Grand Rapids Among The Top 50 Best Bike Cities
Grand Rapids has landed at 33rd on Bicycling.com's list of the best bike cities in the United States. As a daily bike commuter, I can agree to a point, but we still have a ways to go before we hit the top 10.
Under Mayor George Heartwell, Grand Rapids made tremendous strides toward become a bicycle friendly city. Heartwell once told me to attract companies that have younger workers to GR, we had to become more like Boulder, Ann Arbor and Austin, and bike lanes were a part of that plan.
Bicycling.com, in making GR the 33rd Best Bike City, acknowleged those efforts:
The city’s roughly 100 miles of bike lanes and trails exemplify how quickly a city can transform its roadways to accommodate bike riders. In 2010, no (yes, zero) bike lanes existed in Grand Rapids. Though current Census data doesn’t capture the city’s recent cycling efforts, city officials and local advocates claim ridership is way up.
So far, so good, but the uptick in bike deaths in the area recently is very disconcerting as a cyclist. As the article mentions, the city has invested heavily in an education campaign to educate both cyclists and drivers to be better aware of laws governing the bike lanes, and bike traffic in general. Let's hope it has an impact.
Here are the great things about biking in Grand Rapids:
* High quality bike lanes, many that allow bike commuting from most neighborhoods into downtown very easy.
* Bike friendly paved trails like the Kent Trail and the White Pine Trail, that allow riders to put in many miles without ever having to see a car.
* Great mountain biking trails. I have yet to get back into trail riding, but my friends who do gush about trails like the Merrell Trail and the trails at Cannonsburg.
* Great local biking events. Gran Fondo, Barry-Roubaix, XTERRA Ionia and the Covered Bridge Ride are just a few of the multitude of cycling events around here. Village Bike Shop keeps a pretty good calendar of them.
* A solid community of cyclists that support places like The Spoke Folks, where you can do your own minor repairs and get back out on the road quickly. (Spoke Folks have saved me twice by having the space to repair a flat tire while commuting).
Here are the down sides of biking in GR:
* Bike lanes eaten up by construction. If you're going to have lanes, you need to work out compromises with builders so they don't chew up the entire bike lane. Some of these squeezes cause very dangerous flow issues for cyclists.
* Bike Lanes eaten up by delivery trucks, and city vehicles. Weird that such a generally bike friendly city will block a bike lane in seconds for the sake of city truck needing a parking space. If the city respects the bike lane, so will everyone else. (on the plus side, the city does get the road kill out of the bike lnes fairly quickly).
* Car and truck doors opening up in my face. It seems as if some people (I'm looking at you, Monroe North residents) can't be bothered to look behind them for a second before opening their doors into the bike lane. If you hear a man yelling swear words hoping to scare you into shutting that thing before he runs into it, that's me.
Overall, GR is a great place to bike. But we can get this rating higher.