What's the easiest way to bike across Newton? Where can you park your bike downtown? How can children safely bike to schools?

These are some of the questions the Healthy Harvey Coalition is looking at as the group starts a major project — creating a "Master Bike Plan" for Newton and North Newton. Coalition coordinator Audrey Lappan is excited about bringing various groups in the community together and moving forward to make the vision of a "bike friendly" Newton a reality.

"There's these little pockets of people who are interested in seeing something happen, but they're only working in their own group," Lappan said. "We need to work together."

The Healthy Harvey Coalition is designed to serve as an "umbrella group" for various health-related efforts in the community. It currently has a spin-off worksite wellness group.

"We hope to really be the hub of all the healthy activities in Harvey County," said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department.

The ultimate goal of the Master Bike Plan is to make it safer and easier to bike in the community. The group hopes to create lasting policy change.

"It's not just creating a plan and putting it on the shelf," Redington said.

They are working with the ReNewton Bicycling Initiative on ideas, and they would like to create a citizens advisory committee for residents to give feedback, as well as a technical advisory committee to help with planning. A new logo has been designed to help people recognize Healthy Harvey materials, and a website is being worked on, slated to go live this month or early June.

Goals for the bike plan include publicizing good bike routes; providing adequate bike racks; researching the creation of separate bike lanes; and educating the public on bicycle safety, such as encouraging drivers to watch out for cyclists on the road and teaching children safe biking rules.

The Healthy Harvey Coalition also looks for ways to promote better health in general. They advocate for fewer sugary treats in school classrooms for students' birthdays. They also are working on healthier concessions at Newton High School, thanks to a Kansas Health Foundation grant.

"Newton is trying very hard to incorporate more healthy living options," Redington said.

Find the group on Facebook by searching for "Healthy Harvey Coalition." To learn more about becoming involved, call or email Lappan at 283-1637 or alappan@harveycounty.com.