In the days following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, biker Brian Boyer could not sit still. So he got on his bike and started moving.
As he traveled around the city, Boyer saw many long-standing community organizations coming to the forefront to aid a distressed community.
“I started asking what they needed, and then coming back to my house, finding that stuff in our house and bringing it back there.”
Soon, Boyer’s neighbors in southwest Minneapolis got involved, too, bringing over food and supplies.
“Once a day, we’d all meet in the middle of the block and everybody would bring stuff,” Boyer said. “They’d load up my bike trailer and then I’d go drop it off all around the city.”
As word spread among neighbors and on the Nextdoor app, Brian and his wife, Erica, organized their effort into Bikes & Bites. Their goal is to encourage giving and support the needs of existing organizations in Minneapolis — on bicycles. They hope to encourage driving less and inspire others to be less reliant on cars.
Erica Boyer said she used to hate biking. But she’s come to love the little community she and her husband have created.
“Having this as a purpose, rather than just aimlessly biking around, I’ve actually really come to somewhat enjoy biking. We have a 5-year-old who bikes, so she comes with us to pick up donations from neighbors a few blocks away,” Erica said. “It’s a great way to meet people when you’re stuck at home all day.”
But they mainly aim to bring awareness to the lack of access to basic needs that many people face in Minneapolis.
“Another part of it is opening people’s eyes to when you don’t have a car to go get your groceries, when you don’t have a car to go pick up your supplies,” Boyer said.
Those without cars, for example, are unable to drive to Costco in the suburbs to pick up a bulk-priced 50-pound bag of laundry detergent, he said. But if someone grabs extra while out for their own groceries, he and other riders can pull that detergent on a trailer five or 10 miles to a group that needs it.
Boyer, a 33-year-old technology trainer, began his outreach by dropping off necessities at Holy Trinity Church in Minneapolis and for medic teams operating near the Third Precinct in late May. The effort has expanded into a group of about 100 people who bike, donate or both.
Bikes & Bites has developed partnerships with organizations including Pimento Relief Services, run by restaurant Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, and Al-Maa’Uun, a volunteer-led nonprofit in north Minneapolis, where a small group of bikers dropped off diapers, detergent and painkillers for people in need on a recent Friday.
The Al-Maa’Uun drop off was participant Ted Duepner’s second ride with the group. For him, getting started was as simple as opening his wallet, though he now helps with drop offs, too.
“Mostly, I’m just a guy that has a bike who can bring a lot of stuff,” Duepner said. Riding to a neighbor’s house for a pickup and seeing bins of supplies they’ve collected from grocery trips has been particularly powerful, he said.
“We know we live in privileged neighborhoods, so we should be doing something,” Duepner said.
Ultimately, Boyer hopes to connect and engage his southwest Minneapolis neighborhood, which he views as very disjointed.
“My goal is to get people in southwest Minneapolis and certain parts of south Minneapolis to get more engaged with the city at large, and particularly, [with] the folks in need throughout our city.”
His wake-up call came as he was biking back from areas surrounding the burned Third Precinct and the area around 38th and Chicago Av. in May.
“You could feel this sense of community. The further and further I biked into southwest Minneapolis, you could feel that dissipating,” Boyer said.
“My motivation was, these are the people that have mostly kept their jobs throughout the pandemic, they’ve been able to work from home, they’ve had child care that’s provided to them. Talking to my neighbors … we’re very, very fortunate,” Boyer said.
Evey day, the Boyers hear from more people who want to support local organizations.
“I leave all of the expertise to the people who know how to run organizations, who know the needs of the community, who are part of the community,” Boyer said.
“We are just people who bike long distances and can throw groceries on the back of a bike.”