Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Trail of Two Cities - Bancroft Bayliss Loop Ride Featured in Omaha World-Herald

Omaha World-Herald

Published Saturday, August 8, 2009

Over the past few years, a farmers market and public art have cropped up near the Bancroft Street Market, a gallery that hosts art exhibits and events.

At the same time, the Bayliss Park neighborhood in Council Bluffs is emerging as a site for art and artists.

One bicycling group is taking it all in — and trying to bridge the distance between the two areas.

Since early May, about 10 bikers have ridden what they call the Bancroft-Bayliss Loop each Saturday, cycling from 10th and Bancroft Streets in Omaha to Bayliss Park. The group's organizers say the 12-mile trek is an effort to promote a cultural exchange between two developing communities.

Starting at the Bancroft farmers market, they travel through the Old Market, over the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and through Council Bluffs to Bayliss Park. Along the way, the group, which will ride until Oct. 3, stops at historical and cultural markers.

“It's a form of transportation and cultural exchange,” said organizer Jody Boyer, a Council Bluffs artist who teaches art at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

She met fellow leader Bill Seidler, who runs the Bancroft farmers market, at meetings for community and cultural groups this spring.

Both are longtime cyclists who saw developments taking shape in their own communities. Public art and other programs, such as a new media festival, have sprung up near the Bancroft Street Market. In the Bayliss Park area, Second Fridays were started this year to promote area art, shopping and wine. And the Harvester Artist Lofts — a housing development geared toward artists — is under construction and scheduled to open next September.

At community meetings and through e-mail, Boyer and Seidler discussed forming a bike route between the two areas. They mapped out a path, created a Web site and contacted local cultural and biking groups.

Boyer said she enjoys showing the bikers around Council Bluffs, especially cultural markers, such as the Golden Spike, and the neighborhood streets Omahans don't usually use.

“It's a completely different experience than being in a car,” Boyer said.

Such initiatives can lead to more development in a neighborhood, said Teresa Gleason, program manager for Omaha By Design, a privately funded group that advocates for better urban development.

Biking or walking “heightens your awareness of what you can see, hear and feel, which can lead to great discussions about what could be done to make a place better,” she wrote in an e-mail.

For now, group members — who range from Boyer's 6-year-old daughter, who rides along in a Burley bike trailer, to women in their 60s — are enjoying the rides, the views and new people. It's informal: Cyclists simply show up at 10th and Bancroft at 10 a.m.

Some arrive early to purchase radishes, potatoes and peppers from the farmers market. Boyer and her husband circle the market's parking lot, warmly greeting new riders and making introductions.

Anne Medeiros, who used to live near Third and Bancroft Streets but now resides in Bellevue, said riding through neighborhoods in the two cities is pleasant.

Medeiros prefers longer rides — she participates in RAG- BRAI, the annual seven-day trek across Iowa — but said the loop lets her see local shops and developments. She had never been to Bayliss Park before riding the loop, and enjoys cycling across the pedestrian bridge, which opened last fall.

“If I do a short trip, I want it to be interesting,” she said. “I like seeing a lot of different parts of the area.”



View Bancroft Bayliss Loop in a larger map


Don Kuhns said...

I am curious to know what people think should be done about the chaos on the Bob Kerrey bridge. There have been some letters in the World Herald recently about conflicts between cyclists and walkers. Clearly, something needs to be done. I would like to start pushing for changes but I'm not sure what should be advocated.

I suggest that a bike lane be painted down the center of the bridge. Also, a 10mph speed limit should be posted, since bikers will begin to ride faster if they do have an unimpeded lane. If cyclists ride any faster than 10mph, there is a danger they might jump the rail and fall off the bridge if they have to swerve suddenly. That is a worst case scenario but it certainly could happen if folks are riding too fast.

Does anyone have a different idea? I'm afraid if we don't get a jump on this issue, they may force us to get off and walk our bikes across the bridge. And in case you hadn't noticed, it's a long friggin' bridge.

James M. Peters said...

This isnt the Brooklyn Bridge we are talking about, the Bob Kerry Bridge isn't wide enough to support bike traffic lanes...

I recommend bikers be reasonable and prudent when riding bikes on the pedistrian bridge. That means walking it across during crowded times and riding it across when people are absent.

RD said...

i recommend i giant yellow line and some dump boxes for for dog poop...
I think the line would suffice i think 10 miles is to low it should be maybe 15mph.
the line would most likely solve most of the problems people get all stupid when they get on that bridge both peds and cyclist.

If you want to avoid that problem all together you can ride south Omaha bridge and catch the trail next to u.s. 192/275 ...
another solutions don't read OWH :D

Don Kuhns said...

Not true, James. A two-way bike lane would only have to be 6 feet wide. Lots of concrete trails are that width. With the bridge being 15 to 20 feet wide, there is plenty of room.

Maybe the bike lane idea is an overreaction to a negative experience I had there. When I rode the bridge it was full of drunk, obnoxious pedestrians.

It would be nice though to see some effort made at educating folks on the bridge and the riverfront trail that these are intended for bikes as well as walkers. I've been using the riverfront trail for years to go to various downtown events and have found that very few pedestrians down there know or give a damn about trail etiquette.

Steve said...

I vote to leave the bridge just how it is. The more people use it, the more those people will become accustomed to sharing it. Too many rules and markings can take the fun and natural flow out of things sometimes. Anyway, is it really that big of a deal to slow down for a few minutes to get across the river? When bicycling in the streets, we expect cars to slow down a bit to help us get around safely, so surely we can slow down a bit to help pedestrians enjoy the outdoors safely. I'm just glad people are outside.

RD said...

i wasn't talking about bike lane just regular yellow line down the middle of the bridge to divide traffic i don't see how that is confusing

Steve said...

It's just that a line tries to treat the bridge as though it's a regular recreational trail, and that's not what it is. While it does allow folks to get across the river by means other than automobile, that is just one function. It's also a destination itself. People are going to stop and hangout right in the middle of it. People are going to goof around on it. People will block the whole thing to take silly pictures. Those are things that shouldn't be done on trails, but should definitely be allowed on the bridge. It's a unique space that inspires people to have fun.

If anything, a sign could maybe be posted to remind people to keep an eye out for passing cyclists, but people would probably just ignore it.

RD said...

i agree to disagree

Steve said...

Sounds good to me, RD. And, I'm not really as anti-line as I suppose I sound. You still doing the Good Life Gravel Adventure? If so, how are you getting down there?

RD said...

yes i'm still doing it I'm driving the day off and leaving my car at d st house. If you like ride please let me know I would need to put more bike holders on my roof also i believe we are riding another bacon ride soon.

Steve said...

I probably won't end up doing the GLGA. I was just putting out the feelers to see what my options were. Good luck with it, though. I might be curious about this breakfast ride sometime.

RD said...

next sunday... watch the blog

Scott Redd said...

I didn't know all this commenting was going on. Just saw it today.

The bridge stands apart from regular trails, streets, sidewalks, etc. It's a destination until itself, like Steve said, and no one should have any expectation of a speedy crossing. I'm just grateful the bridge is there, since it's one of the few legal and safe ways to cross the river.

The new South Omaha Bridge will be done by next fall and will offer a dedicated bike lane.

I think people should just use common sense and leave well enough alone. For the most part, I think walkers, runners, tourists, and cyclists are doing OK, as it is. Since cyclists are kind of the "big dogs" on the bridge, we need to just be a little extra courteous and understanding that pedestrians and tourists might not expect us, especially when they are moving from one side of the bridge to the other, or standing in the middle for photographs.

If the bridge was really crowded, I'd have no issue dismounting and walking, but I can ride my bike slower than most people can walk. In the same way I feel an automobile could just wait five seconds for a safe pass around a bike, I can do the same when around pedestrians.

Walkers also need to be sensitive, not just to bikes, but to everyone and not walk in a six person taking up the whole width of the path. Everyone should be aware of their surroundings and just move a little here and there to make sure everyone is accommodated.

I won't ring my bell or say "on your left" on the bridge. It just confuses people, and given the people density, it would just seem silly to repeatedly announce my presence. I might click my brake levers or roll back on the freewheel to make a little noise.

Common sense, above all, is the rule on the bridge.