Lawrence retains 'Bicycle Friendly Community' title, but national advocacy group says work remains

Two riders participate in the first Community Bike Ride at the Rotary Arboretum near the YSI sports complex in west Lawrence. The event featured three different courses that riders could take, a safety zone where children could learn and practice bicycle safety, and a training wheel take-off station where kids could learn to ride without training wheels.

Two riders participate in the first Community Bike Ride at the Rotary Arboretum near the YSI sports complex in west Lawrence. The event featured three different courses that riders could take, a safety zone where children could learn and practice bicycle safety, and a training wheel take-off station where kids could learn to ride without training wheels. by John Young

Lawrence is still a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” but now Manhattan is one, too.

They were among a list of award winners released Monday by the League of American Bicyclists.

“I think the competition is on,” said Bill Nesper, vice president of programs for the League of American Bicyclists. “Who’s going to be the best? Who’s going to set the standard for the state?”

There’s only one other bicycle-friendly community in Kansas and that’s Shawnee, and the three are among only 214 communities nationwide.

While Manhattan just earned its designation, Lawrence has been dubbed bicycle friendly by the organization since 2004, re-earning the title in 2008 and this year. The League of American Bicyclists began handing out the awards in 2003, and there are four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. It selects communities based on an extensive application that looks at five areas: engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation and planning, and enforcement. Only about one-third of the applications receive an award.

Nesper said while Lawrence was among the first communities to receive a designation, it hasn’t moved up to the silver level because there’s too much work to do. He noted three specific areas:

Infrastructure. Lawrence needs more bicycle lanes and other infrastructure so riders can safely get to their destinations. “We think the bicycling network should continue to expand and help connect and close the gaps for people who are trying to get from one place to another,” he said.

Education. Nesper said Lawrence needs to improve its outreach to children by providing more education in schools. He said some communities are part of a national Safe Routes to School program. He said the community needs to do a better job of educating adults, too.

• Ridership. If Lawrence improves its infrastructure and education, then maybe more people will ride their bicycles. He said Lawrence’s bicycle ridership is below the norm for a college town.

“You have a new bike plan, which is really encouraging. You have a new Complete Streets Policy,” Nesper said. “I think you are right on the cusp of something really great in Lawrence.”

Among other accomplishments in the past four years:

• Lawrence Central Rotary launched a website called RideLawrence.com which promotes bicycling and adding bicycle parking.

• Burroughs Creek Trail, which runs from 11th to 23rd streets, was completed. The 1.7-mile-long trail can be used for bicycling and other activities.

• A bicycle rideability map has been created and is available on the city of Lawrence’s website. The map assists riders in choosing routes most applicable to their skill level.

• The first Community Bike Ride was held July 2011 and it drew 125 participants. This year's event will be July 21 at the Lawrence Rotary Arboretum.

Three-year-old Ida Harrington carries her training wheels to the side of the sidewalk after having them removed from her bicycle during the first Community Bike Ride.

Three-year-old Ida Harrington carries her training wheels to the side of the sidewalk after having them removed from her bicycle during the first Community Bike Ride. by John Young

Jessica Mortinger, transportation planner for Lawrence-Douglas County Planning and Development Services, said while the city has made progress, there’s plenty of work ahead.

She said the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization has received $100,000 from the Kansas Department of Transportation to conduct a countywide bicycle study. The study will start in late summer or early fall and take about one year. It will help guide future plans on improving and expanding bicycle routes.

Lisa Hallberg, a bicycling enthusiast, said she wouldn’t have considered the town bicycle-friendly until two years ago when she began serving as chairwoman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee. Now, she’s more aware of the efforts being made and the time it takes to complete each one.

“I have a very different view about how the city is really trying to put in place better accessibility for all users in transportation,” she said. “It’s an evolving process. That car-centric way of thinking is pretty entrenched but they are doing the best that they can and they’ve accomplished a lot in the last four or five years.”

Her goal is to become the first Kansas community to earn the silver-level award. Falling behind Manhattan is not an option, she said.

Tagged: bicycling, Bicycle Friendly Community, Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee, League of American Bicyclists

Comments

jjinks 2 years, 3 months ago

We paid for a concrete path half way around the city and they never use it. But honestly I don't think most people would mind the bicyclist if they were courteous. People do have places to go to and a time when they need to be there, but when they come up on a group of cyclist riding two or more abreast and refuse to get over it only hurts their cause. They are out joy riding because they have some time off but others don't. I just wish they showed more consideration, no one wants to hurt any of them. They are probably the same ones that come up on a farmer trying to get to a field and blowing their horns and flipping them off because all of a sudden THEY are in a hurry.

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tvc 2 years, 3 months ago

Jjinks,

Do you know how many times I have wanted to ride half way around Lawrence? Zero.

The only reason you want cyclists to ride single file is so you can squeeze into the lane with the cyclist and not give the required minimum passing distance of three feet. If you are giving a cyclist the required 3 feet, you have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear anyway. So, as long as the cyclists are not taking more than a lane it doesn’t matter how many abreast they are riding.

Yes, sometimes cyclists are out joyriding…just like motorists.

I promise you they are not the ones honking at farmers. We are used to slowing down traffic. We don’t enjoy the feeling and appreciate all of the kind motorists that are patient with us.

If you are always in such a hurry, it is probably a sign that you should leave earlier.

I am trying to understand why all the anger directed at cyclists. Do you equally dislike pedestrians? Are you upset when you have to wait at a crosswalk for someone out joywalking?

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Marilyn Hull 2 years, 3 months ago

jjinks:

I completely agree that cyclists need to be courteous and follow all of the laws motorists follow. In fact, it's the law. From the KDOT website:

8-1587. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this act...see more at http://www.kansascyclist.com/kansas_cycling_laws.html.

Riding two abreast is legal, as long as the cyclists use only one lane.

Cyclists are taxpayers too. We pay our fair share for the roads--just like you do.

Please don't let the behavior of a few careless cyclists to sour you on the rights of all of us to use our roadways for whatever lawful purpose we choose.

Let's share the road with courtesy.

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Marilyn Hull 2 years, 3 months ago

Oops. Should be "cyclists sour you..."

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Kendall Simmons 2 years, 3 months ago

What I want to do is get adult cyclists off our residential sidewalks! Adults on 10-speeds going full speed do not belong on residential sidewalks!

Oh course...I'm kinda cranky about the matter, having been hit by one on April 18th, then going through 4 weeks of physical therapy and still having to painfully walk with a cane. (You should hear my ortho doc go off on bicyclists in Lawrence :-)

The one that hit me? Sure. Getting hit was an exception. But "I'm so sorry. I keep forgetting my right hand brake doesn't work." As she takes off full speed down the sidewalk again. Good grief!!

But what about the others who, when coming up on sidewalk pedestrians, don't bother slowing down or stopping to avoid us but, rather, simply ride full speed through our flower beds? Or yell at us to get out of their way? Or hit our pets? Are they any better?? Not really.

As an aside, I regularly see parents...usually dads...teaching their kids the world's worst bicycle behavior. They all wear helmets...but then run stop signs and stop lights with impunity. Dad looks and it's clear for "him"...so off they all go. Never mind that it's illegal for "him" to run a red light or stop sign. But Dad seems oblivious to the fact that he's got someone(s) behind him who are not as easily seen, who are coming after him...so may not be as clear as he is...and who are being taught to ignore the traffic laws.

I came close to hitting a kid that way once...and the dad was so far ahead that he had no idea. So I followed them because I wanted to talk with the dad. We got to the LHS fields. I got out of my car and he came charging at me, screaming "What the hell do you mean following us!" So I told him. He huffed and puffed a bit, but I hope that he and his son learned a lesson.

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Marilyn Hull 2 years, 3 months ago

Kendall:

Again, there is no excuse for the bad behavior that you have experienced.

How would you suggest we better educate the community on bicycling laws?

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tvc 2 years, 3 months ago

Kendall, did you report it? The rider should be paying for your medical expenses.

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Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for the great article and for that wonderful picture by John Young.

When he or she removes the training wheels for the first time, that's a magical experience, and he's captured it perfectly!

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 3 months ago

I ride the SLT bike path all of the time from one end to the other and back. It's a route that I feel safe on and I enjoy the scenery. I wish it were longer or connected to other trails.

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