At the Sept. 20 Willmar City Council meeting, the new Willmar pedestrian and bike route system, created by Willmar Bikes with help from both the Willmar and the Kandiyohi County public works departments, was approved unanimously. The plan creates 10 featured routes out of the miles and miles of trails and bike routes found in the city. The routes will use nearly 85 percent of the biking and pedestrian infrastructure already in Willmar.
“It hits some really key point in the community, including the YMCA, many of the schools in the area, the Glacial Lakes trailhead, Robbins Island, and all of the hubs of the bike share program,” said Chris Radel, of the Willmar Bikes advocacy group.
Each of the routes will be identified by a specific color and symbol. Radel said he based the plan on the Beijing subway system, with which he became familiar while living in China. The 10 routes, totaling approximately 32 miles, will be the Brown Turkey, Green Norway Pine, Yellow Stingers, Purple People Eaters, Red Cardinal, Orange Fox, Grey Duck, Blue Ox, the Pink Lady Slipper and a yet-to-be-named dark green route.
“We tried our best to keep the names Willmar or Minnesota centric,” Radel said.
Ten new bike and pedestrian routes, which will be signed for easy of travel, were approved by the Willmar City Council on Sept. 20. The routes will use existing trail infrastructure. The routes were created by the Willmar Bikes group, with help from Willmar Public Works and Kandiyohi County Public Works. Contributed / Willmar Bikes
Each of the routes will have new signs along the way, to easily lead users through it. There will be route start and stop signs at the beginning and end of each route, mileage signs every half mile and additional signs to help users find their way placed at different intervals throughout. Another benefit of the system is Willmar will now have standardized bike route signs, which will make it easier for both bikers and vehicle drivers to see and understand, Radel said.
The first two routes to be completed will be the Brown Turkey, which goes down Kandiyohi County Road 5 and across to Willmar Avenue Southwest, and the Green Norway Pine, that travels along Kandiyohi County Road 24, on the north side of Foot Lake and into Robbins Island Regional Park. The first two will be done by the end of this year, with three more completed by summer 2022.
“We should be able to get this done within three years,” Radel said.
The Green Norway Pine Routes is one of two new bike and pedestrian routes to be completed this year in Willmar. Contributed / Willmar Bikes
The Brown Turkey Route is one of two new bike and pedestrian routes to be completed by the end of the year in the city of Willmar. Contributed / Willmar Bikes
The new route system has been in the works for several months, and Radel said it would not have been possible without the help of many people and organizations.
“There were a lot of people behind the scenes that helped get this going where it is today,” Radel said.
The entire cost to set up the routes, mostly the purchase and installation of the signs, is an estimated $10,525. Willmar Bikes has already received $2,817 from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership to fund the brown and green routes this year. The City Council, in its approval vote, also committed to helping fund the plan in an attempt to get all the routes completed as soon as possible.
“I am a visual person, I like colors, I like to easily be able to see where to go and how many miles I am biking,” said Councilor Julie Asmus.
The council also likes the new routes for safety reasons, as better marked routes could mean less danger for users.
“Biking is more than just purely fun. For some people that is their primary mode of transportation,” said Councilor Andrew Plowman. “There are people’s actual lives at risk.”