Vision 2020: Time to gear up for the Red Bike

Published 11:51 am Sunday, February 7, 2016

By Greg Siems

Vision 2020 director

Punxsutawney Phil may not be a particularly accurate weather-rodent, but during our long winters it’s always nice to hold out hope that spring is around the corner.

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This year, we in Austin have even more to look forward to than usual with the upcoming roll-out of the city’s Red Bike program. Once the mercury rises and the snow melts away, there will be a fleet of sharp, newly restored bicycles at the ready for everyone to share and enjoy for free.

Hopefully you’ve heard a little about the program already, but here are the basic details: 11 racks will be placed throughout town and stocked with the 50-plus bikes that have been donated so far.  As you could probably guess, all of the bikes will be painted bright red and numbered for identification purposes. They will also be converted to single-speed and have coaster brakes installed to improve safety and cut down on future maintenance costs.

Each rack will have a sign explaining the rules and safety guidelines, as well as instructions for how to access the city’s bike trail and rack location maps. The idea is to give everyone in Austin the opportunity to ride for fun, exercise or transportation, keeping in mind the program’s motto: “ride, respect, and return.”

Red Bike was modeled after a very similar and successful initiative in Willmar, Minnesota. It also ties in perfectly with the Vision 2020 Bike/Walk committee’s efforts to expand the city trail system, make biking accessible to more people and to increase awareness about the numerous benefits that biking offers for individual well-being and community vitality.

All of this would not be possible without the efforts of many dedicated individuals and organizations, and not many community projects can boast such a large and diverse group of participants. Vision 2020 Bike/Walk committee volunteers hatched the idea and have coordinated its development.  The Austin Police Department donated a great number of bikes and provided important input at meetings. Students at Riverland Community College are painting the bikes, while staff at Rydjor Bike Shop are donating their time to supervise the bikes’ deconstruction and reassembly. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department will manage the program going forward with the help of everyone else involved.

There will be plenty more news and announcements about Red Bike in the coming weeks, and we hope that you are as excited as we are to see them in action.  If you would like to see one of the bikes that is already completed, there is a display in the window of the old Matchbox Children’s Theater space on Main Street, and there will be more displays going up around town soon.

If you would like to get involved in any of Vision 2020’s efforts to create an active, fun, healthy community, you can get in touch with me at (507) 437-3448 or