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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bicycle Safety Town

Now here's a really cool concept that would benefit the community immensely. Now, where could we find a place (and some money) to build one of these?

Fort Collins is preparing to take bicycle safety education to the streets of a kid-sized town.

City officials are looking for a location to build Bike Safety Town, a miniaturized village complete with roads and bicycle lanes on which youngsters and their families can learn and practice techniques for safe riding. The streetscape will likely include intersections, traffic signals, driveways, crosswalks, and turn lanes.

The town would likely cover less than an acre of ground at an existing park, said Matt Wempe, a city transportation planner.

Parks and transportation planners are looking at several locations for the facility.

Candidates include city parks adjacent to elementary schools, including Beattie, Kruse, McGraw and Lopez, as well as parts of community parks, including City Park, Rolland Moore and Spring Canyon.

Public input on a potential site will be taken through Aug. 8 through the website www. fcgov.com/bikesafetytown.

More than 100 comments have already been received, Wempe said. So far, reactions have been mixed, he said, with some residents excited about the prospects for the park and others questioning the cost to taxpayers.

Significant public outreach will be done during the planning process, including neighborhood meetings once a site is proposed.

"There are a variety of things you can do with a project like this," he said. "We intend to do something that fits the needs of the Fort Collins community."

Building a facility dedicated to teaching bike safety to children is included in the city's Bicycle Safety Education Plan. The bike education program received $50,000 in funding in 2011 and 2012 through Keep Fort Collins Great funding.

Site planning and design is scheduled this fall with possible construction in 2012. The planning process has a $15,000 budget, Wempe said.

No funding has been identified for building the town. The city may pursue grants and other funding sources for constructing and operating the facility, Wempe said.

The site is not likely to be as elaborate as safety towns built in other cities, he said. A facility in Peoria, Ill., covers four acres while the town of Brookhaven, N.Y., spent $1.3 million on its safety town.

The Brookhaven town includes a classroom facility, miniature electric cars and a small zoo. It was funded primarily with federal transportation dollars.

Dave Kemp, the city's bicycle program coordinator, said the Fort Collins version of Safety Town would be simpler and probably operated in conjunction with local schools.

The town's primary purpose would be to educate children, he said, but it also would a place for older students and adults to learn how to mentor youngsters.

"It will be a great place to pursue the core mission of teaching children and their families about bicycle safety," he said. "There will be a lot of things we will be able to do through other programmatic efforts."

From the Coloradoan.

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