Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map

First things first: here’s a link to the Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map.

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Screen shot of the Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map

The map shows the best routes to travel around the community by bike, based on things like traffic speed, traffic volume, and number of traffic lanes. Pathways and designated bike lanes are included where they exist, and the routes have been connected mostly with lower-stress residential streets. To develop a functional network of bike routes, though, some higher-stress routes had to be included because no other options currently exist. These sections are designated as “cautionary bike routes.”

This map was drafted by an engineering firm contracted by the Panhandle Public Health District via the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee. This map is intended to be used by people with a basic level of cycling skill and knowledge of how to interact safely with motorized vehicle traffic. It has not, as yet, been officially sanctioned by local officials. The plan is to develop this map to a point where it can be printed and distributed for the use of locals and tourists getting around by bike.

The hope is that this map can be a catalyst to developing improved bicycle infrastructure for our transportation system, such as better river crossings, designated bike route signage or protected bike lanes. The key to making change is to have as many people as possible involved in and supporting this process.

Your input is important to make this map the best it can be, to demonstrate to elected officials that bicycling is important, and to show local transportation professionals the most critical places to target for improvement.

  • Are there sections designated as “lower stress” that you think should be “cautionary” or vice versa?
  • Are you not seeing a connection to get where you need to go?
  • Are there areas where infrastructure improvements could be made for a better cycling experience?
  • Does your destination lack a place to lock up your bike?
  • Are there any barriers to you being comfortable getting around on a bike? What are they?
  • Any other comments?

You can leave comments directly within the map. There are instructions below on how to do this. If you are having a hard time with the map, feel free to leave a comment on this blog post instead.

Thanks for your interest and input in this project! Change can sometimes be slow to come, but the future looks bright for biking in our community!

If you would like to get email updates related to this bike mapping project, send me an email at kt AT ktbradshaw DOT com.

 

How to use this map

This map was designed to meet dual purposes – an on-street bike route network map as well as a sidewalk network map for pedestrians. These instructions focus on the bike route function.

 

General map information

When you click on the map link, a “splash screen” appears. Click “OK” to close this window to access the map.

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You can zoom into the map to read the street names, and zoom out to see the overall routes.

Clicking on an icon will pop up additional information.

By default, the map opens to the “map key” window. You can get back to this window at any time by clicking on the icon that looks like bullet points.

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Choosing what information the map displays

This map is designed to show both biking and walking information. To choose what information the map displays, click the “layers” icon.

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To see the bike routes map, and to be able to make comments, make sure the following boxes are checked:

  • Proposed bike-walk network (shows streets and a few sidewalks needed to )
  • Trails (shows multi-use trails where cyclists must yield to pedestrians)
  • Safety awareness location (denotes areas where cyclists should use extra caution)
  • Bike repair station (a DIY public bike repair station with repair stand, air pump, and common repair tools)
  • Map labels (shows street names)
  • Bike comment

If you want, you can turn on the “activity centers” information layer to show schools, government buildings, and retail centers.

Making a comment

To make a bike-related comment on a section of the map:

1. Make sure the “bike comment” box is checked under the “layers” section.

Screen Shot 2019-05-05 at 11.43.39 AM2. Click on the “note” icon.

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3. Zoom in to the portion of the map on which you want to comment.

4. Click on the “bike comment” dot in the “note” menu to select it.

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5. Click on the location on the map. A text box will appear that you can type your comment into. Click away from the text box to save your comment.

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Background of this mapping project

Because of its relatively flat topography, compact area, and network of grid streets, the Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown community is very bikeable. However, people may not be familiar with the best routes to take on a bicycle, which are not necessarily the same routes people are familiar with from their experience traveling by car.

In 2015, the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club started a project to create bicycle route maps based on club member input. The project ran into complications trying to reconcile the different types of comments from people with more cycling experience or less cycling experience, and between people with recreational riding in mind, versus using bicycles as a form of transportation.

In 2017, the Panhandle Public Health District, with the direction of the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee, commissioned Felsburg Holt & Ullevig (FHU) to produce a bicycle / pedestrian assessment. See the final report here: FINAL Plan 12.29.17. The PPHD got involved this the bike map project (as well as projects involving walking maps and signage) because of the public health benefits of getting more people traveling in physically active ways like biking and walking. For further reading:

The structure of this bicycle / pedestrian assessment helped to resolve the problem of “who is this bike map created for?”

FHU noted that a bike route map should be geared towards the largest segment of people possible, which would include the riders that are “strong and fearless” (estimated 4-7% of the population) and “enthused and confident” (estimated 5-9% of the population) who were likely to belong to the bike club, as well as the estimated 51-56% of the population who are interested in cycling more, but concerned about safety. (The remainder of the population is people who will not or cannot ride a bicycle.) For further reading about “the four types of cyclists,” check out the work of researcher Jennifer Dill.

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Image excerpted from “Table 1. Types of Bicyclists” from “Scottsbluff/Gering Pedestrian Assessment” prepared by FHU for PPHD December 2017

FHU evaluated the “bicycle level of traffic stress” (LTS) of the major streets in the community, based on street characteristics and the volume and speed of motorized vehicles. Here’s an explanation of what the LTS levels mean:

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Image excerpted from page 9 of “Scottsbluff/Gering Pedestrian Assessment” prepared by FHU for PPHD December 2017

For a super-wonky deep-dive into this concept, check out this Mineta Transportation Institute report. For a more readable explanation, see this Alta Planning & Design blog post.

FHU then focused on identifying a bicycle route network using infrastructure that the majority of people would be comfortable riding:

  • pathways
  • LTS 1 or 2 collector/arterial streets
  • residential streets

Because the network could not be completed using without including higher-stress cycling routes, some “cautionary routes” of LTS 3 or 4 had be included.

Few sidewalks are included on this route map.

Local ordinance prohibits riding bicycles on the sidewalks in downtown Scottsbluff (20th Street to Railway, Ave B to 2nd Ave) and Gering (J Street to U Street, 9th Street to 11th Street).

While riding a bicycle on a sidewalks elsewhere in the Twin Cities area is allowed, it may not be the best option. Bicycle safety experts recommend that adults not ride bicycles on sidewalks because of the higher risk of collisions with vehicles turning across driveways and traveling through intersections. However, there are some situations where a sidewalk is more comfortable for cycling. See this post from the League of American Bicyclists for details on sidewalk riding law.

When riding on the sidewalk:

  • ride at a walking pace
  • use caution and be prepared to yield at all driveways and intersections
  • watch for and yield to pedestrians

For further reading on sidewalk riding, see this document from Cornell University.

Note that the Cornell University document highlights that sidewalk riding for children is different from sidewalk riding for adults:

Most children are not capable of bicycling in traffic until they are about aged nine or ten. The complexities of traffic are simply too much for their developing bodies and minds. For this reason, many communities allow sidewalk bicycling for children. Young children should be accompanied by an adult to help them navigate through hazards such as driveways and other intersections. It would be a mistake to presume that sidewalks are completely safe from traffic.

The length of time this map will be open to comment is still TBD, so don’t delay!

Copyright 2019 by Katie Bradshaw

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Top 10 Reasons to Preorder a Nebraska Bike The Good Life License Plate

nebraska license plate

In January, the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance launched a campaign to get a bicycle-themed “organizational” license plate design accepted by the State of Nebraska. The state approved the application and proposed design, so all that’s required now is 250 pre-registrations collected by the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance. SEE HERE FOR APPLICATION INFORMATION and FAQs.

This license plate is an “organizational” plate* (like the plates for Union Pacific, Beef State, Corn, Duck Unlimited, Henry Doorly Zoo, Creighton, UNO, Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and Fire/Rescue). These plates cost an additional $70 per year, and the fees are divided between the DMV cash fund (15%) and the Highway Trust Fund (85%).

I want to encourage more Nebraska bicycling enthusiasts to pre-order their plates so we can hit the minimum and I can get my NEBIKE plates ASAP! So, I give you:

TOP TEN REASONS TO PRE-ORDER A NEBRASKA BIKE THE GOOD LIFE LICENSE PLATE

10. It makes a great gift for a bicycling enthusiast who “has it all.” You could make the payment ($75 via PayPal to Nebraska Bicycling Alliance), and your intended gift recipient could complete the paperwork to submit. (This would make a great gift-giving tradition to start on Bike to Work Day. *wink, wink*)

bike gift

9. You are a Nebraskan. Pioneers are in your cultural DNA. If you pre-order a plate, you will be one of the pioneers – the first to have Nebraska bike plates.

nebraska pioneer

8. You can help Nebraska establish a new license plate type. Even if you don’t renew the bike plate in future years, if the magic 250 minimum is reached, the option will remain available for others.

~*250*~

7. The new plates have a “Nebraska red” theme, unlike the standard plates that have a blue field and yellow lettering, which I keep thinking are from Michigan.

nebraska font compare

6. No Sower!!!! Uhhh . . . about that Sower . . . in person on the plates, he looks kind of like a smudge of dirt.

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5. Be that reminder to other drivers that people who ride bikes also drive cars.

MY OTHER CAR IS A BICYCLE

4. Promote a cool slogan: “Bike the Good Life.” We Nebraskans know all about the Good Life, and Nebraskans who bike know how biking contributes.

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3. Help promote the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance. The organization’s website is listed on the plate: www.nebike.org.

NeBA logo

2. Pay an extra $70 bucks a year to the DMV, to gain more ammo to blow up the canard about road user fees. (You know the one.)

*BOOM*

1. Get Nebraska into the majority of states that now offer bicycle-themed license plates. Nebraska needs to be on this list!

state bike license plates A thru L

state bike license plates M thru S

state bike license plates T thru W

What are you waiting for? Your current plate to expire?

Don’t wait! You need to get your application in now, or the new bike plates won’t be available when your renewal is up.

If you wind up getting the new bike plates midstream in your registration, you can turn in your old plates to get a refund on the remaining registration fee.

Don’t delay – complete your Bike The Good Life license plate application today!

*Nebraska also has “specialty” plates, some of which cost the same as regular plates, some more, some that contribute a small amount of money to special causes. These plates require an act of the legislature to establish (e.g., mountain lion / conservation, Huskers, Nebraska Sesquicentennial, breast cancer, and, soon, “choose life”.)

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw, except images

A scary pass, an educational opportunity

I ride my road bike on the road because that’s where it’s designed to be ridden.

Also, since my community lacks connected bike path infrastructure, to get where I’m going on a bike, I have to use roads.

Whenever possible, I choose low-speed, less-traveled roads. However, sometimes I have to ride on the highway to get where I’m going.

I have met several cyclists who no longer ride on paved roads. They stick to gravel roads exclusively. They’ve had too many run-ins with ignorant, inattentive, or ill-willed automobile drivers.

I’m not willing to give up road riding. I think things are getting better, with more cyclists on the road and more awareness of safe driving practices.

But I did buy a bike camera to record the traffic around me, just in case.

On a recent ride, I had a semi truck pass me far too fast and far too close for comfort.

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You can see in this screen shot that I was in the travel lane (the shoulder here is in poor condition & had lots of debris), yet the semi was straddling the center line.

My bike camera captured it all. I had the license plate and DOT number, the company name, the time/date stamp.

But still, I wondered what to do.

Clearly, the footage is scary, but does the close pass violate the “3 feet to pass” law? They didn’t hit me, and I didn’t crash from an air wake blow-over. Would this be worth taking to law enforcement? Should I try contacting the company directly, or would that accomplish nothing but stir up a hornet’s nest for me?

Instead, I decided to turn this video clip into an educational opportunity, and a shout out to drivers who rate an “A+” in how they maneuver around bicyclists.

Here’s my little video (which I struggled long and hard with in iMovie to create – no video artist am I).

I’m sure this video will win me some criticism.

Like, I probably should have been riding further left in the lane to signal to the drivers behind me that they should change lanes to pass. But would that have only landed me closer to the passing semi? Traffic interactions are such a delicate dance!

Regardless, I hope that it makes people think about their interactions on the road and contributes to overall road safety.

The life you save may be mine!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Yo, Nebraska cyclists: LB 716!

Look up your state senator here, and contact them. Do it today! Your state leaders need to hear your specific, local story about why the traffic law amendments in LB 716 are important for bicyclist safety in our state.

For up-to-date information, check in with the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance. (Better yet, become a member!)

LB716 does two main things:

1. LB716 clarifies that where a bike/multiuse path crosses a road at a traffic light, cars must yield to bicyclists who lawfully enter the crossing.

Currently, the law is mute on bicyclists vs. cars and only provides protection to pedestrians in these cases, so if the light turns green for the cyclist, they proceed, and are hit by a car, there is no clear rule for who should have yielded.

At first, I thought there were no such intersections here in S-G, but then I realized there were currently two along the Monument Valley Pathway:

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There may be more, depending on how pathway development proceeds in Scottsbluff.

Here’s a more formal-looking link to the S-G sites, as well as one for Sidney. PLEASE COMMENT if you know of additional intersections in other communities.

Scottsbluff/Gering

Sidney

Here’s a NeBA map of all the currently known affected intersections in the state.

2. LB716 eliminates the requirement that a cyclist use a sidepath when present.

This law creates a number of unintended consequences when it mandates that a cyclist use a particular right of way without consideration for safety. To give just one example: what if you’re cycling in the winter, and the street is clear but the cycle path is not. The law says “Too bad, so sad: you have to use that icy, dangerous, rutted path, not the safer, cleared street.”

Case in point, here’s what the Broadway/10th Street bridge (the ONLY non-road bridge crossing between Scottsbluff and Terrytown/Gering over the North Platte River, which, incidentally, is so unsuitable for biking on the west side that signage directs cyclists to dismount even in good weather) looked like during Bike Work Work Week in 2015:

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Note that the street is clear and almost completely dry.

Write your state senator today!

To have the biggest impact, your letter to your senator should reference specific instances in their district and describe experiences you have had. Here is the letter I am sending to my senator:

Dear Senator Stinner,

As your constituent, I ask that you support LB716 to amend traffic rules relating to bicyclists. The law as currently written creates uncertainty and danger for bicyclists like myself. LB716 will improve conditions for bicyclists in District 48.

Regarding the provision clarifying right of way at a device-controlled crossing:

When I’m riding my commuter bike, I often use the Monument Valley Pathway. There are two places where this pathway crosses a road at a traffic light: at 10th Street and Mobile Avenue/Twin City Drive in Terrytown and at Five Rocks Road and Country Club Road in Gering.

I always enter these intersections with extreme caution, as, in my experience, drivers are not generally very cyclist-aware in this area. Despite my caution, I have had some close calls. I would like to know that, if the unthinkable happens and I am struck by a car in one of these intersections, the driver will be held as accountable as if they had struck a pedestrian, another type of vulnerable road user that already has protection under the law.

Regarding the provision eliminating the mandatory sidepath rule:

While I prefer to use the pathway when I’m riding my commuter bike, I’ve found several instances in which it was safer for me to be in the street rather than on the pathway. In the snowy season, the streets are often clear of snow long before the pathway is. I would much rather ride on a cleared street than on an icy and rutted pathway. At times when riding near Terry’s Lake, there has been a family of geese with hissing, overprotective parents occupying the pathway. Rather than risking injury by waterfowl attack, I have detoured into the street. Depending on the time of day, the pathway is sometimes occupied by people with dogs and small children who have a tendency to make unpredictable movements. When the pathway is crowded like this, and I’m moving 8-10 miles per hour on my commuter bike, I deem it safer for all involved if I move out into the street to get where I’m going without risking a collision with a dog or child.

Similarly, when I ride my road bike, on which I can travel at speeds approaching 15-20 miles per hour, it’s much safer for all involved if I’m on the road rather than the pathway. The pathway was not designed to safely handle traffic of that speed.

Yet, in the eyes of the law, whenever I detour into the street on my bike for safety reasons, I am courting a citation. This makes no sense and limits the utility of a bicycle as transportation.

Since my husband and I rely on our bicycles to get around because we share one car between us and there is no practical public transportation in Scottsbluff-Gering, the bicycle-friendliness of this community is important to our ability to do business and live happily here. I know there are other families in this area that rely on bicycle transportation to get around as well. Passage of LB716 will help to make life a little better for all of us bicyclists. Please support it.

Thank you for your time.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Top 3 reasons why you should cycle WITH traffic, in the direction of traffic flow

Because bicyclists take so much flak from motorists who would prefer not to have the two-wheelers on the road to begin with, I’m particularly sensitive these days when I see another cyclist breaking traffic and safety rules.

A super common and super dangerous traffic error I see is this:  biking on the wrong side of the road, against traffic.

Perhaps there was a whole generation of people who were given mistaken instructions on how to ride, and the misinformation keeps propagating. Or maybe they get mixed up, since pedestrians are supposed to face oncoming traffic when walking along a road. Or perhaps cyclists feel safer if they can see traffic coming at them (they are actually in MORE danger, as I will explain below).

Bugman and I encountered a particularly egregious example of this over the weekend. We had just crested the Mitchell Hill on Highway 92 eastbound when Bugman said, “What the . . .? There’s a bike coming the wrong way!”

The cyclist was westbound in the center of the eastbound lane. We played a little pas-de-deux of confusion about who would pass on which side, and our bike camera recorded him as he passed on our left and proceeded uphill on the wrong side of the road.

cycling against trafficTHIS IS SO DANGEROUS! I’m absolutely flabbergasted that someone would think it was OK to ride on the wrong side of the road heading up a blind hill on a 60 MPH highway. (I will admit, I yelled at him. “You’re riding in the wrong lane!” But he probably didn’t hear me. HE WAS WEARING HEADPHONES!)

Here are the

TOP 3 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CYCLE WITH TRAFFIC, IN THE DIRECTION OF TRAFFIC FLOW:

  1. Anyone turning onto the roadway will not be looking for you there, if you ride against traffic. When you are driving a car and you merge onto a highway on-ramp, are you looking forward to see if anyone is traveling down the Interstate in the wrong direction? No! Because that is not normal! Similarly, a driver making a right-hand turn out of a driveway or crossroad on the stretch of highway in the photo above will most likely look left, to see if there is any traffic coming. They will not look right to see if there is a bicycle traveling the wrong way towards them. They will accelerate onto the highway, and the bicyclist will have no time to react or will be forced into traffic in the other lane. NOT GOOD!
  2. You are INCREASING the relative speed at which cars will pass you, if you ride against traffic. Let’s do the math with the above example. Say the cyclist has some good legs and is making 10 MPH up that hill. An eastbound car in that lane at the speed limit would be traveling 60 MPH. The additive effect of those two vehicles traveling towards each other in the same lane means they are approaching each other at 70 MPH, thus reducing the amount of time each person has to react to the situation. If the cyclist were traveling uphill properly, in the westbound lane, and they were passed by a westbound car doing the speed limit, that car would approach the cyclist at only 50 MPH – the cyclist is moving away from the car at 10 MPH, thus giving the driver more time to react. (Another example for in-town riders: you’re riding at 15 MPH, the driver at 25 MPH. With wrong-way travel, you’ve got a closing speed of 40 MPH. When you ride WITH traffic, that drops to a closing speed of 10 MPH.)
  3. It’s the law to behave as an automobile would. Would you drive a car on the wrong side of the road? No! Then why would you ride a bicycle that way? On the back page of the NDOR Nebraska Bicycle Guide, it states (emphasis mine):

Follow the law. Bicyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers. Obey the rules of the road as if you were driving a car—stop at stop signs, red lights, and signal before turning or changing lanes. Ride with traffic.

I will acknowledge that it feels creepy and awful to hear vehicles coming up behind you and not be able to see them. That is why I always use a mirror – so I can see what’s happening back there.

It may “feel” safer to ride facing traffic, but it is MORE DANGEROUS, for the reasons mentioned above, and here is proof: a couple of cycling experts analyzed bicycle accident data from the 1980s in Palo Alto, California, where they are from, and found that wrong-way cyclists are between 3-7 times more likely to get into an accident than those traveling in the direction of traffic.

Here’s a snippet from the results section of the study:

Table 4 shows that all categories of bicy­clists traveling against the direction of traffic flow are at greatly increased risk for accidents—on average 3.6 times the risk of those traveling with traffic, and as high as 6.6 times for those 17 and under. This result is readily explained: because motorists normally scan for traffic trav­eling in the lawful direction, wrong-way traffic is easily overlooked. To give only a single example, a motorist turning right at an intersec­tion scans to the left for approaching traffic on the new road, and cannot see or anticipate a fast-moving wrong-way bicyclist approaching from the right. (This is the one of the most common types of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions in Palo Alto.)

This finding provides compelling justifica­tion for current traffic law, which requires bicy­clists on the roadway everywhere in the United States to travel in the same direction as other traffic. It also implies that vigorous enforcement of this law, for both adults and children, can substantially reduce the number of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, and should receive high priority in any bicycle program.

Two points about Table 4 deserve comment. First, the conclusion is extremely robust: wrong-way bicycling is risky at an overwhelmingly high level of significance—p<<10-5 for the category as a whole, p<10-5 in four out of seven subgroups, and p<10-4 and 10-3 for two others. In the remaining subgroup, on the roadway, only 5 percent of bicyclists (108 of 2005) traveled against traffic, and only 5 accidents occurred there (compared to 2.5 expected); these small numbers limit any statistical significance.

Second, wrong-way bicycling is dangerous for all subgroups of bicyclists—including those traveling on the sidewalk, who may at first seem to be protected against collisions with motor vehicles. In fact, sidewalk bicyclists enter into conflict with motorists at every intersection (including driveways), and these are exactly the points where most bicycle-motor vehicle colli­sions occur. Wrong-way sidewalk bicyclists are at particular risk because they enter the point of conflict from an unexpected direction, just as they would on the roadway.

So, folks, please – when cycling, and when instructing youngsters on cycling, make sure everyone is RIDING RIGHT, in the direction of traffic. You’ll reduce the risk of accidents that way.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Bike to Work Week – Day 2

So, yeah, it’s Day 2 of Bike to Work Week, but today was my first ride. Sorry – was not going to ride in the slush yesterday. You can call me a wimp, but only if you were out there cycling in western Nebraska yesterday.

My commute is 5.4 miles one way. On the way to work, it’s typically uphill (230 feet of climb all told) and into the wind. Wind measurements said it was only about 9 mph this morning, but it sure felt like more than that headed towards Mitchell Pass (on the Oregon Trail, baby! – history geek bikers: eat your heart out).

According to the time stamp on the photo I took as I was leaving the house:

takeoff

And the time stamp on the photo when I arrived at work (note the snow on the bluffs in the background!):

landing

It took me 35 minutes to get to work.

On the way home?

I did not clock the time, but it was not likely much better.

Sure, it was downhill, but I was bucking north-northwest winds of 16 mph gusting to 30.

I tried to beat a rain cloud home. Partly succeeded, but wound up with wobbly legs.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes!

PS – If you are in the Wyobraksa area, and you are reading this during Bike to Work Week, have you signed up for the WNBC BTWW?

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw