Sunday, May 15, 2016

MPO Ride 2016

Gathering at Greene Square
About 15 bold cyclists had a rather miserable but rather enjoyable time of it on the Corridor MPO Bike Ride Saturday. The riding was complicated by a ferocious west wind, which accentuated the effects of hills and heavy traffic.

Temp without wind chill... The crowd was clearly held down by the unfriendly weather
We made two stops in Cedar Rapids.

The first was at Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league baseball team. Community relations manager Ryne George gave us a tour of everything but the dugouts and the playing field, which were occupied by the teams participating in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference baseball tournament. In the press box they have oversized baseball cards representing nearly all 405 major leaguers who played for Cedar Rapids.
Concourse view
Mezzanine view
Urbanists want to know: Was the stadium, built with public funds in 2002, a good investment for the city? Hard to say. The Kernels are not privately owned, and their community outreach (to schools and veterans, for example) is energetic. But they've never achieved the 200,000 annual ticket sales which would have paid for the stadium.

Next we rode to Beverly Park on 37th Avenue SW, where Ken Barker from the Linn Area Mountain Bike Association talked to us about the trails the city has created in the last 10 years, after there had been unofficial trails since the 1980s.

Mountain bike trails work with the existing flora to the extent possible

A mild jump

There are trails for all ages and levels
Battling out to Fairfax was facilitated by a newly-created trail south of Westdale Mall to Beverly Road, but once out in the country it was us, the hills, the wind, the traffic and the wind. The drivers were very amenable to our presence, perhaps sympathetic to our struggle. No one honked; one guy gunned his engine as he passed, but that was it. Hooray for humanity putting up with each other!

Fairfax is an old small town southwest of Cedar Rapids that did some serious sprawling in the 1990s. They've just put a cycle track through town, starting here along Cemetery Road:

Our target was the Star Bar, a historic tavern that dates from about 1870.

It's comfortable, good beer, good food. The woman who co-owns it told us about the history and the ghosts.

Our departure was delayed by train:

For the way back we opted for Stoney Point Road over 80th Street to save on hill-climbing. We might have done that, but it was no less windy, and traffic was surprisingly (to me, anyway) heavy. That was the most difficult part of the trip, but we were encouraged by the news that there is a trail planned along 80th Street. Once in town, the wind was less fierce, and ditto the traffic.

We made several brief stops on the west side of Cedar Rapids, where multimodal transportation planner Brandon Whyte showed us the planned route for the Cherokee Trail, which will run through the city from 80th Street through Cherry Hill Park

...and the chain of parks near Hoover School. Getting it over or around the Vinton Ditch is the most difficult part.
The Vinton Ditch from E Avenue NW. It's what looks in this picture like a crease in the field.
 Second most difficult is obtaining rights-of-way in a few key places.

Cedar Rapids and the other towns in Linn County are making great efforts to expand our trails network. I'd argue that trails are merit goods, offering opportunities for recreation and in some cases (like the proposed Cherokee Trail) commuting. That gets people exercise and gets cars off the roads.

LAST YEAR'S RIDE: "Riding on Infrastructure with the Corridor MPO," 2 June 2015,

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