Iowa City residents want a few things. They want alternative modes of transportation and a safe, comprehensive bike path that loops throughout Johnson County. At least they wanted these things back in September of 2001 when The Gazette polled citizens for their top ideas to improve the city.
That was nearly 10 years ago, and today, residents are still looking for the same things. The Johnson County Council of Governments (JCCOG) is working to make these improvements happen. JCCOG has outlined and implemented six plans for bicycle trails since 1968.
“The [older] plans were based on the existing conditions of the day,” Kristopher Ackerson said. Ackerson, an Assistant Transportation Planner with the JCCOG, explained that those plans built the basic trail system that exists today in Johnson County. An updated plan was released in November 2009 to address the current needs of the residents of Johnson County.
“Instead of focusing on trails, it has a broader perspective,” Ackerson said. “It addresses bike parking, education programs, ways law enforcement can improve, and on-street bike lanes.”
This new plan elevated the status of Iowa City among bicycling communities by securing the distinction of “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists.
“It recognizes us for what we’ve done, and it helps us identify things we can do to become the next level up,” Ackerson said, noting that Iowa City is currently at the bronze level of Bicycle Friendly Communities. With the current plan they are working toward achieving the silver level of distinction.
Ideally, as a result of this master bike plan, the number of people in Johnson County who bike for recreation and transportation will increase. To date, Johnson County has over 40 miles of bike trails. These trails, along with bike lanes that line city streets, are working toward making Iowa City move a bit more on two wheels.
Sunday, May 16, 9:00 a.m.
Breakfast and Ride starting at Geoff’s Bike and Ski, 816 S. Gilbert St
Monday, May 17, 11:50 a.m.
Bike-Bus-Car Race from the Coralville Public Library to the Iowa City Public LIbrary among Coralville Council Member Tom Gill, Iowa City Council Member Mike Wright, and Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Retig
Wednesday, May 19, 6:45 p.m.
Ride of Silence to mourn and honor fallen and injured cyclists, beginning at the intersection of Washington and Dubuque streets
Thursday, May 20, 5:30 p.m.
Iowa City New Pi to Coralville New Pi Ride with music, food and door prizes
Friday, May 21, FAW
After-work gathering at Vito’s, 118 E. College St
For information on Iowa City’s Bike-to-Work Week visit:
Bike to Work Week, Iowa City
Amy Fletcher, an American College of Sports Medicine Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Specialist at The University of Iowa’s Health Iowa, emphasizes the importance of having trails and bike lanes that are useful.
“It’s not just sidewalks and trails,” Fletcher said. “People will be more willing to go if it goes somewhere.”
Bike lanes on roads should allow bicyclists to travel to the grocery store, post office or work. In Iowa City, workers commute on bike and foot at a rate six times higher than the national average. Improving bike lanes and trails, increasing access to bicycle parking, and supporting safe commutes will help increase the numbers of bike commuters.
Iowa City’s annual Bike-to-Work Week is May 16-21. It is the focal point of JCCOG’s Bike Month. Bike-to-Work Week, a tradition that’s been on and off again since the 1980s will continue to boast several popular events. Geoff’s Bike & Ski will host a breakfast and ride. A bike, bus and car will race from the Coralville Public Library to the Iowa City Public Library. The Mayor’s Ride, a large group bike ride, will pedal from Iowa City to Coralville. There will be a Ride of Silence to remember fallen and injured cyclists and promote the rights of bicyclists. The week will come to a close with an after work gathering in the Ped Mall to celebrate another successful Bike-to-Work Week.
The recent improvements in the bike lanes and trails around Johnson County foster an environment that promotes physical activity. Environmental approaches have been shown to greatly increase healthy behaviors among citizens. Having access to trails enables people to be more active. Thirty minutes of daily exercise meets the current federal guidelines for physical activity. Aerobic exercise, like biking, improves cardiovascular health, which can potentially reduce the exerciser’s risk of heart disease and obesity.
The bike paths that weave through our city are a definite perk to citizens of Johnson County. The paths wind along the river and through neighborhoods, breaking people out of a sedentary lifestyle and bringing them out into the community to be active. Eventually, JCCOG hopes to fill in all the trails in the county and have a continuous network. Bike trails make it nice and easy to go pedaling though the Corridor and get those 30 minutes of daily physical activity while enjoying the increasing warmth and foliage of spring.