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