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      Ottumwa Transit wants residents to take advantage of bus bike racks

      There are now bike racks on every Ottumwa Transit bus.

      Just in time for summer, the Ottumwa Transit Buses are sporting new bike racks.

      The racks were originally installed in the fall, but with the weather finally warming up, it's the first time Ottumwa residents will be able to use them. There is a rack on the front of every OTA bus, and there are also racks being installed around town to store your bike at work or school.

      The idea to put bike racks on the buses came from some residents and Indian Hills students. Students at IHCC who took the bus to class during the day had no way of getting back home after night classes when the buses are not running. Now, they can bring their bike on the way to class, keep it on campus and ride it home.

      The plan for bike racks was also originally involved in Ottumwa's plan to become a Blue Zone, which ultimately didn't work out, but continuing with the installation will bring health benefits to residents.

      "Back when we were talking about the potential of belonging to a Blue Zone and the healthy aspect, we didn't get that, but the group didn't stop, in fact, they may have more local control now the way they're doing it," said Bob Meyers, Ottumwa City Councilman. "So I think it's just going to get bigger and better."

      The bike racks will also increase access to the trail system, and officials hope that means that more people will take advantage of the trails.

      "The benefit is if you like riding to the trail, you can put the bike on the bus and you can come out and then go to the trails," said Bob LaPoint, Chairman of the Ottumwa Transit Board. "Or get off by one of the trails and ride or you can ride the trails and when you're done, if you're tuckered out, put it on the bus and ride home."

      Not to mention that in the day's of current gas prices, riding the bus one way and on your bike back will save on gas money and emissions.

      "Gas just keeps going up in price and the emissions that we put in the air from our cars, riding a bike on the bus only helps with that," said Wesley Westmoreland, a resident involved with the project.

      Meyers said the other big aspect of the bike rack project was that it was a cooperative effort -- something citizens wanted and the city cooperated to make it happen. The racks were paid for by a Community Improvement Grant through the Public Health Department and didn't require any tax payer money.