DIXON – “People want to come out and do something.”
That’s what Diane Bausman, executive director of Blackhawk Waterways, told me for an Aug. 10 article when asked about tourism growth in the area.
What if Dixon visitors could check out a bicycle for free and ride from the Riverfront and Ronald Reagan attractions downtown to a number of park district trails, including trails that lead to Lowell Park and maybe eventually to the Jane Addams Trail in Freeport to Monroe, Wis.?
Wouldn’t that be something?
Last week, on a visit to Colorado, I discovered bike libraries.
These nonprofit establishments allow residents or visitors to check out a bicycle for free for up to 5 days. All visitors need is a valid credit card to put down a $150 deposit and an ID. No worries, the $150 isn’t charged unless the patron fails to return the bike or crashes it.
Fort Collins, a city of about 150,000, which is home to Colorado State University, has made its bike library the center of its tourism advertising.
Visitors can check out eight-speeds, three-wheelers, bikes with trailers to haul groceries or bikes for children of all ages. The library, open from April to November, checks out about 15 to 20 bikes per day.
To get the bike library started, the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, an assembly of volunteers, built about 50 bicycles using donated frames and parts, said bike library manager Mikheil Moucharrafie, who, coincidentally, was born in Dixon.
The bike library then secured a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant to buy more bikes, Moucharrafie said. More donated bikes and parts funneled in from there got the fleet up to 160 bikes.
Businesses in Fort Collins seized the opportunity to sponsor bikes, serve as checkout and drop-off points, and provide attractions. Namely, the New Belgium Brewery started its own “Bike-In Cinema,” showing classic movies for $2 and selling its beverages.
A Google search shows several other communities are running their own bike libraries, including Iowa City, Iowa, New Brunswick, N.J. and Arcata, Calif.
The Dixon Park District used to rent bikes at Lowell Park in the 1980s, said Deb Carey, the park district’s executive director.
Dixon has miles of bike trails from marked city streets to riverside trails. Also, the park district has a trail leading to Polo and is working to link with the Jane Addams Trail.
She said the park district would be open to the idea if city organizations came together to start a bike library.
“I’ve always thought it’d be a great opportunity for an entrepreneur to start a small business renting bikes,” Carey said.
During a dedication ceremony for five downtown bike racks. Mayor Jim Burke said he would like to see Dixon become “the most friendly biking and walking city in Illinois,” Those racks were donated by the Rock River Valley Bicycle Club, but the city’s public works department assembled and installed the racks for free.
The mayor extended this service to any other organization or business: buy the $300 in materials for a rack, and the city will assemble and install it for free.
There have been no takers, though.
Only time will tell if there are any takers for a bike library, or even a bike rental business, but nothing is more friendly to visitors than a free ride.
Derek Barichello's “office hours” will be from 1 to 2 p.m. today at Books on First, 202 W. First St. Feel free to stop by and ask questions, suggest story ideas, or just chat.
He also can be reached at email@example.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 526.
Want a bike rack?
Businesses or organizations wanting to participate in the city's bike rack program can call Amanda Bradshaw at City Hall at 815-288-1485.