Iowa City, Johnson County officials kick off Bike to Work Week with competition

BY STACEY MURRAY | MAY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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It only took 14 minutes for three area officials to travel the four miles necessary to kick off Ride Your Bike to Work Week.

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil, Iowa City City Councilor Jim Throgmorton, and University Heights City Councilor Mike Haverkamp raced from the Coralville Public Library to the Iowa City Public Library to promote the weeklong celebration of cycling in Johnson County.

The three city officials used various modes of transportation to cover the trip between the libraries. Neuzil rode a bicycle, Throgmorton drove a vehicle, and Haverkamp rode a city bus for a majority of the trip before reverting to his bicycle.

But the race, which Neuzil won, had a symbolic rather than competitive purpose.

“The main idea is to show that riding your bike and putting your bike on a rack that is provided are just as competitive time-wise as driving your car for short trips,” said Kris Ackerson, an assistant transportation planner at the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County.

Throgmorton said in addition to the value of commuter biking in a safe, effective environment, Johnson County has allotted for the growth of bike trails.

“There’s been a huge increase in the number and miles of bike trails available to use,” Throgmorton said.

Currently, Iowa City has 17 bike trails open to the public. Coralville has roughly 20 miles of trails with the potential to add 40 miles with development.

Iowa City has plans to expand its bike trails, which include establishing a trail to run along Ralston Creek between Creekside Park and Court Hill Park.

Haverkamp, who came in third in the race, said as community residents think of a growing area, it’s easy to overlook the area’s actual size.

“I think it’s easy to forget the metro region has grown tremendously, but it’s still a small area,” Haverkamp said. “It’s still possible to get from one area of town to the other in 15 minutes.”

In addition to the trails, Haverkamp said, three aspects of the metropolitan area work together to provide easy transportation for residents.

“We have good bike routes, a small geographic area, and three mass-transit systems,” he said. “And all three cooperate.”

Also on Monday, the League of American Bicyclists upgraded Iowa City’s bicycle-friendly status from bronze to silver. The organization reviews a city’s Bicycle-Friendly Community status every four years, according to a city press release.

Neuzil said Ride Your Bike to Work Week is an example of the work among local government officials to promote something they’ve all made progress on.

“This is a good reminder of how we can all come together as intergovernmental community leaders to promote not just bikes and bike trails but a healthier lifestyle,” he said.

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