The Nevada Sagebrush: Bicycling Trend Wheels Downtown
New bike lanes show emerging partnership between cyclists and the city
The trend of bicycling in Reno has gained momentum recently, and the city is steering it in the right direction. Additional bicycle lanes and organizations such as the Reno Bike Project are helping citizens become more acquainted with the cycling community.
The city of Reno acknowledged the increase in popularity by adding official bike lanes to many neighborhoods around town this summer, specifically in heavily-traveled downtown areas such as California Avenue, Mill Street and Arlington Avenue.
“I think the city is trying to push for other modes of attraction to help the economy grow here,” said Kyle Kozar, a founder and co-executive director of the Reno Bike Project, a local non-profit bicycle-promotion organization. “Casinos aren’t going to do it anymore. It’s just a sign of the times. Things like bicycling and the arts are going to bring people here.”
The Reno Bike Project attributes the growth of Reno’s bicycle culture to a combination of expensive gas prices, the economic recession and the recent green movement that promotes environmental awareness.
Felicia Archer, the public information officer for the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), said Reno has become a more bike-friendly community to accommodate people who choose bicycling for recreation, health or economic benefits. According to the RTC, one of the main goals of the revamped streets is to make traveling through Reno easier no matter the mode of transportation.
“We are a team,” Archer said. “We take a team approach to making complete streets. When we decide what the roads’ needs are, we consider bike facilities as we do any improvement.”
Changing bike lanes are a result of a city project called “road diets.” Each road in town comes under review every seven years when it is repaved. During this review, the RTC team considers any changes to better accommodate all types of traffic — automotive, pedestrian and cyclist — depending on how traveled the road is and by whom.
This year, the team reduced the number of lanes from four to two with a center turn lane, bike lanes and parking spaces on streets such as Arlington, California and Holcomb avenues and Mill Street. Victorian and Wells avenues and Mayberry Drive were also redone using the road diet technique.
“Improved safety for bicyclists improves safety for all of us,” said Carol Perry, a trip reduction specialist at RTC. “We’re gaining a better understanding of different modes of travel. A healthy community needs public transportation, roads for trucks and auto traffic and room for bicycles and pedestrians.”
While these new bike lanes are beneficial for local cyclists who no longer have to ride among cars on busy streets, there is a ripple effect experienced throughout the community because of these changes.
The national research studied by RTC shows connections between bicycle lanes and healthier communities, Perry said.
“We’ve realized other connections,” she said. “It is linked to better health. In places that encourage a healthy lifestyle, people are healthier and obesity rates are lower.”
One of the most significant impacts of the new bike lanes has been on the arts district and local businesses in the neighborhoods that were altered by the road diets.
“There are economic development benefits,” Archer said. “Businesses on California Avenue have already said they’ve seen increasing business because of bicyclists that stop.”
Kozar believes that the long-term benefits of embracing bike culture will make Reno a more desirable place for ecotourism and for people to live.
“The city is smart,” he said. “It makes it more livable and enjoyable; bicycling is better for health and cleaner for the air. It will attract more people to move here and live here.”
Services offered by the Reno Bike Project include workshops, inexpensive bikes and opportunities to learn and get involved with the cycling community. Because the city is backing up bicyclists with additional bike lanes and encouragement, Reno is on the brink of becoming a new haven for bicycling fanatics and a safe space for casual riders.
“The city council that we met with feels that having bike and pedestrian access is important to the long-term plans for the developing of the community,” Archer said. “Keep in mind that this just the beginning of a network of bike lanes and paths.”
Click to view the Truckee Meadows Bike Map.
The Reno Bike Project offers volunteer and internship opportunities for college students.
For more information about the Reno Bike Project, located at 541 E. Fourth St., check outwww.renobikeproject.com or call 775-323-4488.