Vision 2020, city partner on bike projects

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The city of Austin is about to get a lot more bike friendly.

Vision 2020 officials updated the Austin City Council Monday on its plans to continue improving bicycling opportunities in Austin, which includes pursuing a Bike Friendly City designation from the American League of Bicyclists and an upcoming bike share program for residents.

Austin recently learned it was close to the Bike Friendly City designation after representatives from various bicycling organizations gave Vision 2020 volunteers a practice test. Austin scored quite high in the League of Bicyclists’ five categories: encouragement, education, enforcement, evaluation and planning, and engineering.

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Though the Bike/Walk Trail Committee hadn’t initially set out for a designation, chairman Steven Kime said the prestigious ranking was a logical step forward.

“It became clearer and clearer that many of the projects we backed fit nicely with this,” he told the council.

Only 15 cities in Minnesota are considered Bike Friendly Cities, according to Laura Helle, Vision 2020’s Director of Vision Creation.

Vision 2020 plans to work with state bicycling organizations to prepare its application, which Helle said could be sent next February. The city of Austin is expected to be the legal entity submitting the Bike Friendly City application, while private fundraising and grants will help offset the $5,000 application fee.

Volunteers won’t just work on applications this winter, however. The committee is expected to help the city launch its Red Bike bike share program next year, which would allow residents to borrow bicycles for free to ride around town.

Volunteers will gather bikes through donations, police forfeitures and other means, and paint them bright red after Rydjor Bike Shop fixes them up. The bikes would then be stationed around town in designated racks for anyone to borrow.

Kime, Helle and the council acknowledged some of the bikes may be stolen at first, but the bright red paint will make it difficult for would-be thieves to keep the bikes for long.

The program is based on a similar bike share initiative in Willmar, Minnesota, called Yellow Bike.

If all goes well, Red Bike could launch next spring.