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Safety is … riding with a police officer

Duluth Police Officer Nick Lepak leads the pack of cyclists on May 16 for the Mayor’s third annual bike ride. (Photo courtesy of Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council)

The war between drivers and bicyclists is ongoing, with each side accusing the other of dangerous behavior on the city streets. Duluth Police Officer Nick Lepak hopes to change that.

Lepak will lead community bikes rides once a month, starting July 20, and teach bikers safe riding techniques.

“When looking at the bigger picture, we hope to have a culture change and shift things in our community to an attitude that is more positive toward cyclists,” said Shawna MullenEardley, active transportation coordinator at the Duluth YMCA. “Vehicle drivers only see the mistakes cyclists make.”

Attendees will learn about cycling laws and proper road etiquette.

“Officer Lepak just has a passion for teaching people how they should be riding on the road,” MullenEardley said. “In his job as a police officer he often sees bicyclists doing things that are illegal, dangerous and unsafe, so he approached us to ask if we could assist him in putting together this ride so that he can just get the word out and teach cyclists what they should be doing on the road.”

After receiving instructions from Officer Lepak, the cyclists will hit the pavement.

“I have personally witnesses cyclists riding the wrong way on a one way and not obeying any traffic laws,” Officer Lepak said. “My goal is to educate these cyclists and promote cycling in our community.”

With the locations changing each month, riders get a new experience every time they participate.

“We’ll just kind of ride around that area through both residential neighborhoods and business districts, which are a little busier on the street, so we get a taste of everything,” MullenEardley said.

The community bike rides are geared towards mature teens and older, and confident cyclists ready to be on the road with all the cars. The group usually covers around five miles at a speed of 10 miles per hour. The leaders are hopeful that even a short distance once a month can facilitate change, which is why these rides are taking place.

“The more riders we have out there that are doing things the right way, the better and more positive attitude that everyone will have towards bicyclists,” MullenEardley said. “We really live in a time where bicycling is increasing. People aren’t riding for recreation; they’re riding for transportation.”

The next community bike ride will take place on July 20, meeting at University of Minnesota Duluth’s Kirby Plaza.

WHAT: Bike ride lead by a Community Police Officer

WHEN: Third Sunday of each month

WHERE: Location varies each month

July 15: Kirby Plaza, UMD

Aug. 17: Old Lincoln Park School, 2424 W. 5th St.

Last ride of the year: Sept. 21 (location to be announced)

WHO: Ages 12 to adults

HOW: Bring your own bike. The ride will be followed by a question and answer period and refreshments. Email Shawna MullenEardley at smulleneardley@duluthymca.org to be included in bike ride notices.

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