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Council approves bike sharing program

The city of Austin is getting its bikes ready.

The Austin City Council formally approved a proposed public bike sharing program, dubbed Red Bike after the Austin High School Packer color, during a public meeting Monday.

Earlier this year, Austin 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.

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.

Only 15 cities in Minnesota are considered Bike Friendly Cities.

Vision 2020 plans to work with state bicycling organizations to prepare its application, which could be sent next February. The city of Austin is expected to be the legal entity submitting the Bike Friendly City application, while a grant from the State Health Improvement Program will cover the $5,000 application fee.

“It’s an opportunity to ride a bike to where they want to go, and hopefully get more people on bicycles and get them to wherever they want to go,” Kime said.

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. Kime and Vision 2020 have already met with organizers from Willmar, Minnesota, which launched a similar program several years ago.

Organizers 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.

To that end, Rydjor Bikes will accept one-speed adult bikes with coaster brakes in ridable condition from Sept. 14 to 30 during its regular business hours. Kime encouraged anyone with an older bike to donate to the program, which will station the bikes at 11 red-painted racks around Austin.

“That’s our goal to make that available to people,” he said. “If you ned a bike to go some place, ride it, take care when you’re riding it, and bring it to a red bike rack.”