Corbett: Rail-trail link could be ‘very successful’

Corbett: Rail-trail link could be ‘very successful’

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett has a history of supporting bicycling in Eastern Iowa, even when it’s meant taking heat. The city adopted a “Complete Streets” policy, they’ve enhanced on-street bike resources, such as painting distinct green bike lanes, and he pushed to direct 80 percent of the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization’s funding pot to trails when it typically mostly goes to streets to the consternation of some. So, when he heard former congressman and current Iowa transportation commissioner Leonard Boswell tout a transportation triangle of light rail along side recreational trail between Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Amana, Corbett was among those who took note. “I think it would be very successful,” Corbett said, particularly on the recreational trail side. Corbett is among several local leaders who’s interests were piqued by the idea, but execution and funding will be another matter. The concept also lacks a champion, which has historically driven trail projects, some say. The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, a national organization devoted to converting old railroad beds to recreational trails, completed a report in 2013 about the growing number of active rail lines paired with recreational trails. They call it “rails-with-trails.” According to the report, there was a 260 percent increase in the number of rails-with-trails from about 62 in 20 states in 2000 to 161 rails-with-trails covering about 1,400 miles in 41 states in 2013. By June 2014, that number had grown to 217 rails-with-trails in 42 states, according to the Conservancy website. There’s a growing trend of trail development alongside local and regional transit corridors, which is similar to what Boswell suggested. About 15 percent of active rails-with-trails are along mass…
22 takeaways about bike commuting in Eastern Iowa

22 takeaways about bike commuting in Eastern Iowa

For some, every week is bike to work week. But, since communities around the country celebrated the nationally designated “Bike to Work Week” on May 12-16 the timing is right to take stock of what resources we have and what we need to truly be bike friendly, and why this is something being pushed by our communities. A group of cyclists in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas agreed to participate in a group discussion about their experiences bike commuting through a Google Hangout on Friday morning. Participants Peter Kaboli, who bike commutes from the east side of Iowa City to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City near the city line with Coralville. Paul Fiegen, who bike commutes mainly on the bike trail from Ely to Intermec Technologies in Cedar Rapids. Matt Barnhart, who lives on the northside of downtown Cedar Rapids and bikes to work at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Helaina Thompson bike commutes in both Cedar Rapids, where she works at NewBo City Market, and Iowa City where she attends University of Iowa. Mark Wyatt lives in Iowa City and bike commutes to the Iowa City Bicycle Coalition offices on the Coralville Strip (Highway 6). And, me. I wrote some last week about a personal challenge to go “car-less in the corridor,” and I shared some of those experiences as someone who lives in Iowa City but spends time in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Why do it? Health: A few people mentioned they like the exercise aspect, and bike commuting is a good way to work fitness into the day. One participant said he started bike commuting as...
Car-less in the Corridor Day 2: Iowa City to Cedar Rapids challenging but doable

Car-less in the Corridor Day 2: Iowa City to Cedar Rapids challenging but doable

Teachable moment of the day: bike commuting from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids makes for a long day, especially when you have a brutal headwind cutting across Iowa’s open landscape. I have a roughly 33 mile commute from Iowa City to The Gazette newsroom in Cedar Rapids, and I was curious what options I could find, and how long it’d take me to cover that ground. Public transit actually gets you further up and down the corridor then you might expect, but there’s still a good gap between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids where one transit system stops and the other starts. The No. 11 bus in CR Transit (free this week for bike commuters) runs every half hour during rush hour and every hour during off peak times. It takes about 20 minutes from the main bus terminal to its furthest southern stop - Wright Brothers Boulevard, almost to the Linn-Johnson County line. From there, you must overcome 11 miles on your own to North Liberty, where you can pick up a bus that connects with the Coralville and Iowa City transit systems. The problem is, the North Liberty bus only runs a loop twice a day, once in the morning and once in the early evening. I also looked into ride share websites, but didn’t have any luck, possibly because I just needed one-off ride and I didn’t really have anything to share. I also checked into Linn County Lifts and Johnson County Seats, but those transit services cater to disabled and elderly commuters, and only provide rides outside the county when resources allow. Some employers, such...
Bike Challenge: Car-less in the Corridor for B2WW

Bike Challenge: Car-less in the Corridor for B2WW

    A week ago I posted about bike month and Bike to Work Week, which is this week, May 12-16. I wrote that while there’s several positive attributes to bike commuting, there’s also a number of obstacles.   The subtle hint was that we pat ourselves on the back once a year for our bike friendliness, but there’s some inherent challenges to living without a car in our communities.   One reader called me on this sentence from the article: “Many streets remain too congested or narrow for cyclists to travel safely, and on many roads there’s not a place for cyclists.”   The person wrote, “I think this one sentence is really inaccurate.”   “The road IS the place for cyclists - by Iowa law cyclists get a full lane, regardless of the width or traffic conditions. Research shows that bicyclists are safer on the road than on sidewalks. To me, that sentence seems to imply that cyclists don’t belong, and my concern is in justifying motorists aggression toward cyclists. That’s not right.”   The reader is right. That statement was based on assumptions and hearsay rather than a tested fact.   So, what better way to find out reality than a first-hand look?   This week I’ll make a good-faith effort to go car-less in the Corridor, and document how it goes. Follow along. I am also looking for as many others that want to (safely) give it a try, and share how it goes. Send me an email at brian.morelli@sourcemedia.net if you’d like to share you experiences. You can also tweet using hashtag #BikeWeekIowa It’s not case sensitive. I’ll be using...