Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A neighborhood ride

On Sunday afternoon I went on a bike ride along the Gypsum Creek bike path with John B of the Cycling in Wichita blog. He organizes these monthly bike rides to check out various trails around town, and the Sunday ride picked up pretty close to my house and the stars aligned - meaning DW let me go - so I went. John's description of the ride is here, and his earlier review of the path is here.

I don't have too much to add to what he says except to emphasize that the weather was not cooperative. Earlier in the day I thought the ride might get cancelled; it remained quite blustery, and although the temperature climbed into the 60s, the strong head winds on certain parts of the path made cycling quite exertive, if that's a word. I rode in first gear most of the way, especially on the way back (which I rode alone, as John continued on to his home on the west side) and had to stop a couple times to rest. Of course, it was also my first major ride of the spring, probably around 10 miles round trip, so that probably had something to do with it as well.

The path is pleasant enough initially, the part along the creek, although further on it goes through some pretty decrepit areas of town -- Planeview and then the abandoned Joyland amusement park, which strikes me as a good place to do a photo shoot for a band but not a place you want to spend much time in alone. On the way back there were 3 stray dogs on the path there and that was disconcerting, although in the end they didn't engage me.

While I'm on the subject, John did a nice job before the municipal elections of reaching out to the candidates to ask their positions on bike infrastructure. He also had a longer think piece around the same time in which he made the point that bike infrastructure is a privilege, not a right.

Speaking for myself, this blog's implicit assumption is not to presume that the city and other governments owe cyclists anything in the way of infrastructure. Sure: I keep harping on wanting to see one or two genuine, right-through-the-middle-of Wichita, east-to-west bike paths or dedicated bike-lanes, that request isn't exactly on the Founding Fathers' list of self-evident truths. Or, at least it's not on the Kansas version of that list.
Well, I've less polite than John, and I do think that cyclists have the right to expect the infrastructure that we pay for through our taxes to accommodate us. Wichita sees biking as a recreational activity and that's why what we get is meandering bike paths; I see bikes as transportation and want to get from here to there. The twain don't meet.

But opening the streets up more to bikers is not necessarily an expensive proposition. In fact, a little bit of a public education campaign ("Share the roads"), a painted line on some of the major thoroughfares; these things don't cost much - less than a dedicated bike path along a creek, and a lot less than the repairs on streets that are necessitated by the car culture, and a hell of a lot less than a new access to K-96.

In other words, there's a lot of low hanging fruit here - it wouldn't take much expense to make Wichita a significantly more bike friendly place than it is right now.

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