OTTUMWA — Officials are hoping new bicycle racks on city buses will gain popularity this summer.
Community Transformation Grant director Joni Elder said too often riding the city bus is stigmatized as being "only for poor people — and that's just not true." Taking the bus is the perfect form of alternate transportation, she said, and now being able to sling your bicycle on the front of a bus provides the public with more access to more of the city.
Nine bike racks on all nine city buses were funded last fall through the grant, costing nearly $12,000. The grant is to promote health, well-being and physical activity, making the bike racks a perfect project for a portion of the funds.
"A lot of people talked about how it came out of taxpayer funds, but it didn't," she said.
Since the Wapello County Trails Council is always working toward developing more trails on top of its already 10-mile system, Elder said utilizing the bike racks will give the public access to trails they currently might not be able to reach.
"If you live on the north side, you can ride the bus downtown and bring your bike down to the trails," she said.
Since the bicycles were installed relatively late in the season last fall, they didn't see much, if any, use during the winter. But bus drivers have seen that begin to change with warmer weather.
Ottumwa Transit operations manager Jay Allison said with more communities developing walking trails and bike paths and getting in a "mindset of healthier living," bike racks are a natural fit.
Securing a bicycle in the rack is a quick process, he said. All the rider has to do is pull a lever that drops the rack down, throw their bike into the channel and secure the magnetic bar over the front wheel, which will secure the bike throughout the entire ride.