Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cycling in Iowa

During my stay in my home town over the holiday season, the weather was gorgeous... and my wonderful hosts let me fix up and borrow their bicycles! One was a large-enough hybrid with front suspension and wide tires, perfect for the unknown ground conditions that form the bicycle paths, tracks or streets in the town. (And I did put my nice new brooks saddle on it.)

Ames bicycle related municipal code is here and I'll provide a short summary for the curious: Helmets not mandatory, brakes are required, only one occupant per bicycle unless a seat is provided, yield right of way to vehicles if the road intersects the bicycle path, yield right of way to pedestrians all the time, sidewalk riding is permitted except in a few specifically named areas, baggage is allowed so long as the cyclist has at least one hand on the handlebars. The last one also applies to unicycles!

On the nicest afternoon, I went out with my brother for a ride. He wore lots of safety gear including the winged pants protectors that I bought as a present for him the year before. :)

Our overly ambitious destination was to be the Heart of Iowa trail in Slater, but on the approach the "path" turned out to be a gutter lane of a country highway. The road traffic speed was over 50 miles an hour and the attached "bike path" was covered in debris and gravel. Spot the faint bicycle graphic painted on the road under the dirt.

I've been told that a lot of brave cyclists take this path and do a nice 30-50 mile loop for training or pleasure. Maybe it's in better condition in the warmer months?

I've also been told that a lot of people think it's normal to drive 7 miles to the trail, unload their bicycles from their cars and then cycle back and forth over the limestone inset path on the trail...  Weird, but this does explain the car-powered bicycle pump

At this time, however (and spoiled from the lovely separated and clean paths in the Netherlands), I did not want to ride so close to speeding cars and trucks while going over loose debris... plus we had to be home for teatime at 4pm.

So we decided to ride around town and go to a few of the local parks instead of the trail.

There were some very nice paths, some other on-street lanes and some annoying (and official) sidewalk cycling. Overall, the infrastructure is pretty good and improving, apparently. Maybe we'll do the full trail ride in the summer.

We had a very fun afternoon!
Sidewalk cycling is expected here.
Bicycle Friendly Street sign exhorting drivers to be nice and careful.
A two-way path next to a high speed country road... but no debris.
A bicycle path!! Out behind the new middle-school.

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