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Police Chief Terry Eilers discusses with Natalie Gille the ways in which law enforcement can help make Park Rapids more bicycle friendly. (Nick Longworth / Enterprise)

Group trying to make Park Rapids bicycle friendly

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How can the Park Rapids area become a more bicycle friendly community? That was the question being discussed by community members and law enforcement who gathered Tuesday, April 22.

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Recently, the Headwaters Regional Development Commission submitted an application to the League of American Bicyclists seeking a designation called the “bicycle friendly community” on behalf of Park Rapids. Falling short of their goal, an honorable mention was received instead.

The meeting was led by Natalie Gille, the Northern Minnesota Regional Manager for the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, a statewide non-profit whose goal is to get more people on bikes.

“The funding we receive through the Minnesota Bicycle Alliance comes from the Minnesota Department of Health and is to help promote physical activity and to address some of the critical health issues that Minnesotans are experiencing like heart disease and obesity,” Gille said. “Getting more people on bikes, more people physically active and giving them more opportunities helps to address those health issues” is the goal.

Criteria used to evaluate communities for the designation included engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning.

Ideas in which to improve the engineering aspect included possible mountain bike trails, a BMX course, new signage, safer intersections at Highway 34 and 71 crossings, Helton Avenue, Monico Avenue and more bike racks. Education ideas included defensive driving for seniors, education about bikes in driver’s education, bike maintenance events and a bicycle advisory committee. Encouragement, evaluation and enforcement included an economic impact study.

“I am here tonight because I am interested in bicycling and making our community a more bicycle friendly community,” said Diane Brophy, a community member at the event who also works for St. Joseph’s Area Health Services.

“Being more active will improve our health and in terms of economy it helps promote tourism. We want a healthier, active community. Last year we got honorable mention and I think that we can improve upon that."

Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers was also present at the meeting, saying that law enforcement would like to contribute to safe bicycling in Park Rapids. Eilers also said he doesn’t want to have to “pick up crunched bodies on the street.”

“We’re not here just for law enforcement, we’re also here for safety and things like that. The safer the streets are, the safer people are,” Eilers said.

Gille would like to see the group expand further in the coming summer months.

“It’s really wonderful for a lot of reasons. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for local economy, and it’s also good for people’s health,” Gille said.

Upcoming bicycling events include:

  • Bike Opener on Thursday, May 15.
  • Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 16.
  • Headwaters 100 on Saturday, Sept. 27. More information at www.itascatur. org/bike.shtml.
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Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
(218) 732-3364
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