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.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 7.24.21 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 8.01.03 AM

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.

IMG_1380

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!)

61927190_1092264350972005_638597044902035456_o

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

Inaugural Robidoux Quick & Dirty, a volunteer perspective

From the indications I saw as a Western Nebraska Bicycling Club volunteer on the sidelines, the first Robidoux Quick & Dirty gravel race through some of western Nebraska’s most scenic countryside was a great success.

I’ve participated in running races, and I’ve ridden on some long bike tours, but I’ve never participated in a bike race, so I was interested to see it all unfold.

I’ll unroll a bit of commentary and more than a few images here from the perspective of the three places I was stationed (or decided to station myself). This inaugural year, there was the 76-mile race as well as a 28-mile “fun ride.”

Part 1: The Meet & Greet

All race participants needed to check in at the start/finish area of Five Rocks Amphitheater during the meet & greet, and the community was invited to come out, buy a brat or a beer (Good beer! – they had Kinkaider!), and check out the bikes. It was a great evening.

IMG_9022

IMG_8999

IMG_9012

Entertainment from the Green Valley Homesteaders set the mood.

IMG_9008

Staking out the bikes with soft rope. Why? The better to see them, my dear!

IMG_9013

Loook at all the bikes!

IMG_9009

A great opportunity for geeky bike talk.

I still don’t know that much technical stuff about bikes, so I pretty much just looked at the pretty / interesting ones.

IMG_9014 (1)

Cue sheet ready to go for the morrow!

IMG_9016

Love the colorful spokes!

IMG_9015

Bike with panache – and a mustache!

IMG_9018

Wizard troll head, protector of the quick release.

Part 2: the official start

The RQ&D racers got a rolling start, traveling 1.5 miles from Five Rocks Amphitheater to the official start of the race on County Road R east of Highway 71 behind an escorting Gering PD vehicle.

I positioned myself at the CR R / Hwy 71 intersection to take pictures. Once I got there, I decided that the official start needed a claxon or something to announce the moment. No claxon had I, so I gave it a go with my (genuine South African!) vuvuzela. Thus was how I came to be juggling my camera and blowing the vuvuzela at the same time, which is why many of the pictures aren’t well framed or focused. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. (Hereafter called “the vuvuzela excuse.”)

IMG_1666

The CERT team is on the (volunteer) job!

IMG_1668

Here they come! The racers are in the distance on Five Rocks road, behind the Gering PD pickup truck.

IMG_1669

County sheriffs block the highway crossing. (Thanks guys!!)

IMG_1670

Closer!

IMG_1671

Closer!!

OVERWHELMED BY A MASS OF BICYCLISTS!

IMG_1672

I missed a bunch of the first riders. Vuvuzela excuse!

IMG_1673IMG_1674IMG_1675IMG_1677IMG_1678IMG_1679IMG_1680IMG_1682IMG_1683IMG_1684IMG_1685IMG_1686IMG_1687IMG_1688IMG_1689IMG_1691IMG_1693IMG_1694IMG_1695

Yeah, there were some super-speedy cyclists who train on Colorado mountains, but there were a lot of recreational cyclists and some families, too, who were just out to have a good time.

Part 3: Rifle Sight Water Stop

This was my official volunteer assignment: the 12:30-3 shift at the Rifle Sight Water Stop. I’ve never worked a water stop before at any kind of race, so I found myself a little nervous. What do I need to do? What should I say (or not say) to the tired riders as they come up that looooong hill on Rifle Sight Pass Road?

I was so wrapped up in providing sustenance, for a time I completely forgot my other duty: to take pictures of the riders.

My photographer memory was jogged by the water stop mascot – an attention-seeking black-and-white cat.

IMG_9029

Bugman gave kitty some water. She (he?) brought us a half-dead mole as a token of her (his?) thanks.

The cat got plenty of loves from the cyclists.

IMG_1700IMG_1703

And now, the few action shots I was able to capture between the time I remembered my duty and when I was relieved at the end of my shift:

IMG_1706

A WNBC jersey! I love this one. Ride strong, Lisa!

IMG_1707

I remember these guys were from Wyoming.

IMG_1708

Another WNBC jersey. Go, Allison!

And one last picture, of Matt Hutt, the WNBC brains and brawn behind the organization of the event, ringing a cowbell at the finish. He was everywhere on race day. Props to you, Matt!

IMG_9027

 

And a parting shot for you cyclist readers of this post:  check out the next WNBC-sponsored race: the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb on Saturday morning, July 9, 2016, up Scotts Bluff National Monument. Casual riders welcomed!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Roadside cleanup saves a life

When I headed west of Scottsbluff this morning to join other members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club for a roadside cleanup, I figured we might come across some roadkill.

I sure didn’t expect the small survivor we found in the tall grass along with discarded beer cans and fast food bags.

I was scanning the ground and trailing a bag of trash along the south side of the road near Riverside Golf Course when I stopped short, startled by coming upon a freshly killed doe directly in front of me that had been partly obscured by tall greenery. I didn’t look too closely, as her innards had spilled out, and it wasn’t a real pretty sight.

A moment later, my attention was diverted as other WNBC members called out: “Here’s her fawn. And it’s still alive!”

Ohmygosh!

I headed in their direction, about 30 feet away from the dead doe, fearing I’d find a grievously injured animal in need of euthanasia.

IMG_9078

Members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club engaged in a roadside cleanup contemplate what to do about an orphaned fawn they found hidden in the grass, several yards away from its dead mother. (You can just see the fawn in this picture – the patch of brown center front.)

But the tiny fawn seemed fine, apart from a minor scuff on its ear. It lay in the grass, breathing steadily, obeying instinct to wait quietly for its mother to come.

IMG_9076

We bike club members obeyed our own instinct to help the helpless creature, resisting the urge to touch it and instead marking the location and calling for professional help.

One person called the emergency dispatch center to request a relay message to someone from Nebraska Game & Parks.

It being a Saturday on Memorial Day weekend, I wondered if anyone from Game & Parks would be available to respond in time, so I texted my friend Sarah Pinet of Victory Hill Farm, who once worked at Riverside Discovery Center, to ask if she knew a wildlife rehabilitator. She did: Shelley Lonsdale. (Nebraska Game & Parks contacted her as well. She’s the only licensed wildlife rehabilitator in our area.)

I called Shelley and left a message explaining what we’d found. She called right back and said she could be onsite in about 40 minutes.

She was concerned with making sure the fawn was out of harm’s way, and also that the fawn didn’t wind up in the hands of a well-intentioned but unskilled caretaker before she got there. She explained that the task of rehabilitating an orphaned fawn was much more difficult if the young animal had been weakened by improper care from a Good Samaritan.

She also asked us to “look for the twin. Mom probably stashed the other one nearby.”

I assured her that the fawn was safe and remained well-hidden, and that I thought that we bicyclists would probably still be cleaning up the roadside until she arrived and could keep an eye out. I told her that we’d scoured the area pretty thoroughly looking for trash and hadn’t found another fawn.

About an hour after I called, Shelley and a helper arrived, along with someone from Game & Parks.

IMG_9080

Shelley gently lifts the fawn from its hiding place in the grass as a member of the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission looks on.

IMG_9084

Shelley briefly examined the fawn – a male – and found that its left hind leg was broken. “But it can be splinted,” she said, noting that the break was between the knee and hip and that both joints seemed fine. The little guy had a few superficial scrapes as well.

The Game & Parks person offered to start combing the area in search of another possible orphaned fawn.

But Shelley had noticed something.

“Where’s the mom?” she asked.

I pointed back up the road to where the doe lay.

If you’re squeamish, you’ll want to skip the next picture, and probably the following text, too. Scroll down to the next line of asterisks.

********************************

.

What Shelley had noticed was that the fawn was still damp from amniotic fluid. When she saw the dead doe, her suspicions were confirmed.

Mom hadn’t cleaned the fawn off – because he hadn’t actually been born. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. The impact of the vehicle that hit the doe tore open her abdomen, delivering the apparently near-term fawn by accidental cesarean section.

No need to look for a missing twin – it was still encased in its amniotic sac, dead, like its mother.

IMG_9083

Licensed wildlife rehabilitator Shelley Lonsdale holds an orphaned fawn near the body of its mother. If you look closely at the large organ showing at the doe’s belly, you can make out the nose, eye, ear and spotted back of the orphaned fawn’s twin, which died along with its mother.

.

.

********************************

So the doe and one fawn were dead, but, despite the broken leg, the miraculously living male fawn seemed hale and hearty.

He bleated and squirmed and swiveled his ears to catch what was going on around him (short video clip here).

Shelley joked about giving the fraught fawn a name like “Freeway.” I suggested that he should have a bicycle-related name, since he’d been found by the bike club. I started naming a few bicycle types and brands.

“I like Trek” Shelley said, smiling and looking down at the fawn. “This is Trek.”

Safely settled in Shelley’s lap in the car, Trek began sucking on Shelley’s fingers. He was hungry! A good sign.

IMG_9087

I’m sure pulling for the little guy.

And I’m so glad our Adpot-A-Spot cleanup session for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful was rescheduled to today from our previously rained-out date of April 30. If we hadn’t happened upon the fawn this morning, he surely would have died.

I’ll post updates as I get them from Shelley.

First update, via email and Facebook:

The break needed a splint, so Goshen [Veterinary Clinic] in Torrington, [Wyoming], helped me out. Trek has his splint and has eaten. it will be a long road to recovery, but I am hopeful he will be ok.

13322104_10154837547619240_6917353661664219934_n

Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

If anyone wants to contribute to the cost of Trek’s care, you can send donations to:

Goshen Veterinary Clinic
4548 US-85
Torrington, WY 82240

Update, via Facebook 5/30/16

He is having a much better day today. He even got to play outside for a while, but he gets tired quickly from having to drag his heavy splint. I am hoping we can get a lighter one for him soon. He goes back in next week for a check up on his leg.

13342927_10154842937284240_8526841535359749031_n

Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

Trek appears to be doing well!

Here’s a story from the Star-Herald newspaper about Trek and Shelley.

A happy/sad update 6/2/16, from Facebook (happy Trek has a buddy, sad that another fawn was orphaned and injured):

Trek got a new friend today. I hope she will recover from her injury as well as he is. Mom was hit, but I am not sure about her injuries. She has a spinal injury.

13335631_10154849465859240_5420596652848366336_n

Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

Update June 5

It seems that Trek is having some difficulties. Really hope he pulls through!

Trek had a rough day and night again yesterday but is doing much better this morning … he had me very worried last night, so it was another night of sleeping on the floor next to him and giving him electrolytes every hour, and this morning about 4 he ate some applesauce and is now acting normal again.

shelleyjune5

Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

Update June 12

I wanted to tell you we had some more complications with trek the last couple days and unfortunately we lost him this morning …. I am very sorry and I did everything I could for him

RIP, little dude. We tried.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except photos courtesy of Shelley Lonsdale as credited

Wyobraska bike events 2016

Given that there seems to be a proliferation of bicycling events in the Wyobraska region of late, I wanted to start a list page for folks seeking such info. Let me know of additional events I need to add.

For a list of local bike events and Western Nebraska Bicycling Club events, as well as non-local events WNBC club members are attending, see the group Google calendar.

Y Not Ride community ride starts at the Scottsbluff Y.

Y Not Ride community ride starts at the Scottsbluff Y.

Saturday, May 7, 2016
Y Not Ride, community road/path ride
Scottsbluff
This is a casual and family-friendly season-opener ride sponsored by the Scottsbluff Y. Route options include 3, 9, 28, and 54 miles. This is a supported ride with SAG vehicles and snack stops. The shorter routes are on bike path and bike lanes in town and cost $5 ($15 max per family). The longer routes are primarily on inter-community highways cost $10 ($30 max per family). All routes start and end at the Scottsbluff Y. April 18 registration deadline to guarantee a t-shirt ($11 short-sleeve or $13 long-sleeve). Otherwise, you can register at 7 a.m. the day of the ride, which starts at 8 a.m. Registration forms available at the Y or register online.

Sunday, May 22, 2016
Robidoux Quick & Dirty, gravel grinder race / recreational gravel ride [inaugural year!]
Gering
This is a race on rural, mostly gravel roads, but casual riders are welcome as well. Just be aware that, like most gravel grinder races, this ride is minimally supported. Also note: this course is not flat! There is over 4,000 feet of climb on the full race route. Registration for the 75-mile race is $55 and must be completed online by May 1. Registration for the 28-mile recreational ride is $20 on May 21, the day of packet checkin. Riders must check in Saturday, May 21, at the meet-and-greet, 4-7 p.m. at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Both rides begin with a rolling start from Five Rocks Amphitheater, which is also the finish line. There is a cap of 200 riders. To register and for more info, see the event website.

Sunday-Monday, July 3-4, 2016
Tour de La Grange, overnight road tour
Mitchell
This ride, organized by the Mitchell Evangelical Free Church, is a supported out-and-back ride on paved roads from Mitchell to La Grange, Wyoming, about 55 miles per day. Sunday night tent camping in a park or a dormitory stay – enjoy the fireworks and ice cream social. Gear transport and meals will be available. Registration cost $35. For information see the event Facebook page or the church website.

Early morning registration at the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb.

Early morning registration at the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb.

Saturday, July 9, 2016
Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb, road time trial
Gering
Racers in this perennial Oregon Trail Days event will ascend to the top of Scotts Bluff National Monument on the paved 1.6-mile Summit Road (average 5% grade). Registration opens at 6 a.m., and riders are released one at a time beginning at 7 a.m. There are road bike and mountain bike divisions for men and women. Cost is $20. Preregister by July 1 to guarantee a shirt. There is a cap of 90 riders. For more information, see the event website.

A rider southbound on Highway 71 passes through gorgeous High Plains scenery enroute from Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

A Monument to Monument Y Not Challenge Ride participant passes through gorgeous late-summer High Plains scenery enroute from Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Saturday, September 10, 2016
Y Not Ride Challenge, aka Monument to Monument, road ride
Gering
This is the Scottsbluff Y’s season-closing challenge ride. Route options include 50 and 100 miles – ride from Scotts Bluff National Monument to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and back (100 miles), or use the shuttle and bike trailer service to ride one-way only (50 miles), either to Agate or to Scotts Bluff. This is a supported ride with a SAG vehicle with snacks/water. Sandwiches are served at Agate for participants between 10:30-noon. There are hills on this scenic paved rural highway route, most of which has no shoulder. Riders on the 100-mile and “to-Agate” 50-mile route leave Scotts Bluff National Monument at 7 a.m. Riders on the “to-Scotts-Bluff” 50-mile route leave Scotts Bluff National Monument on the bus at 10 a.m. (please arrive by 9 a.m. to load your bike). For up-to-date information about the event and registration, see the event website.

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!

candy corn grab banner

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!)

wnbc candy corn logo

So! Much! Fun!

See you there!

Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb 2015

Bugman and I got up early on Saturday morning and headed to Scotts Bluff National Monument to help out with the 2015 Oregon Trail Days Bicycle Hill Climb.

As usual, the scenery was divine in the early morning light.

There was also this interesting addition to the backdrop of the bluffs. I thought the truck was destined for the OTD parade later that morning, but I didn't see it. I guess this is just someone's car???

There was also this interesting addition to the backdrop of the bluffs. I thought the truck was destined for the OTD parade later that morning, but I didn’t see it. I guess this is just someone’s car???

This was the first year that members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club were organizing the event, having taken it over from previous volunteers.

Those orange WNBC shirts really stand out!

Those orange WNBC shirts really stand out!

I also have to give props to the staff members at Scotts Bluff National Monument – they were so wonderfully helpful.

They arrive extra-early to make sure the road would be safe for the bikers and took a sweeper to the road to clean up a bit of rock that had crumbled onto the road overnight.

They arrived extra-early to make sure the road would be safe for the bikers and took a sweeper up to clear off a bit of rock that had crumbled onto the road overnight.

I was glad to see some out-of-area cyclists signing up in addition to the locals.

registrationOne of the cool things about this time-trial ride (up 1.6 miles with an average grade of 5%) is that both hardcore and casual cyclists are welcome. There are some seriously fit riders who can hammer up the bluff in less than 7 minutes, and there are others who do it just to see if they can make it to the top. (I counted myself in the latter category when I completed the ride in 2010 and 2011.)

Bugman and I were assigned to the cheering section for the hill climb, as previously people have commented that the race course was kind of quiet.

Having ridden the bluff several times, we knew that the best place to station ourselves was probably just after the third tunnel, where the road starts to seem never-ending. We could advise the riders that there were “only four more curves to the top.”

We were offered a couple of cowbells to cheer with. I was a little dubious about this, as I considered it a bit early in the morning for cowbell, and it almost seemed sacrilegious to shatter the early stillness of the bluffs with all that clanging. At least some of the riders later said they appreciated it, though.

After the first few riders, we settled on a cowbell rhythm, which seemed much more tolerable than random clanging.

Bugman is also a percussionist (he's played drums in a few orchestras, garage bands, and big bands), so rhythm comes naturally to him. I just followed his lead.

Bugman is also a percussionist (he’s played drums in a few orchestras, garage bands, and big bands), so rhythm comes naturally to him. I just followed his lead.

I took a photo of nearly every rider who came up the bluff past the third tunnel. (If you rode and want your picture, drop me a line with your rider number and I’ll send you your picture.) Here’s one of the better photos I got:

Crowd favorite and perennial Hill Climb participant Joe Lichius, 74, won his category with a time of 25:33.

Crowd favorite and perennial Hill Climb participant Joe Lichius, 74, won his category with a time of 25:33.

Results for the 2015 event are here.

This hill climb is definitely a challenge (I heard a lot of “sprinter’s hack” after the event), but you can’t beat the scenery, and the camaraderie is pretty great, too. We were glad to be a part of it again this year on the volunteer side.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

In support of the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance

Western Nebraska is not the most bicycle-friendly place I’ve lived, but the times, they are a-changin’.

(In case you don’t want to read to the end, I’ll put the appeal up front, too: donate to the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance bike month campaign.)

The Western Nebraska Bicycling Club came together.

WNBC logoThe Scottbluff YMCA now hosts an annual spring community bike ride and a fall challenge ride.

The City of Scottsbluff is installing artistic bike racks downtown and planning to install 5 miles of new pathway (see black lines on image below) that would include a much-needed bridge over Highway 26.

proposed scottsbluff bike path

The City of Gering has already installed several miles of bike routes, as illustrated with brown lines in this excerpt from the Nebraska Department of Roads’ Nebraska Bicycle Map (I didn’t know this map existed!):

Scottsbluff Gering Terrytown bike mapAlso, one of the decorative recycled-bike-frame bike racks in front of the Gering Public Library is featured on the front cover of the map:

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 9.22.07 AMScottsbluff and Gering planning staffers have been reaching out to the cycling community to work on community bike route mapping. (Insider info: I’m one of the folks involved in this project. Hat tip to the folks at Champaign County Bikes for helping to get us started on the right . . . ahem . . . path.)

Scotts Bluff County, the City of Gering and Legacy of the Plains Museum cooperated with Scotts Bluff National Monument to get Federal Land Access Program grant funding for additional bike pathways connecting the city and Monument.

One a statewide level, Nebraska legislators have introduced (so far unsuccessful) bicycle-related bills on vulnerable road users and passing/sidepaths/crosswalks.

And the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance has recently taken a step forward in its organizational capacity and hired its first executive director, Julie Tuttle Harris (who happens to hail from Scottsbluff).

NBA logoAs Julie pointed out in this interview with the Alliance for Biking and Walking, Nebraska ranks 45th on The League of American Bicyclists’ ranking of state friendliness towards bicycles.

I wondered what the ranking was based upon, so I looked it up. It’s a survey of State Bike Coordinators (the Nebraska Department of Roads has an email address for a Bike Coordinator, but I can’t find an actual person’s name to go along with the title) that measures five topics:

  • Education and Encouragement
  • Infrastructure and Funding
  • Legislation and Enforcement
  • Programs and Policies
  • Evaluation and Planning

Here’s a detailed description of what each of those topics includes. And here’s Nebraska’s report card. There are some great suggestions for improvement on that report card. In order to get them implemented, it’s going to take a concerted effort and support from cyclists across the state.

That’s where the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance comes in. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has the capacity to help improve the cycling climate in Nebraska.

But it’s going to require some of your capacity, too.

One of the ways you can help is by donating to the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance’s “A Dollar A Day During May” fundraising campaign during National Bike Month. Here’s the link to the fundraising campaign. You can donate at two perk levels: $30 for a “Robust Woo Hoo” and $60 for “Robust Woo Hoo + Vigorous Cowbell”.

Wyobraska Tandem recommends going for more cowbell.

I’ll end with an appropriate quote from Julie, from the aforementioned interview:

In Nebraska, we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, we work really hard and we pride ourselves on that. Being able to get around by bicycle is a very self-reliant value, so to use that concept and tie it back to common themes like health and safety, we know those messages resonate across our whole state, both urban and rural.

Bust out those bootstraps and wallets, folks! Let’s work to boost Nebraska’s standing in the national cycling community!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

WNBC Tuesday night group rides

The Tuesday night rides of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club have started up again for the season. I did not make any of the rides when the group started these weekly rides last spring, but Bugman and I have made the last two on our tandem.

On March 31, about a dozen people cycled from the YMCA to Scotts Bluff National Monument Visitors Center, and then up to the top.

On March 31, about a dozen people cycled from the YMCA to Scotts Bluff National Monument Visitors Center, and then up to the top.

On April 7, about a half-dozen people bucked a headwind west from the YMCA, the swung around from 20th back around on Old Oregon Trail and over Mitchell Pass, regrouping at the SBNM Visitor Center.

On April 7, about a half-dozen people bucked a headwind west from the YMCA, the swung around from 20th back around on Old Oregon Trail and over Mitchell Pass, regrouping at the SBNM Visitor Center.

There’s another ride scheduled for today, April 14, at 5:30 p.m. at the YMCA. If you’d like to keep up with the group, “like” the Facebook page, or check out the blog.

Knuckle busting, (re)cycling style

Yesterday, Bugman and I showed up at the springtime Recycle Your Cycles event, along with several other members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club. RYC has been running for eight years now, thanks to a partnership between Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful and Nebraska Public Power District (the event has been held on their property), and is in a transition phase, with NPPD stepping out next year and WNBC stepping in.

The purposes of the event are to:

  1. Refurbish used bicycles and donate them to people in the community who could use a set of wheels to get around.
  2. Divert recyclable parts of old bicycles out of the landfill. Materials from non-functional bicycles could be recycled, or repurposed into art projects. See here for a post I wrote about how some of the bikes collected in previous years turned into artistic bike racks.

I wasn’t real sure what help I’d be able to provide at the event, given that my bicycle maintenance skills don’t extend much beyond inflating tires, but I found plenty to do, helping people unload bicycles, piling stripped bikes onto the recycle trailer, prying rotted tires from wheel rims, torquing rusted bolts, and salvaging seats, reflectors, kick stands, and chain guards to replace broken or missing parts on still-functional bicycles.

I’m annoyed that I did not give in to my journalistic instinct and run around taking pictures and recording anecdotes, too.

There were a lot of great images to capture, but here is the only picture I took, of Bugman working on stripping down a bike:

bugman workingThe stories of the people who came to drop off bikes were pretty great, too. There was the guy who walked quite a distance pushing two bikes with additional wheel rims hung from the handlebars, who, when thanked, said “thank you for taking them off my hands.” There was the little girl who got a new bike for Easter and was giving up her old bike for another kid to enjoy. There were multiple people who took the time to pull bikes out of neighborhood trash bins to prevent them from winding up in the landfill. And there were a few people who dropped off like-new bikes that were merely a little dusty; they probably could have gotten money for those bikes, but chose to donate them instead.

Working at the event was fun, too. You have to have a little fun.

Me, wheelin' on a kiddie bike. Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

Me, wheelin’ on a kiddie bike.
Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

The super-heavy chopper bike, which had coaster brakes, was the hands-down WNBC favorite. People kept taking breaks from working to ride around the parking lot. Photo by Bugman

Me, on the super-heavy chopper bike, which had coaster brakes. It was the hands-down WNBC favorite. People kept taking breaks from working to ride around the parking lot.
Photo by Bugman

The what-the-heck bike. I had fun imagining how this Frankenstein of a bike might have functioned. Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

The what-the-heck bike. I had fun imagining how this Frankenstein of a bike might have functioned.
Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

By the end of the four-hour volunteer gig, Bugman and I were pretty worn out and a little bit scuffed up.

Me, soliciting sympathy for my scratched arm, standing in front of the pile of stripped bicycle carcasses destined for recycling / repurposing. Photo by Bugman

Me, soliciting sympathy for my scratched arm, standing in front of the pile of stripped bicycle carcasses destined for recycling / repurposing.
Photo by Bugman

Everybody had a banged-up knuckle or two, but I think we were all satisfied that we had managed to make a positive contribution to the community. The Potter’s Wheel van that came to collect the refurbished bicycles for redistribution was completely filled with nearly 30 functional bicycles.

The event probably could have refurbished more bicycles if we’d had more resources, including time, skilled bike mechanics and replacement parts. We didn’t have money to spend on parts, nor a cache of stored parts to draw upon, so we were limited to what we could do with parts stripped from other bicycles received that day. Replacement tires and especially inner tubes were a major need, since the puncturevine in this area tends to do a number on bicycle tires. A triage system was in effect, with only the bikes in the best condition getting the TLC needed to make it to a new owner.

If you have bicycles you’d like to donate to the community or, better yet, skills or materials to donate to the cause, RYC will continue next spring in a new location – keep an eye on local media for details!

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