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City prepares to collect yellow bikes next week

WILLMAR--The time has come for all those who borrowed yellow bikes from Willmar's Yellow Bike program this summer to return them to the racks. "There are probably 40 to 45 out there," said Casey Hagert, recreation coordinator for Willmar Communit...

A solitary yellow bike was spotted leaning against a building in Willmar on Wednesday. The time has come to put the bikes away for the winter, so Willmar Community Education and Recreation are asking for people to return the bikes to the yellow bike racks found across town. Briana Sanchez / Tribune
A solitary yellow bike was spotted leaning against a building in Willmar on Wednesday. The time has come to put the bikes away for the winter, so Willmar Community Education and Recreation are asking for people to return the bikes to the yellow bike racks found across town. Briana Sanchez / Tribune

WILLMAR-The time has come for all those who borrowed yellow bikes from Willmar's Yellow Bike program this summer to return them to the racks.

"There are probably 40 to 45 out there," said Casey Hagert, recreation coordinator for Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

Staff plan to start picking up the yellow bikes the first week of October, to store them for the winter.

They need to be collected "to go out for a possible third year" next spring, said Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

While they prefer bikes to be returned to the racks, Community Education staff will come and pick them up from homes or businesses. People just need to give them a call.

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"No questions asked," Brisendine said.

For the second year, the city refurbished donated and impounded bikes, painted them yellow and placed them in yellow bike racks across the city, starting in early May. This year there were nearly 70 yellow bikes total, for both adults and children.

The goal of the program is to provide bikes to residents and visitors for short day trips. The motto is "Ride.Respect.Return." The problem this year was many people did the first two, but not the third. By June most of the bike racks were empty, and they stayed that way.

"They're being used. People are taking the bikes. We don't see it as a bad thing," Brisendine said.

Hagert said he would drive around town and see kids riding the bikes, sometimes bikes that were too big for them.

"There is a need for people to have bikes, they want bikes," Hagert said.

While the bikes weren't being returned, on the flip side they were not being destroyed either.

"It was rare I picked up a broken yellow bike," Hagert said.

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Instead, he would find kids gathered around a bike, wheels up, as they tried to replace a chain.

"They were respecting it, trying to fix it," Hagert said.

This year's Yellow Bike program has shown Brisendine and Hagert that there is a real need for bikes, especially for children.

"A week didn't go by when we didn't see a kid on a yellow bike," Brisendine said.

A few years ago there was the Wheels for Kids program, which provided bikes to children who needed them. When the individual who performed most the repair work on the bicycles retired, the program faded away. Brisendine wants the program to stage a comeback.

"We still have the plethora of bikes, tools and space," Brisendine said.

Over the past two years nearly 1,000 bikes have been donated to the bike programs.

"We must have 200 bikes in storage," Brisendine said.

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What the program needs is people.

"We just need the bodies to supply the needs. We haven't found that passionate person," Brisendine said. Anyone interested can contact Brisendine.

The hope is to have a bike program that answers both the need of bikes for kids and bikes for adults to use out and about town.

"For Yellow Bike to be successful they need to work hand in hand," Hagert said.

Brisendine said money spent on the bike programs doesn't add up to too much.

"We're not spending tax dollars to a degree anyone should be concerned," Brisendine said.

Ideas on how to improve the program have already been passed around, including doing more public outreach explaining how the program is suppose to work and to spread the word. There has been talk about implementing a program like Nice Ride, which is found in the Twin Cities. That program is a bike rental program, which could be a problem for lower income individuals and youth.

"Can the people who want to use the bike afford to use them?" Brisendine asked.

Brisendine said the plan is to bring the Yellow Bike program back next year. While this year might not have gone exactly to plan, it did get more people on bikes, which was the whole point.

"None of us consider it a failure. You're seeing kids riding them," Brisendine said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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