On Friday, Patrick Dougherty decided it was time to check on his bicycle.
The 64-year-old Minneapolis man kept his 21-speed in a storage locker in a parking ramp at 11th and Marquette. He hadn’t seen it since he'd last seen warm weather. It was time to renew the rental lease, but before he did, he thought it would be best to lay eyes on the bike itself.
He arrived at the ramp. He looked. He looked again. He took a beat to process what it was he was seeing, and finally came to a baffling but inescapable conclusion: The storage unit was gone. All eight lockers had vanished, leaving no trace of his beloved machine.
Dougherty needed that bike. He’d spent “hundreds of dollars” keeping it in good shape – saddlebag, rear rack, padded seat. He calls it his “lifeline” between his subsidized housing and the outside world.
Move Minneapolis, a nonprofit partner of the city’s in charge of promoting sustainable transportation, rented him the locker. So he went to their office. He recognized the same staffer who'd helped him with his lease a year earlier.
“He was obviously as surprised as I was,” Dougherty says.
But it was Friday at 3 p.m. on Final Four weekend, and the staffer couldn't get to the bottom of it. Nobody was answering. So Dougherty asked him to write a quick report and returned home, where he carefully crafted an email. Then he calmly sent it to “about 40” different city organizations.
The subject line, “Can you help me?” and the header, “MINNEAPOLIS TOOK MY BICYCLE AND WON’T TELL ME WHERE IT IS,” landed in the inboxes of Minneapolis 311, City Council Member Lisa Goodman, members of the Met Council, State Rep. Frank Hornstein, Governor Tim Walz, and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, just to name a few.
“I stopped just short of the president,” he says. But he “wasn’t really expecting an answer.”
To his surprise, he got an email from Goodman on Saturday night.
“Patrick, thank you for reaching out,” she said. She wasn't certain the city would be liable for the loss, but that they’d look into it because she understood it was “very important to him.” She made no promises, but at least they’d get to the bottom of it.
From Saturday into Monday, the calls and emails started rolling in – from Move Minneapolis, the Met Council, the mayor’s office, the county attorney’s office. He even got a response from Omar’s office, even though he suspects it may have been automated. To his knowledge, the governor’s office was the only one that didn’t respond. Pretty much every level of Minneapolis and state government were officially on red alert for one man’s missing bike.
By Monday afternoon, he got a call from Mary Morse Marti, Move Minneapolis’ executive director. They sat down for a quick meeting. The lockers had been moved because there’d been some “bad activity” in the area.
Marti says she's not entirely sure about the specifics. Move Minneapolis doesn't own the lockers -- only rents them. The only one who can say for sure what happened is ABM, the owner. (Manager Mike Clough didn't respond to interview requests.) Either way, there had been a mistake. Marti promised to make it right.
She put him in touch with ABM. Its general manager made sure he got the $600 he needed to replace everything he lost – from the bike to the padded seat.
Dougherty says he couldn’t be happier. All he wanted was his bike back. He replied to everyone who responded to his email to update them And thank them for the help.
“Minneapolis is a great city,” he wrote.