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

Norma Jeane Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

The SLT multi-purpose path is awesome. I, too, ride it regularly, but it does very little to promote or add to bike commuting in Lawrence. I'm thankful for it, though. I'd like to see more thought put in to bike lanes/bike routes that are usable for bike commuters.

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Karrey Britt 1 year, 11 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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Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 11 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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jjinks 1 year, 11 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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