Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Borrowing bikes in Pine Island May 26, 2022

In Pine Island, site of the “Borrow-A-Bike program. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

NOTHING IN LIFE is free. How often have you heard or read that adage? I expect often enough to recognize that statement mostly always rings true.

Details on borrowing a bike in Pine Island. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

But in the southeastern Minnesota community of Pine Island, located along busy US Highway 52 some 10 minutes north of Rochester, there is, indeed, something offered for free. And that’s the use of a bicycle to ride the Douglas State Trail.

The bike borrowing building is next to the parking lot at Trailhead City Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

When I recently photographed the Borrow-A-Bike signs posted on a lovely aged brick building by Pine Island Trailhead City Park, I assumed the bikes were available for rent, because, you know, nothing is free. Turns out I was wrong.

Biking the Douglas State Trail in Pine Island. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Since 2009, the city has offered locals and visitors free usage of a fleet of bikes to ride the 12.5-mile paved recreational trail between Pine Island and northwest Rochester. The 70 donated, restored and maintained bikes are available in all sizes and even include some tandem bikes. Note that kids need signed authorization by a parent or guardian to borrow a bike and adults must register, sign a waiver, and grab a helmet before checking out a bike.

The trail bridge over the Zumbro River leads into the woods. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Bikes are available from 10 am – 6 pm Saturdays and Sundays, May – October, or by appointment weekdays.

A family walks the Douglas State Trail in Pine Island. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

What a great idea to not only draw visitors to Pine Island, but also to encourage people to get outdoors, exercise and explore rural Minnesota.

Douglas State Trail signage in Pine Island. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

The trail follows an abandoned railroad line past wooded areas, open countryside and along the Zumbro River with a half-way stopping point in the unincorporated community of Douglas in Olmsted County. Next trip to the area, I need to find Douglas.

The Pine Island Cheese Company name honors the community’s history in cheese and butter-making. The building is available for event rental from the city. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

This Borrow-A-Bike program is especially needed now with ever-rising gas prices and out-of-control inflation. Couples and families are seeking low-cost ways to enjoy time together and this offers that. Not everyone owns a bike. Not everyone can transport a bike/bikes. This program makes biking easy and accessible to all. Plus, it gets people outdoors and away from screens.

One of two cupolas atop the cheese company building in Pine Island. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Nothing in life is free…until you find something that is—like Borrow-A-Bike in Pine Island.

FYI: Click here for more information about Borrow-A-Bike.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling