Slip lanes near schools are a terrible idea

Just north of downtown Scottsbluff — adjacent to Pioneer Park, Frank Park, Bluffs Middle School, and Scottsbluff High School, at a border between residential and commercial areas — Broadway intersects with 27th Street in a T.

Once upon a time, Broadway was part of the state highway system going straight through town. As a result, Broadway was engineered to highway standards back in the day. This accounts for Broadway being built . . . broad . . . with four wide travel lanes, as well as the existence of slip lanes at that T intersection of Broadway and 27th Street.

The fact that these vestiges of highway infrastructure remain in a pedestrian-heavy area near schools and parks, even after a bypass rerouted highway traffic away from the core of our community, make less than zero sense. It’s nonsensical, and it’s dangerous.

Why are wide, multi-lane roads and slip lanes at an intersection such bad ideas from a pedestrian safety standpoint?

  1. Wider lanes encourage higher driving speeds and expose people walking across the street to a wider “danger zone” in the street. Driving speeds above 20 miles per hour exponentially increase pedestrian deaths and serious injuries.
  2. Multiple lanes create “double jeopardy” for pedestrians crossing the street, requiring multiple drivers to see and stop for them.
  3. Slip lanes do not require drivers to slow or even stop, so they may be less attentive to pedestrians in the area if they don’t have to watch for car traffic in the intersection, and slip lanes may lengthen a driver’s reaction time to pedestrians in the roadway, because of that higher speed.
  4. In Scottsbluff’s case in particular, there are no pedestrian facilities at all on the south side of 27th Street at Broadway, which forces pedestrians to either take a detour several blocks out of their way simply to cross the street, or to take their chances with a dangerous crossing without the benefit of pedestrian infrastructure.

On a recent winter morning, I happened to notice evidence of pedestrians opting for the dangerous crossing option — a reasonable action, especially when it’s cold and windy. Here’s a quick video I filmed of that evidence – footprints in the snow-covered grassy area where there is no sidewalk.

The choice the City of Scottsbluff made to leave the highway-level engineering in place on the north end of Broadway has had life-impacting consequences.

The combination of the slip lane enabling a speedy entrance onto the north end of Broadway and the wide double lanes has made that section of Broadway an attractive place for people choosing to break the law by drag racing. On the evening of September 18, 2019, a driver who was drag racing on Broadway hit a young teen at an estimated speed of 56-91 miles per hour in an already-too-high 30-mile-per-hour zone. (The young man survived, but with devastating injuries.)

As a police officer pointed out in a newspaper column, in response to a resident complaining about the ongoing problem of excessive speeding on Broadway, it’s the City of Scottsbluff that has ultimate responsibility for the environment that enables unsafe behavior from drivers.

I have some suggestions for the city in a zine I wrote last year:

I continue to hold out hope that one day, city leaders will pay as much attention to the ways in which people get around our community OUTSIDE of cars as they do to those INSIDE of cars.

For further reading on slip lanes:
“Slip Lanes Would Never Exist if We Prioritized Safety Over Speed” on the Strong Towns blog
Cities Are Replacing Dangerous Slip Lanes With Space for People” on Streetsblog USA

Copyright 2021 by Katie Bradshaw

Bike/ped crash data: pinpoint vs. corridor

A few years ago, I was working with the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee to gather information about where crashes between motor vehicles and people walking and biking were happening in the Scottsbluff-Gering area. Where were the problem areas in terms of bike/ped safety? Where could safety efforts best be focused?

When a report came out on the state of sidewalks and bike transportation in our area, I was a bit . . . disappointed? The reported crashes were not in any one location, really — they were all over the map.

Here’s a screenshot of the map in the report, which came out in December 2017 and included bike/ped crash data from January 2014 through July 2017. The red dots are bike crashes; the blue dots are pedestrian crashes.

People driving cars are crashing into people biking and walking all over the place. There are no particularly problematic spots that can be called out for action, really. (Spoiler alert: actually, there are.)

I kind of put the information aside – until this week.

This week, I’ve been participating in the virtual National Bike Summit, put on by the League of American Bicyclists.

In a session discussing federal legislation related to traffic safety funding (specifically, H.R. 508), League Vice President Caron Whitaker noted that there is a disconnect between the proportion of deaths that occur among people biking and walking (Vulnerable Road Users) in the United States and the amount of funding allocated for bike/ped safety. Here’s a screen grab from her presentation:

People biking and walking make up about 12% of trips, but are over-represented in fatalities at 20%, yet less than 1% of federal highway safety funding goes to bike/ped safety improvements.

Why is this happening? Why the disconnect?

Caron pointed out that there’s a problem with how traffic fatality data is collected and analyzed that leads to a distortion in how funds are spent. I’m going to quote directly from her presentation given on Feb. 28, 2021:

Under current practices, we know that states say they use a data-driven approach, and that data-driven approach is to identify hot spots or pinpoints of high fatalities.

But we know that those hot spots, especially for in-vehicle fatalities, are generally in very high-speed areas, like interstates or rural roads, maybe a specific turn, or they’re head-on collisions in intersections. It’s very easy to pinpoint those deaths because right now we make our cars so safe for the people inside them, that it takes really high speed or head-on crashes for fatalities.

But when we look at areas that are most dangerous for people biking and walking, it’s corridors, it’s arterials, it’s connector streets that have a high speed limit or maybe even higher speeding, but you have destinations and you have virtually no infrastructure, you don’t have a lot of crosswalks or sidewalks or bike infrastructure. So those corridors don’t show up in the formula, and that’s why states are spending less than 1% of their safety dollars on this.

I’m going to repeat a portion of that.

[The] areas that are most dangerous for people biking and walking, it’s corridors, it’s arterials, it’s connector streets that have a high speed limit or maybe even higher speeding, but you have destinations and you have virtually no infrastructure.

Taking another look at the Scottsbluff-Gering map of crashes, the data jumped out and smacked me in the face. The pattern is clear. IT’S THE CORRIDORS. Here’s that map again, with the problematic corridors highlighted in pink – accounting for at least 75% of the traffic crashes involving people biking and walking.

27th Street. 20th Street. Overland. U Street. Avenue I. Broadway / 10th Street. 5th Avenue.

And this doesn’t include crashes that have happened more recently. The ones I can think of offhand all happened along these corridors:
27th Street
April 2019
March 2020
Broadway
December 2018
September 2019
10th Street
December 2019
Overland
September 2019
September 2020

What do these corridors generally have in common?

  • They are highly traveled areas that connect people to destinations: schools, businesses, workplaces.
  • Many areas of less-than-ideal conditions for people biking and walking, including:
    • Higher speed limits (30-40 mph)
    • Lack of marked and/or traffic-controlled crosswalks
    • Street-adjacent sidewalks that are often poorly cleared of snow in the winter (did you SEE the sidewalks on 27th Street after our recent storms?) and/or poorly maintained or absent altogether
    • Multi-lane streets, exposing people to higher danger as they cross
    • No bicycle facilities

The first step in solving a problem is correctly identifying the problem. A problem in our community is that the places people are biking and walking are not as safe as they could be, and a portion of that lack of safety could be attributed to a lack of funding, because of the way problems have been reported. Better data can lead to better solutions.

Designing our streets for ALL USERS, not just people in cars and trucks, can also lead to better decisions for our community.

I would also like to make another point in conjunction with this map that has been weighing on my mind.

There has been a lot of celebration recently about the near-completion of the pathway extension in Scottsbluff, and rightly so. The city has done a great job of maintaining the prior pathway along the river, and it’s heavily used and greatly appreciated. Having more pathway is great! Especially great is the fact that people will finally have a place to safely cross Highway 26 on foot and by bike.

However, the danger for people walking and biking remains. Take a look at my (super rough) map of the new pathway marked in blue compared to the problematic corridors for bike/ped safety marked in pink.

There’s virtually no overlap.

I’m concerned that people will think “Oh, things are all set for people biking an walking – look at all that new pathway!”, when in fact, the pathway will not do a whole lot to improve safety for the people who are trying to get places that are not connected to the pathway. I’m concerned that when people are biking and walking in the community and they are hit and hurt or killed, that they will be blamed for “not being on the pathway” even if the pathway is nowhere near where they need to go.

Yes, Scottsbluff has made a lot of progress recently. But there’s still a lot of work to do. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take money. And it’s going to take political will.

Traffic deaths often catalyze infrastructure improvements. (Sad that it takes someone dying or being severely injured for changes to occur, but that’s where we’re at.) In the late 1970s, a young person riding a bike died at the 5th Avenue crossing of Highway 26. It took more than 40 years before city priorities and local/federal funding aligned to get a bridge built that can prevent future such tragedies.

How long will it take for the traffic dangers for people biking and walking in the central parts of Scottsbluff and Gering to be addressed? When will sidewalks and crosswalks show up on the city’s multi-year road construction forecasts? When will a policy be implemented to require that sidewalk improvements be made every time a construction project is undertaken? Where will the political will come from? I can tell you, if it’s just lonely little ol’ me out there being a squeaky wheel, the timeline is going to span many decades, if anything changes at all.

Copyright 2021 by Katie Bradshaw

A how-to guide for creating a bicycle playground: Scottsbluff example

Ever since I saw a Twitter post about this “traffic garden” (AKA bicycle playground, safety town) that was built in Washington state on a disused tennis court, I’ve wanted to see one built locally.

white center traffic garden

White Center, Washington, traffic garden by Alta Design + Planning

But where? And how? I didn’t know how to get started.

Eventually, the concrete pad poured in downtown Scottsbluff to accommodate artificial ice in the winter filtered into my brain. It was a new, unblemished concrete surface well-protected from traffic in a highly visible and accessible area that was otherwise going unused in the warmer months.

 

At a May 6, 2019, presentation to the Scottsbluff City Council on the activities of the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee, one of the council members asked if the ALAC had considered a “bicycle playground.” I mentioned the ice rink pad, and, because this coincided with the city’s desire to develop more activity in the downtown area, things progressed quickly. By July 4, 2019, the 18th Street Plaza Bicycle Playground was open!

bicycle playground gran opening

In this post, I’ll summarize the major steps as well as materials and methods, for the benefit of others looking to build a bicycle playground of their own.

The primary partners on design and implementation of this project were the City of Scottsbluff and the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club. No city funds were spent to make this project happen. Paint was provided by our local Diamond Vogel. Some of the miniature signage was built with scrap material, and the rest of the signage was donated by Aulick Industries. Public health grant funds from the Panhandle Public Health District made available through the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee paid for additional materials.

Step 1: Design

With the concrete pad measuring approximately 40 feet wide and 80 feet long, design options were somewhat constrained.

Initially, the bicycle playground was designed as a “bicycle rodeo” skill drill course.

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After some discussion, the design was tweaked into a mini street layout to also allow imaginative play while preserving the educational components of the signage (stop, yield, rail crossing, pedestrian crossing) and the skill of riding in a circle. The proposed layout was an oval track with a roundabout on one end and a cross street with a T intersection. To get everyone on the same page, a formal proposal was put together (with assistance from Fionnuala Quinn of Discover Traffic Gardens).

A rough plan for the layout was drawn up using shape files in Publisher, with a scaled 2’x2′ grid underlaying the design to facilitate proportion and later implementation. Lanes were designed to be 3 feet wide (internal measurement), with 3-inch lane lines. The outer diameter of the roundabout was 16 feet. Between 3-7 feet of space was left on all sides to allow people to walk past easily.

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Step 2: Demonstration project

To demonstrate proof of concept and test the design, as well as collect data on what age level the bicycle playground would appeal to, a washable sidewalk chalk layout and activity called “imagination town” was prepared to coincide with the opening of the downtown farmer’s market on June 1, 2019. Flyers and social media posts advertised the event, and the farmer’s market helped disseminate the information as well.

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The evening before the event, six members of the bicycle club used the layout plan, a tape measure, a string to draw the curves, and 40 sticks of sidewalk chalk to prepare the imagination town layout. Chalking took about an hour. The curves into and out of the roundabout had to be adjusted a little, since the turns were too sharp initially. The importance of not allowing a pavement seam to land in the middle of a lane also became apparent (wheels might catch on the seam), so a note was made to tweak the final design.

(Thank goodness it didn’t rain overnight!)

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Here’s an excerpt from the report from the event:

Kids observed riding on the layout: six kids on bikes (5 boys, 1 girl) ages 9, 6, 5, 4 (x2) and 2; two kids on scooters (1 boy, 1 girl) ages 5 and 4.

The largest number of kids on the layout at once was three. Most kids rode in a counterclockwise direction.

The littler kids didn’t pay much attention to the layout and just zoomed around, unless their parents pointed things out to them. This might have been partly because the rather thin lines were somewhat hard to see.

The 5-6-year-olds were much more attuned to the “roadways” than the younger kids and paid more attention about sticking to them. The 9-year-old was bored by the simplicity of the course. He challenged himself to see how fast he could go while staying within the lines.

The 4 feet of buffer space on the west side felt sufficient, as did the 6 feet on the east side. It made more sense to have a larger buffer on the east side, since more people entered the area from the east side, and kids tended to have more speed on that curve than on the roundabout near the benches. The 3 feet on the south side seemed sufficient. The 7 feet on the north side seemed excessive – the course could be widened a little bit. Two crosswalk seemed repetitive. Kids noticed and appreciated the railroad crossing.

Parents either stood outside the fence to watch or sat on one of the benches inside. Several parents took the opportunity to point out and talk to their kids about the road markings and signs and what they meant, including a couple of families who didn’t have bikes but who walked across the layout.

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Step 2: Permanent installation

Based on the successful demonstration, the City of Scottsbluff gave permission to go ahead with painting the layout. The goal was to have the layout done in time for the July 4 kickoff of the “Bands on Broadway” free concert series.

Over a couple of days, members of the bike club swept the concrete clean, laid out the design using a chalk line for straightaways,  string+chalk for the curves, and cardboard templates. White acrylic traffic paint (used about 1 3/4 gallons) was mostly applied with 3-inch rollers, as well as a paintbrush. Careful attention was paid to which side of the chalk line the paint roller would follow, to make sure the lines all met up properly. We laid down strips of painter’s tape and ran a straight line over the top to create the dashed centerline. Red and yellow spray paint was used with a template for the sign shapes.

IMG_2015Miniature signs were constructed with bits of leftover materials the city had on hand, with additional signage donated by Aulick Industries. A heavy rubber base was necessary, otherwise the signs would blow over in the wind. The signs are stored in the skate rental shed most of the time. They are taken out during special events like the Bands on Broadway events. When the signs aren’t out, the colored shapes on the ground provide traffic direction.

IMG_1861

Step 3: ribbon cutting and grand opening

A ribbon cutting was held on July 2, 2019, and the media was invited.

Star-Herald “More summer fun: City of Scottsbluff, Western Nebraska Bicycling Club create bicycle playground”

KNEB “Downtown Scottsbluff winter ice skating rink becomes summer bicycle playground”

IMG_2385

The grand opening was July 4, in conjunction with the “Bands on Broadway” summer concert series in the adjacent plaza. A kids’ decorated bicycle parade was held just before the music started, so some of the bikes on the playground looked very festive.

In addition to being a part of Bands on Broadway and the farmer’s market, the bicycle playground was also an official part of the downtown National Night Out event on August 6, 2019. A police officer staffed the playground and talked about bicycle and traffic safety.

IMG_2168

Other than that, it has primarily been used by families on their own. At least one family drives in from an adjacent city to use it, as their neighborhood is not safe enough for their small children to ride bikes.

Step 4: Maintenance

Over the winter, a good portion of the paint flaked off or faded, so the paint will probably need to be refreshed every year.

The bike club repainted it in time for the July 2, 2020, Bands on Broadway kickoff. All better!

Copyright 2020 by Katie Bradshaw

 

Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map

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

Screen Shot 2019-05-05 at 10.57.41 AM

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.

IMG_1010

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.

IMG_1011

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-05 at 11.54.21 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 8.29.08 AM

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

Bike census

I get really frustrated when I hear people say “Oh, hardly any people ride bikes, so there’s no need for bike infrastructure.” Classic chicken-and-egg case: if it were easier and more comfortable to ride, it’s likely people would – which would have major implications in several community indices, notably public health.

But how to track where and when people ride bikes, and why? Q&A surveys, perhaps. There’s also the standard “stand on a street corner” traffic survey (it SO aggrieves me when these studies are done in the dead of winter & taken as a good indicator of demand for bike & ped facilities!)

In the absence of those types of censuses, there’s the totally unscientific “bikes I see when I happen to be out and about” variety. There’s got to be at least some value to that, right? Observing actual cyclist behavior at various locations at various times of day?

I’ve decided to record my observations here. Totally unscientific, and utterly depenent upon when and where I happen to be out, but why not?

Sunday, April 23, 2017, 13:00-14:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man (carrying bags from shopping) eastbound on 33rd St, on sidewalk on south side. Turned south on Ave B to first business driveway, crossed to funeral home driveway and continued southbound through business parking lots.

Bike 2: man westbound on West Overland on sidewalk on north side. Crossed to west side of Ave B & waited for light. Proceeded southbound on Ave B sidewalk.

Bike 3: woman westbound on West Overland at Avenue B, in street.

Monday, April 23, 2017, 15:00-16:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man northbound on Broadway on sidewalk on east side, turned eastbound onto street at East Overland.

Bike 2: man westbound on 14th Street west of 1st Avenue, walking bike with trailer in the street.

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10:00-12:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man northbound on Broadway at 17th in the street, rider wearing a backpack and smoking a cigarette

Bike 2: child southbound on east-side sidewalk of Broadway at 17th , accompanied by other young pedestrians and a stroller, then northbound again a few minutes later

Bikes 3-6: family group of parents and two children riding northbound on the east-side sidewalk of Broadway at 17th , mom smoking, dad with bag from a store

Bike 7: man northbound in the street at 17th, turned a circle in a parking space to talk to a pedestrian, then proceeded into turn lane and went west on 18th Street

Bikes 8-9: teen boys riding southbound on east-side Broadway sidewalk, crossed street diagonally at 17th and continued southbound on west-side sidewalk

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 17:00-18:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man riding northbound on centerline of 4th Ave at 18th, turned west into library driveway

Bike 2: man wtih a backpack carrying shopping bags riding westbound on East Overland sidewalk south side at 4th Ave

Monday, May 1, 2017, 8:00-9:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man eastbound on 20th street at 1st Ave on the sidewalk on the south side

Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 12:00-13:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man southbound on Avenue B, on sidewalk on east side, turned east on north side sidewalk of 20th street – at Avenue A crossed street diagonally and continued eastbound in the street until reaching business driveway and getting on the south side sidewalk

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 12:00-13:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man southbound on Broadway east side sidewalk at 19th

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 16:00-18:00, Scottsbluff

Bike 1: man southbound on Broadway east side sidewalk at 17th

Bike 2: man northbound on Broadway in street at 17th

Thursday, May 4, 2017,  Scottsbluff

Don’t remember all the details, but spotted 3 bikes in the downtown area, all being ridden on sidewalks – 2 men, not sure of the third cyclist.

I’m really thinking about this – if people do not feel comfortable riding in the street, is the best way to increase cycling and facilitate transportation to encourage sidewalk riding? Yet, there is potential for pedestrian conflict, and safety issues for people riding bikes on sidewalks when they cross streets and driveways.

This article has influenced my thinking quite a bit:

How Low-Income Cyclists Go Unnoticed

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PS – I love the idea of changing the “punchbuggy” driving game, where VW beetles are noted, to a “punchbike” game, where people on bikes are noted. Get everyone’s “bikedar” revved up!

The bicycle parking project

As a regular bicycle commuter in the Scottsbluff-Gering area, I’ve been alternately pleased or dismayed with bicycle parking options at my destinations. Everywhere you go there is ample vehicle parking, but rarely is there a decent place to securely park a bicycle. A lack of basic infrastructure such as parking facilities implies that bicycles are not a welcomed or important mode of transportation – an assumption with which I wholeheartedly disagree!

To recognize businesses and institutions that are doing a good job, to suggest improvements, to encourage other entities to join in, and to show other potential bicyclists where they can park their rides, I’m embarking on this ongoing project to document and critique what’s available. Suggestions, contributions and updates welcomed!

The parking facilities below are listed in alphabetical order by city and are also linked on a Google map.

Added June 6: Here’s a simple design guide for bike parking that provides good suggestions for adding or upgrading bike parking.

Gering

Gering City Hall / Police Department

gering library PD

This rack, which gets a lot of shade, is located between the Gering City Hall / Police Department building and the Gering Public Library.

Gering Post Office

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It’s a short little wheel-bender rack, but sufficient for a quick trip to the post office.

Gering Public Library

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Fish and seahorse. The Gering Public Library has some of my all-time favorite bike racks – they were made from scrapped bike parts and decorated by local artists. The only quibble would be that cyclists may not know the decorative racks are functional rather than simply decorative.

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Shark!

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Rainbow trout

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Lobster

Heritage Estates

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It’s a tiny, non-secured bike rack that could be picked up and moved, but it was there on a day I needed it.

Legacy of the Plains Museum

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Apologies for the busy picture, but it was a busy day at Legacy of the Plains Museum when this photo was taken. The bike rack is very conveniently located just outside the front door.

Monument Shadows Golf Course

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The bike rack at the Gering golf course is over by the maintenance / golf cart building

Scotts Bluff County Administration Building

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The bike rack at the Scotts Bluff County Administration Building is not functional, except that the end can serve as a U-rack. The height of the bottom of the rack makes it impossible for an adult-size bicycle to rest securely between the uprights. It’s placed on the north side of the building near an employee entrance and is not welcoming or particularly useful. I was only able to lock my bike to it by using the side pole.

Scottsbluff

Bluffs Middle School

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The bike rack on the west side of the southwest corner of Bluffs Middle school is in the blazing sun from noon on.

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Another full-sun bike rack, this one at the entrance on the southeast corner of Bluffs Middle School.

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A third rack at Bluffs Middle School, also at the southeast corner, gets some tree shade in the afternoon.

Downtown Scottsbluff

The decorative bike racks in downtown Scottsbluff are wonderful – they are out in front of businesses and creative to boot! My only quibble is that people may not know the sculptures are bike racks – I once saw a family clogging the sidewalk with their bikes in front of Runza, while the nearby french fry rack was empty.

A note to the users of downtown bike racks:
Cycling on downtown sidewalks is prohibited by ordinance. To use these bike racks, the recommended method is to:
*Arrive on the street downtown via Avenue A or 1st Avenue and turn onto the side street closest to your destination
*Signal to pull over to the curb
*Dismount and walk your bike on the sidewalk to the bike rack

NOTE: THE “FOUNTAIN” RACK AT THE 18TH STREET PLAZA HAS BEEN MISSING SINCE 18TH STREET CLOSED.

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The rack in front of Bluffs Bakery. West side. Closest side street: 16th Street.

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The rack across from the Midwest Theater. West side. Midblock, closest side streets 18th / 17th Streets.

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The rack in front of Cappuccino & Company. This is the rack I most often see in use. East side. Closest side street: 17th Street.

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The rack in front of Western Trail Sports. West side. Cosest side street: 18th Street.

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The french fry rack near Runza. East side. Closest side street: 19th Street.

The Emporium

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I love the front-and-center location of this bike rack, but it’s a bit awkward given the width of the sidewalk. If you don’t angle your bike, you wind up kind of blocking the sidewalk.

First United Methodist Church

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The bike rack at First United Methodist Church is located next to the handicap parking.

Guadalupe Center

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A very freshly placed bike rack.

Lied Scottsbluff Public Library

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The Lied Scottsbluff Public Library bike racks are an A+ in my book. Cute, sturdy, and located right in front of the library near the front doors.

Main Street Market

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Main Street Market moved its bike rack from an awkward parking lot island to a better spot right at the front of the store. Maybe not everyone has seen it yet. (See the bike in the background, far left, parked against the ramp railing.)

Monument Mall – Carmike Theater door

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A good location for a rack outside the mall’s movie theater.

Nutters

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As befits a health food store, there is a bike rack right next to the front door at Nutter’s.

Panhandle Research and Extension Center

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The rack at the UNL Panhandle Research & Extension Center gets points for being under the cover of a stairwell, despite being hidden out of the way near the south entrance to the building rather than the main entrance. Still, this seems geared more towards employees than visitors.

Regional West Medical Center

The only patient bike parking at the hospital complex appears to be near the Medical Plaza North entrance. However, when I had an appointment at Medical Plaza South, the valet offered to keep an eye on my bike if I parked it near his stand. RWMC facility maps do not indicate bicycle parking. (I intend to contact them to request an update.)

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Regional West Medical Center patient bike parking next to the north entrance, at the Birth & Infant Care Center. I wonder about the (abandoned?) bike locks on the rack.

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There is an under-cover bike rack on the north side of the Medical Plaza North building, but since it’s not near a public entrance, I assume this is for staff.

Saint Agnes Catholic Church / School

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This rack is located off an alley between St. Agnes church and school. I’m not sure how useful it is here, as the ground has a significant slope that would make it very easy for a bike to tip over and bend a front wheel in the rack.

Safeway

#quaxing

The rack at Safeway would get an A+ in my book – it’s under cover and near the front door – except that it’s not bolted down and I’ve witnessed the rack migrating further and further from the door as space is used for retail displays.

Scottsbluff High School / Splash Arena

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The rack outside the entrance to the Splash Arena also serves Scottsbluff High School. The many abandoned locks hanging from the rack look a little sketchy.

Target

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I’m not a fan of the bike parking at Target. The bollard-style bike lockup is sturdy, but it’s hidden on the north side of the building, away from the front doors, and . . . there’s that “no parking” sign – does that apply to bikes, too?? This seems an afterthought for employees and is not welcoming to customers.

Vertex

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A super stealth bike rack hidden next to a fence. I wouldn’t have known it was there had someone not told me to look for it.

Walmart

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Can’t find the bike rack at Walmart? Look behind the trash can, behind the butt bin, hiding around the corner from the door. What an awful location!

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Yes, there are two racks at Walmart, one by each door, by they are not sited well. Despite being near the front doors, they are kind of hidden – not want you want in a bike rack. It’s also absolutely awful to try to ride through the chaotic parking lot.

Watering Hole

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I was surprised and pleased to spot a bike rack at a gas station.

Western Nebraska Community College – Conestoga Hall

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There’s a rack in front of Conestoga Hall. If you’re going to the WNCC multicultural center or Pioneer Hall, there are no bike racks – the Conestoga Hall rack is the closest one. On this day, I saw a bike parked next to a dumpster behind Pioneer Hall.

Western Nebraska Community College – Harms Center

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Another of my favorite bike parking spots in town, at the north entrance to the Harms Center. It’s right by the door, under cover AND not a wheel-bender-type rack.

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There’s also a bike rack by the south entrance to the Harms Center.

Western Nebraska Community College – Main Building

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The all-day full-sun bike rack near WNCC’s main entrance.

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There’s a bike rack at door 14 on the east side of WNCC’s main building. On this day, a bike was parked on the sidewalk nearby, in the shade. A bike seat in full sun gets pretty hot on a 102-degree day!

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There’s a “wave” bike rack outside of door 8 on the west side of WNCC.

Scottsbluff Y

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Unless you’re coming from the river pathway from the west, the Y is hard to bike to, but I’m glad it has a bike rack. Note the curious phenomenon in the background: people think that if you can park a bike there, you can park a motorcycle there, too.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except as noted

Fun new cycling event: Candy Corn Grab scavenger hunt

You guys! I’m so excited! There’s a new, fun, family-friendly cycling event in town: the Candy Corn Grab!

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For years I’ve wanted to re-experience the fun I had on a scavenger hunt ride back in Illinois. The great folks in the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club have pulled together the first such event here in the Nebraska Panhandle  Scottsbluff-Gering (That I know about, anyway.)

(UPDATE: There have been scavenger hunts in Bridgeport for the past three years. I’ve never attended, so I forgot about them. Oops! If you enjoy the Candy Corn Grab, watch in August for info on the Bridgeport ride.)

Here’s how it works:

You show up before 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 31 in the parking lot of Caddie’s/Monument Shadows Golf Course in Gering (2550 Clubhouse Dr.) with 1-3 other cyclists to create a team. All of you must be riding bicycles, and all of you must be wearing helmets (and wear them the whole time!). Bring some kind of digital camera for your team as well. You will be given a series of clues about locations throughout Scottsbluff-Gering.

Your objective: ride your bikes – together, as a team, safely, OBEYING ALL TRAFFIC LAWS – to as many clue locations as you can, keeping in mind that you must be back to the start line by 1 p.m. When you get to each clue location, take a digital picture of your entire team as proof you were there. The clue locations that are farther away are worth more points, so there is a strategy involved: ride to the faraway locations to get more points, or collect more proof pictures at the lower-value but easier-to-get nearby locations.

At the end of the event, you will show your digital pictures to prove you properly scavenged each location, and you’ll be given pieces of candy corn for the points you’ve earned on your scavenger hunt.

This is a great healthy family activity to burn off a few calories before the kiddos consume all the Halloween candy booty they’ll collect that night (or before the adults eat up the leftovers the day after).

A link to the official event flyer is posted here: candycorngrab

(LOVE how the WNBC logo was adapted to the candy corn theme!)

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So! Much! Fun!

See you there!

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

I’ve already taken it upon myself to do blog posts about the highlights of the Monument Marathon course (in 2012, the first year of the race) and a mile-by-mile accounting of the course (in 2013). What more can I do to persuade people that the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska is The Place To Be?

How about a Top Ten list?

OK, here are:

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

10. Unique division awards.

If you are fast enough to win a division award (and your chances are better here, with a smaller race field), you don’t get a generic plaque – you get a piece of original artwork from a western Nebraska artist! Photographer Rick Myers and painter Yelena Khanevskaya have been lending their talents to the race these past few years. Here are some examples of their work that have portions of the race course as their subject:

This Rick Myers picture was cropped from an image on his Facebook page.

This Rick Myers picture was cropped from an image on his Facebook page. Both the full and half marathon participants will run on this road through Mitchell Pass.

This image of a watercolor by Yelena Khanevskaya is one of many available on her website yelena-khanevskaya.squarespace.com

This image of a watercolor by Yelena Khanevskaya is one of many on her website. This view is of Mitchell Pass from the opposite direction of Rick Myers’ photo.

9. Convenience.

The race Expo and pre-race pasta feed is at the Gering Civic Center, just blocks from the race site.  There is ample, free parking at the race finish at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Half marathoners start and finish right there at the amphitheater. Full marathoners get a free shuttle bus to the race start and gear drop service. It’s easy to find your way around this small community, and it’s only a 3-hour drive from the major gateway cities of Denver, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota.

The sunrise was incredible on Year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012. Here was the shuttle bus that year, in the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, ready to take full marathoners to their race start in the Wildcat Hills.

The sunrise was incredible on Year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012. Here was the shuttle bus that year, in the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, ready to take full marathoners to their race start in the Wildcat Hills.

8. History.

You will literally be running in the footsteps of westbound pioneers, as portions of the full and half marathon courses traverse the Oregon Trail, near where Mark Twain encountered a Pony Express rider. You will pass the gates of two neighboring history museums as well: Legacy of the Plains Museum and the Oregon Trail Museum and Visitor Center at Scotts Bluff National Monument (the latter is a National Park site, so if you have a National Park passport, you can add another stamp to your collection!).

This map, from the website of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is right on the Monument Marathon course, shows some selected historical sites in the North Platte River Valley, which has been a transportation corridor for centuries. (It also shows the distance between Gering and selected cities.)

This map, from the website of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is right on the Monument Marathon course, shows some selected historical sites in the North Platte River Valley, which has been a transportation corridor for centuries. (It also shows the distance between Gering and selected cities.)

7. Field size.

The Monument Marathon is a small race, with around 500 participants total between the full and half marathon courses. You won’t have to worry about elbowing your way through a crowded field.

At the 2013 race, the field was small enough that the half marathon winner didn't even have anyone on his tail in the chute. Leaders from race title sponsor Platte Valley Companies hold the finisher tape. The community support for this race is wonderful!

At the 2013 race, the field was small enough that the half marathon winner didn’t even have anyone on his tail in the chute. Leaders from race title sponsor Platte Valley Companies hold the finisher tape. The community support for this race is wonderful!

6. Unique race swag.

Each participant will receive a wicking race shirt and a swag bag, which in past years has included such goodies as a bag of locally-grown beans and a cookbook. Your participant medal is shaped like the state of Nebraska and, because we are practical folk, your medal can also be used as a bottle opener. The design of the race medal changes every year – collect them all!

Here is the half marathon finisher medal from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

Here is the half marathon finisher medal from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

5. Charity.

Your registration dollars help support a good cause. Unlike so many marathons and half marathons these days that are operated by commercial interests, the Monument Marathon is coordinated by community organizations and volunteers in support of the Western Nebraska Community College Foundation. The Monument Marathon has helped to raise $150,000 for scholarships.

Here's a screen grab from a THANK YOU video the WNCC Foundation assembled. Your participation in the Monument Marathon helps students like these.

Here’s a screen grab from a THANK YOU video the WNCC Foundation assembled. Your participation in the Monument Marathon helps students like these.

4. Tourism opportunities.

While there are plenty of attractions to visit while you are here, the area remains off the beaten path, so you don’t have to fight the crowds. See here for my personal list of Top 10 Reasons to Come to Western Nebraska. See here for official Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau information, here for Gering tourism info, and here for information about the wider western Nebraska area.

There's no way I could decide which image to use of the tourism opportunities here: museums, hiking, bluffs, a CCC-built inland lighthouse . . . so, here's the logo of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau!

There’s no way I could decide which image to use of the tourism opportunities here: museums, hiking, bluffs, a CCC-built inland lighthouse . . . so, here’s the logo of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau!

And to represent the things you can do here (cycle, golf, stroll by the river, fish): the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau logo.

And to represent the things you can do here (cycle, golf, stroll by the river, fish): the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau logo.

3. The scenery.

People who have never been here before sometimes don’t believe it, but there is some seriously gorgeous topography out this way.

There are a thousand beautiful images I could have chosen to represent western Nebraska scenery, but I decided to go with this one - it's a view from the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, where the race ends. Even the parking lot of the race has great scenery!

There are a thousand beautiful images I could have chosen to represent western Nebraska scenery, but I decided to go with this one – it’s a view from the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, where the race ends. Even the parking lot of the race has great scenery!

2. Top-notch organization.

The Monument Marathon is a well-organized affair, with numerous experienced runners on the race crew and a professional timing company to assist with the chip-timed race. The entire community is involved and invested in the race, which means we have great coordination with local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, and transportation officials. (Case in point: The local Nebraska Department of Roads project manager made sure to include a stipulation in their summer highway construction contract to ensure that roads will be open for race – without the race director even having to ask them to!)

Community EMS volunteers from multiple agencies come out early and support the entire race to ensure everyone has a safe race. Did you know? There is even a relay tower placed on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument during the event to ensure clear EMS radio communication.

Community EMT volunteers from multiple agencies come out early and support the entire race to ensure everyone has a safe race. Did you know there is even a relay tower placed on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument during the event to ensure clear EMT radio communication?

1. Small-town hospitality.

Western Nebraska is the kind of place where residents will greet you with genuine friendliness. We tend to go out of our way to make sure you have a good experience so you will tell your friends about us and come back for a repeat visit yourself. Hundreds of community volunteers will assist and cheer for you on race day. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures of course volunteers and cheerleaders.

The drizzle on year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012 didn't dissuade this racing fan!

The drizzle on year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012 didn’t dissuade this racing fan!

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers sang encouragement songs to runners as they came up a final hill on the Monument Marathon half/full course in 2013.

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers sang encouragement songs to runners as they came up a final hill on the Monument Marathon half/full course in 2013.

An Elmo balloon photobombs these colorful race fans from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

An Elmo balloon photobombs these colorful course marshals / race fans from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

If you don’t quite trust the wonderful things I’m saying about the Monument Marathon (yeah, I’m a bit biased, since I’m on the planning crew), check out the reviews and blog posts from runners who have actually run the race.

Sign up today! You’ll make the race director’s heart happy. 🙂

Y Not Ride 2015 – mini tandem rally?

Saturday was a beautiful day for the Y Not Ride mini tandem rally. Temps started in the 50s and climbed into the 70s under mostly clear skies. The ride started at 8 a.m. with no wind, but it soon picked up to 15 mph out of the west, giving those of us headed towards Bayard a nice boost, but draining carb stores on the route back west towards Scotts Bluff National Monument.

I don’t know how many people registered for the four routes this year, but the YMCA parking lot was decently full of bikes. Alas, I forgot to take a picture!

An interesting point about this year’s ride – there were at least five tandem bicycles, including yours truly – Wyobraska Tandem, and a recumbent tandem!

It’s turning into a mini tandem rally!

Here is a portion of the mini tandem rally in the parking lot of Scotts Bluff National Monument. The bike at right is a tandem - it's just turned at the wrong angle to see it.

Here is a portion of the mini tandem rally in the parking lot of Scotts Bluff National Monument. The bike at right is a tandem – it’s just turned at the wrong angle to see it.

So a quick note to folks who say “i saw you on your tandem this weekend” – unless it’s a red Co-Motion tandem, it’s not us! We’re not the only tandem in town.  🙂

Thanks to the folks who organized, volunteered for and sponsored the ride, and to the Bayard Depot Museum and Scotts Bluff National Monument for serving as rest stop hosts!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Ten-miler

Last Saturday morning, I got up around 6 and the wind was howling.

Did NOT feel like going for a long run in that wind, so I didn’t. I put off running until later in the day.

Around 5:30 p.m., when the average wind speed was 16 mph gusting to 40, Bugman and I headed out north on 5th Avenue, until it turned into County Road 22, until it dead-ended at County Road G.

County Road G: run 2 miles east. Pass a farmer planting corn. Get passed by three vehicles, including someone you know who is on her way to chicken-sit at her brother's house.

County Road G: run 2 miles east. Pass a farmer planting corn. Get passed by three vehicles, including someone you know who is on her way to chicken-sit at her brother’s house.

After running east on County Road G, encounter an old guy in a pickup truck at County Road 24. Turn south.

While not all of them were visible in this frame, I think I could see every water tower from this road: the one at the country club, the one at the soccer field, the one at the airport, the one up the street from my house.

County road G: run south 2 miles. While not all of them were visible in this frame, I think I could see every water tower from this road: the one at the country club, the one at the soccer field, the one at the airport, the one up the street from my house.

On CR G, we were startled by the exclamations of a flock of domestic turkeys.

Bugman said he remembered these turkeys from a run he took nearly a year ago. "The same turkeys?" I asked. "They're pets?" "Well, maybe not the SAME turkeys, but they were in the same place."

Bugman said he remembered these turkeys from a run he took nearly a year ago. “The same turkeys?” I asked. “They’re pets?” “Well, maybe not the SAME turkeys, but they were in the same place.”

A dog came racing out onto the road towards us, hackles up. We stopped in our tracks. I yanked off my hat – my only weapon – to throw at it. Its Labrador buddy bounded out in front, wagging madly. “It’s OK, puppy. It’s OK.” We edge out of their territory.

The road curved west, and someone was out on their property pruning grapevines.

Somewhere around mile 8, my get-up-and-go must have got up and went. It was just an unpleasant slog back home. I averaged a 12:52 pace over the whole run.

I harbor doubts about whether I will be able to complete a full marathon when I have days when 10 miles seems so hard.

Then I get messages from the universe like this one, on a parked car on our street:

run fast

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw