Is BE ‘bike friendly?’
A local group wants to make Blue Earth a friendly place for bikers.
And, they don’t mean the Harley motorcycle riders who pass by on their way to Sturgis every summer.
Instead, they want the city to be a safe and welcoming place for those who want to pedal bicycles around town.
Last Monday the Active Living Coalition hosted a Bikeable Community Workshop at the Public Safety Building in Blue Earth.
Leading the workshop were bike experts from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Department of Health, as well as a representative from the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.
Attending the workshop were members of the community, including city councilmen, Chamber of Commerce office, city engineer, Blue Earth Area Schools officials and some interested local bicycle enthusiasts.
“The workshop leaders were very pleased with how well our roundabouts safely accommodate pedestrians and bikers,” says Dar Holmseth of the Blue Earth Community Education office and leader of the Active Living Coalition. “They also thought we have great potential (for safe bike routes) with the newer, wider streets in town.”
Holmseth says the ultimate goal is the hope of having Blue Earth be in a good position to become an official “Bike Friendly Community.”
There are currently 11 cities in the state which have achieved the Bike Friendly Community designation, ranging in size from Minneapolis down to Grand Marais, population 1,351.
The closest one to Blue Earth is Mankato, which not only has bike trails and lanes, but also 2,000 bicycle parking spaces in its downtown area.
On Monday the workshop focused on the benefits of biking both for individual persons (health, physical activity and saving transportation costs) and for communities (economic impact, tourism, increase in home sales).
A main focus was on creating “complete streets” which have areas for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
“Over three times as many bicycles are sold in the U.S. each year (14.9 million) as cars,” said Nick Mason of the Minnesota Bicycle Alliance. “And the third highest rated item people look for when buying a home is whether places to bike are nearby.”
Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity. In Minnesota it has a $1 billion impact on the economy.
The workshop also focused on engineering items for making places bike friendly. These included paved shoulders, bike lanes, shared use paths, regulatory signs and bike parking places.
Mason also gave a lesson on bike safety and the “rules of the road.”
“Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated like drivers of vehicles,” Mason told the group. “And never sacrifice your safety for the convenience of others. You should own your lane.”
After a break for lunch the workshop moved outdoors for a “mobile workshop.” Two groups toured Blue Earth on bicycles to do a bike field audit.
After that five mile ride around town, the two groups reassembled and spent the last hour of the workshop trying to prioritize their goals in working towards making Blue Earth a bike friendly community.