City utilizes bike system

GLADSTONE – When visualizing city vehicles, bicycles may not come to mind. That may change thanks to a new bike cart system being used by Gladstone’s seasonal employees.

The bicycles and carts used by the city are shared between the Parks and Recreation Department and the Downtown Development Authority. Both groups use the bikes and carts for smaller projects that would otherwise require the use of a vehicle for carrying equipment, trash and debris.

“If they just need to go and do trimming or weeding they grab a bike and a cart,” said Nicole Sanderson, parks and recreation director. “We’re saving a ton on maintenance costs for the vehicles.”

The 27 seasonal summer workers employed by the Parks and Recreation Department continue to use city vehicles for larger tasks. However, with more workers than available vehicles and the newest vehicle in use by the department being 13 years old, the department had to get creative to save money and stay effective.

“We’re able to defer some costs. We don’t need to buy new vehicles,” said Sanderson.

“Of course we’re looking forward to buying new vehicles, but we don’t have to buy five new vehicles this year – maybe (we’ll need) one.”

Because the environmentally-friendly bicycles are not dependent on gasoline or diesel fuel like motorized city vehicles, the bikes and carts have allowed the city to reduce its costs further.

“The numbers aren’t quite in yet, but I know that it’s literally thousands of dollars in fuel that we’ve saved,” said Sanderson.

The reduction in maintenance costs extends beyond the vehicles used by the department. The lightweight bikes and carts also reduce the day-to-day wear and tear on city property.

“It’s easier on our sidewalks and our pathways to be driving bike instead of a dump-truck,” said Sanderson. “You can imagine with four inches of asphalt, if you drive (on) that every single day … eventually it starts sagging.”

The department has received a good response to the bikes and carts from the public – however not everyone is used to seeing workers on bicycles.

“At first it was kind of weird because we didn’t have the Gladstone stickers on the side,” said beautification employee Taylor Seeley. “People probably thought we were (sentenced to) community service.”

Once the carts were marked with the words “City of Gladstone Parks & Recreation,” residents began to take notice of the new bikes and carts making their way through Van Cleve Park and the downtown.

“Most people like it,” said Max Mahoney, downtown concierge. “They’re just like, ‘Hey, that’s how you do it. That’s the good old way.'”

In addition to being well perceived by residents, the bikes have given park and downtown visitors a chance to interact with workers and address issues.

“It makes us more accessible to the public. A lot of people will stop us where they wouldn’t before because we were in a car,” said Sanderson.

“The other good thing to this is when you’re going slow on a bike through the park you’ll notice things that you wouldn’t notice before,” she added.

The workers using the carts have few complaints.

“Turning corners is a negative,” said Stefin Robinson, a Parks and Recreation employee, noting that the tongue of the cart made right turns particularly difficult and that the cart itself could become heavy when full.

Mahoney agreed with Robinson about turns and the weight of the cart, but didn’t find the issues to be too problematic.

“Other than that, it’s easy,” he said.