Bike fleet waiting for warm weather

NEW ULM – Certain New Ulm schools have gained access to a new fleet of bikes this month to promote safe, active and healthy biking.

Now all they need is good biking weather, which should come later this week.

The bikes will be available for schools that have staff trained in the Walk! Bike! Fun! Pedestrian Bicycle Safety Curriculum from the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

The bike fleet comes with a special trailer for easy transport. The trailer contains a total of 25 bikes. The bike fleet was made possible thanks to a Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant.

“The whole idea is that it can be reserved through Community Education,” explained New Ulm Superintendent Jeff Bertrang. “We’re hoping P.E. teachers can use them during good weather days and other organizations use them during the summer.”

This curriculum is geared toward children in grades K-8 and bikes are built for appropriate age range. The hope is through access to a bike fleet the school will be able to teach safe traffic behavior through classroom activities and on-the-bike skills practice.

Bertrang said that even when walking, many students don’t know how to safely cross at pedestrian crossings.

“Pedestrians have a right-away at cross walks but many are still afraid to cross,” he said.

The bike fleet is a naturally fit for the Safe Routes to School program started by Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project. The group has been working hard to encourage more kids to walk and bike safety to school.

In a press release Brown County Public Health nurse, Melissa Hoffmann, explained the goal of the lessons are to teach children the skills needed to walk and bike safely while helping them stay active and healthy. “Biking is a wonderful activity for people of all ages to do for recreation, traveling to school or work, or just getting around town.”

The schools are also seeing a benefit to promoting biking besides physical health. Bertrang said with more students biking there is decrease in vehicle traffic around the school, but the bike better prepares mind for learning.

“Biking has more benefits than they’ve been given credit,” said Bertrang.

At this time the schools only have rough estimates on the number of students biking. Bertrang admitted weather plays a factor. Few students bike to school during the winter months but as spring takes holds the number are expected to rise. The Superintendent confirmed that on a sunny day all the school’s bike racks are full at both the High School and Jefferson.

During the Summer months the Bike Fleet and hauling trailer will be available for rental by community groups. With the trailer groups will be able to transport the bikes for activities outside New Ulm.

Later this month on Saturday, April 23 the New Ulm Civic Center will host a community Bike Expo from 9-11 a.m. The event is free for all ages and will include a Kids Bike Rodeo and Bike Mechanic followed post-even group ride.


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