Free bike-share program makes being active easier in west-central Minnesota
For residents in four west-central Minnesota towns, getting around by bicycle is easier thanks to a free bike-share program.
Countryside Public Health rolled out its first bike-share program in Benson in 2016. Since then, the effort has expanded to Milan, Graceville and Granite Falls, with 19 bikes available in all. Countryside is the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grantee for Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties.
Countryside, working with community partners, was the driving force behind the bike-share program with a goal of educating and providing opportunities for residents to be more active. Seven in 10 adults in the five-county region are obese or overweight.
SHIP funded bike racks and three bicycles (all painted turquoise) plus fix-it stations and signage. Other bicycles in the fleets have been donated.
Anyone can use the bikes for free, with the understanding that they are returned to bike racks at the end of each day.
Amanda Ness, who works in Benson, said having the bikes available to her kids, Jake and Gracie, while she is working provides them a much-needed opportunity to be active and a better option than playing with computers.
“Many times my kids have had to come to my office after school or during the summer between activities or appointments. Sometimes they go to the library but if it’s nice outside they don’t always want to be indoors,” Ness said. “They like having the option (of using the bikes) and have used them to ride around with friends who live in town,” she added.