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City works on plan to increase biking options

Several major cities in the United States — Minneapolis among them — have seen considerable growth recently in the use of bicycles for commuting and other travel.

Interest surged when people began to recognize the connectedness and safety of bicycle networks, said Charlie Reiter, of the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department.

"Our goal would be to get to that point," he said. Which is why Rochester and Olmsted County have been developing the Rochester Area Bicycle Master Plan. Organizers hope to transform local and regional bikeways so that "citizens can easily integrate cycling into their daily lives," says the master plan's vision statement. This would include cycling to work, school and shopping.

Members of the Olmsted County Public Health Services and the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department, in cooperation with a citizens advisory committee, are leading the effort. They held the second of two open houses Thursday night at Rochester Public Library.

They displayed posters and other illustrations showing proposed bike routes and recommendations for infrastructure improvements, and educational and safety strategies.


Work on the master plan is being funded by part of a $2.1 million federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bicycling backbone

Rochester's bicycling capacity sprouted in the 1980s when planners decided to incorporate bicycle paths into the Corps of Engineers flood-control project along the Zumbro River.

On-street improvements for bicycling, however, have lagged.

Public perception about bicycling as serious transportation in Rochester has been a hurdle because of the climate, Reiter said. Yet it is cold-climate states that have gone furthest in freeing people to use bicycles for transportation.

The League of American Bicyclists ranks Minnesota fourth in development of bicycle-friendly cities. Wisconsin is third and Iowa sixth.

Charlie Quigg, Olmsted County community health prevention specialist who is also a member with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota board of directors, said that in American cities, about 1 percent of residents are die hard bicyclists, 7 percent ride bicycles frequently, and 65 percent are interested in riding more but have issues with routes and safety.

"It's that 60 to 65 percent that we want to identify — what are their interests, what are their concerns?" he said.

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