On your mark. Get set. SLOW!
Active Living Douglas County (ALDC) roused area businesses for representatives to participate in its first ever SlowBike Race Challenge. The goal - finish last.
The event was created to usher in the Douglas County BikeShare system. ALDC has provided four new, bright-green bicycles for trail riders. BikeShare is geared to drive more cyclists into downtown Alexandria.
"One of our goals, from day one, was to encourage cyclists using the Central Lakes Trail to ride into downtown Alexandria and experience the city by bike," said Jessica Peterson with ALDC.
The concept of a bike share was adopted from a similar program in Minneapolis called Nice Ride. Douglas County Parks Superintendent Al Lieffort had been tracking the Nice Ride system and introduced the idea to ALDC.
A fee is charged for the use of bicycles in Minneapolis and bikes can be returned to a number of docking stations. Douglas County will have one docking location, in Central Park under the watchful eyes of Big Ole, and will not charge for the service.
Peterson said ALDC may look into sponsorships of bicycles in the future to help with maintenance costs. Selling advertising space on the bikes was also discussed.
At this time, ALDC does not have plans to station an attendant or lock-up the bikes. The bikes will be stored outdoors and are rugged enough to withstand the elements, Peterson said.
If the system generates a following, ALDC will consider adding more docking stations along the Central Lakes Trail. Potential sites include Osakis, Evansville and Brandon.
Bicycles will be equipped with an odometer to gauge use during the first year; from this data ALDC can calculate a success rate.
Bikes will be available to the public during the warm weather months.
Rules for participating in the BikeShare system are: Return the bicycle to its docking station after use and in the same condition, or better than you found it; no overnight use and always ride with a smile. Although there is no helmet law in Minnesota, ALDC recommends the use of a helmet while riding a BikeShare bicycle.
ALDC has strategically planned BikeShare to launch prior to the proposed bike path that will run parallel to Broadway as part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MnDOT) "complete street" redesign in 2014.
"While our downtown may not be a welcoming environment for cyclists today, Alexandria will take a major leap toward a bicycle friendly downtown in 2014," Peterson said.
Complete street designs are developed to accommodate all traffic in a community, pedestrians, bicyclists, people with walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs as well as auto traffic. The city of Alexandria has been working with MnDOT on the design plans.
Later this summer, Broadway will be resurfaced between 7th and 50th Avenues. A reconstruction for the remaining portion of Broadway will be done two years from now.
THE RACE IS ON
Racers will navigate a 25-foot course and attempt to stay upright while plodding along at a tortoise's pace. Riders will compete four at a time until all participants have completed the flat course using only their own muscles to power the bicycles provided by ALDC.
The four bikes that make up the fleet, two men's and two women's styles, were assembled by and purchased from Jake's Bikes. ALDC received bids from Bike and Fitness Co. and Jake's Bikes; the lowest bid was honored.
At high noon competitors will meet at Big Ole on April 24 to vie for the title of Slowest Biker.
In addition to bragging rights, winners will take home prizes. First place receives a $150 gift card to Elden's Food Fair and a six-foot giant Subway party sub. Second place wins a $75 gift card to The Bike and Fitness Company. The third place winner will be awarded a $50 gift card to Jake's Bikes.
The public is invited to attend the event and cheer on their favorite biker. Sports reporter, Eric Morken, will be representing the Echo Press.