkMpls, we collaborate with the City of Minneapolis to celebrate walking in our city and encourage more folks to try walking for transportation. This year community members made over 120 Twitter and Instagram posts using #WeWalkMpls to share stories about why they walk to get around.
Community members gather with City Council President Lisa Bender and County Commissioner Marion Greene at a Twin Cities Bike to Work Day pit stop.
And of course we can’t forget about Minneapolis Bike Month! This year we partnered with the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County to put on Twin Cities Bike to Work Day, host basic bike maintenance workshops, support Bike & Walk to School Week, and host an evening on bike law with Brazil Law Group.
Open Streets Minneapolis
The 2019 Open Streets Minneapolis season featured seven unique events spanning a total of 15.6 miles of streets across our city. In 2019 we set a new season-wide attendance record of 103,500 people across the seven events. This number surpasses our previous record of 101,500 attendees at eight events in 2017.
We are currently in the process of planning the 2020 Open Streets Minneapolis season. We plan to announce our 2020 events in early April.
People biking, walking, and rolling in the street at Open Streets Northeast 2019.
An update on our financial situation
In April of this year we sent our supporters an email letting them know we were facing a funding challenge. We shared that the multi-year support we received from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) ended and we hadn’t yet replaced it.
We are thrilled to share Blue Cross selected our upcoming community organizing around Hennepin County streets for multi-year funding through their Health POWER initiative. This funding will make a huge impact on the sustainability of our organization for the next three years.
We still need your help, though.
While this support from Blue Cross helps us get closer to balancing our budget, it wasn’t the only funding that did not renew after 2019. We came into 2019 with a budgeted deficit. We are budgeted at a deficit again in 2020. This means we expect to spend more than we take in next year for the second year in a row.
We’re fortunate to have over $100,000 in savings going into 2020. We plan to use about $20,000 of our savings to make ends meet next year. At this time, we are not making cuts to our staff or programming to lower costs.
The Our Streets Minneapolis staff and Board of Directors are working together to secure the long-term stability of the organization. To do this, we are prioritizing developing strong relationships with both grantmakers and individual donors.
In the past year we applied to 11 grants outside of our upcoming Blue Cross funding. While we received feedback that our applications were near the top for many, we were not funded through any of these applications.
Our individual giving program is strong and growing. Thanks to you, we’ve already raised 44% more in individual gifts than we did last year.
Folks can help by making monthly or one-time gifts to our organization, spreading the word about the work we do, hosting a house party or fundraiser for us, or sending grant opportunities our way. Please send any ideas or opportunities to partner on fundraisers to our Development & Communications Director, Emily.
We also welcome folks who have more questions to reach out to us, or listen in on our board meetings which take place the first Tuesday of every other month. You can find information about our board meetings on our event calendar.
*In 2019 Lyft provided funding for our Open Streets Minneapolis events, and for our advocacy work to make Minneapolis streets better places to bike, walk, and roll.