ESCANABA – Residents and visitors to Escanaba and Gladstone still have time to take advantage of a free bike program that lasts through the end of summer.
The free Yellow Bike Program, made possible through a partnership between Public Health – Delta & Menominee Counties, the cities of Escanaba and Gladstone, and local bike shops, is now in its third season.
The program began in Escanaba in 2011 and expanded to include Gladstone in 2012. It typically lasts from June to September, according to Kristi Steger, a health educator at Public Health – Delta & Menominee Counties.
“When it started in 2011, the program came out through a grant opportunity,” she said. “It was from the National Association of County & City Health Officials. The Healthy Communities Coalition, which is representatives from various community organizations, kind of got together and came up with the idea for yellow bikes, trying to provide an opportunity for recreation, transportation, for individuals that live in our area and that are visiting our area.”
The one-time grant money was used to purchase the bikes and to spend on bike maintenance.
Those interested in checking out bicycles can do so in five locations: the Escanaba Municipal Marina and The Beaten Path in Escanaba, as well as the Gladstone Yacht Harbor, Gladstone Bay Campground, and Brampton Bike & Ski in Gladstone. Approximately 13 bikes are available for checkout in Escanaba and 11 in Gladstone.
Users must be 18 years old and show a valid form of ID, such as a driver’s license, and must sign a waiver. Bikes must be returned before the business or location closes on the same day the bike is checked out. Helmets and locks are also available for use.
Steger estimates bikes have been checked out approximately 300 times in Escanaba and 100 times in Gladstone so far this season.
Mike Williams, owner of Brampton Bike & Ski on Delta Avenue in Gladstone, also noted the program has been well embraced by locals and visitors to the area.
“The people from out of town really enjoy it, and especially people at the campground,” he said. “They are able to take the bicycles and they have baskets on them, so they can run to the local grocery store, do local errands, which is quite nice.”
He noted the program also has helped business, since some people purchase bicycles as a result of the program.
“We’re fortunate because we live in a small enough community that we can access the entire community by bicycle,” said Williams. “Whether it be Escanaba or Gladstone, it’s easy to get around.”
Jon Harris, owner of The Beaten Path on Ludington Street, estimates renting out bikes at least 50 times from his location – his first year of involvement in the program.
“For the esky150 it was especially busy,” he said. “It’s first come, first served. I would get in and there was actually people waiting at the door – a lot of people from out of town. We had families and they would actually take all the bikes at once for the whole family.”
Steger said the goal is to sustain the program for years to come.
“This is a great opportunity for people in the area to have some fun on a free yellow bike – getting some exercise and fresh air and exploring the beautiful communities we live in,” she said.