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John McCann

Cycling Infrastructure: Save Money. Save the World.

Cycling Infrastructure: Save Money. Save the World.

As Earth Day draws near, Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance wanted to share some of the benefits of improved bicycle infrastructure in the Truckee Meadows.

What is bike infrastructure?

We see bike infrastructure as coming in two flavors, social and physical. An example of social infrastructure is workplace support. Employers can support bicycle commuting in a number of ways that include providing secure bike parking sheltered from the weather or onsite showers or changing rooms. Offering financial incentives to commute by bike rather than a car is another way to support commuter cyclists.

Physical infrastructure on the other hand, generally includes bike routes and adequate bike parking. Sufficient bike parking appears to be a very distant afterthought in many urban areas. Wave racks and schoolyard racks (the ones that just hold a bike’s front or rear tire) can be found in many places, but they don’t provide the functionality or security that is really needed for bicycle commuters. Additionally, bike parking is usually way too sparse, especially compared to car parking. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to bring a bike up onto a sidewalk to lock it to something like a parking meter (although that isn’t always legal). You can learn more about what makes good bike parking here.

Bike routes pose an entirely different set of problems. Most people think of “bike lanes” when they think of bike routes. These are those bike routes you see marked by nothing other than white paint. However, where vehicle speeds exceed 15-20 miles per hour, white paint bike lanes don’t feel safe enough to encourage more people to ride. In these conditions, we need routes for cyclists that are physically separated in some way from car traffic. An example of this can be seen along Victorian Avenue in Sparks and will be represented by the Center Street Cycle Track, once it is completed. Thanks to advocacy efforts from TMBA, the current preferred design of the Oddie/ Wells Project includes a bike route that will be separated from traffic as well. Portions of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail through Reno and Sparks represent a bike route that is completely separated from traffic.

In 2018, TMBA conducted a survey of over 600 people. Only two in 10 people said that a bike route that was marked only with white paint (compared to a road with no bike lane at all) would encourage them to ride more frequently. Four times as many people, eight out of 10, would ride that same route more frequently if there was a protected bike lane.

So, what are the broader benefits?

According to Project Drawdown, bike trips currently account for about 3% of urban bike trips around the world. They calculated the costs and benefits of increasing that percentage to 8% over over 30 years by installing infrastructure needed to encourage people to ride. This would be equivalent to between two and four trillion bicycle commute miles annually around the world. This would prevent the release of up to 6.6 billion tons of CO2 from fossil fuels. A potentially unexpected outcome of this study is that because bicycle infrastructure is so much cheaper to construct and maintain than car infrastructure, we could save up to $7.5 trillion in construction costs and up to $827 billion in maintenance costs over 30 years.

Source: drawdown.org/solutions/buildings-and-cities/bike-infrastructure

What are some more tangible benefits of increased cycling locally?

Increased cycling could bring a number of real benefits to our community. These include improved air quality by reducing fossil fuel use, increased personal wellness by participating in active transportation alternatives, decreased traffic, and improved social connectivity among people and their community.

How can you be a part of the solution?

  1. Ride: As Freddy Mercury once sang, “Get on your bikes and ride!” You can make the choice to replace a car trip here and there with a bike trip. Just being on your bike will show others that people in our area do ride and maybe inspire them to ride too.
  2. Use Your Voice: Let local leadership know that you support planning, policies, and projects that will make cycling safer and more accessible for more people. The cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County, and RTC Washoe all have regular public meetings where you can show up and give a three minute public comment.
  3. Volunteer: There are lots of local organizations that promote cycling in one form or another. Just about all of them need volunteers to help bring cycling to a larger audience. Here are some examples:

What is the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance?

TMBA, also known as @BikeWashoe on social media, is a local cycling nonprofit whose aim is to make Washoe County a safer and more inclusive cycling community. In general, we hope to achieve this goal by:

  1. Providing non-competitive events for cyclists to build relationships;
  2. Advocating for all a connected, protected, and equitable bicycle infrastructure network; and
  3. Helping maintain a connected and cooperative network of organizations whose missions are benefitted by more active transportation in Washoe County.

Our events include Bike Month every May, monthly Fourth Friday Dinner Rides, and an annual Tweed Ride. Our advocacy, among other things, helped get the Center Street Cycle Track approved. This project, once constructed, will provide a two-way separated bike lane along Center Street that reaches from the University to Midtown.

Want to know more about TMBA? Send us an email, find us on facebook, find us on Twitter, or find us on Instagram.

TMBA: Growing into a nonprofit.

TMBA: Growing into a nonprofit.

The Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance is finally becoming its own thing! You may be asking, “Wait, TMBA has been around for a while, what are they talking about?” Well, that’s true and not true. TMBA has been functional as more or less a committee under the Nevada Bicycle Coalition for a number of years. This includes our early years when we were just a rag tag group of organizations looking to organize a Bike to Work Day event.

Over the last few years, we have started to expand what we do in terms of events and advocacy. With that in mind, we decided that January 2020 was the right time to break out on our own and become our own distinct organization. This has meant a lot of learning. There’s a laundry list of things an organization needs to do when it sets out to legitimately exist on its own. Putting together a board… Incorporation with the state… Writing byalws… Applying for an EIN… Completing the IRS Form 1023 to apply for nonprofit status…

While it is genuinely exciting and somewhat interesting to navigate these steps, it is quite a burden on an all volunteer “staff” that otherwise has real world job obligations that pay the bills. We have just one more step to go before we start the waiting game while the IRS determines whether or not we are worthy of nonprofit status.

In the meantime we have been and plan to stay busy making Washoe County a safer and more inclusive cycling community for current and potential cyclists. Here are some highlights:

  1. Building on the momentum gained from helping get the Center Street Cycle Track approved, we have developed an Infrastructure, Policy, and Advocacy (IPA) Committee. The intent of this committee is to to help drive the development of a connected, protected, and equitable cycling network in the Reno-Sparks area.
  2. We have the great fortune of being able to work with UNR this spring in hosting an intern. Our intern is a public health major who is planning on going to grad school next year. For the next few months, our intern is going to help us stay organized as we build out the IPA Committee and prepare for Bike Month.
  3. Of course, Bike Month is a HUGE part of what we have been doing. We continue to work with partners in identifying and organizing events throughout the month of May to help the people of Washoe County celebrate all tings bicycle related. Keep an eye on our events calendar to see what we have coming on line. Have an event you want to see added to the calendar? Let us know…

In the course of doing all this work, we are asking for financial support from existing and potential cyclists in Washoe County. By becoming our very own, independent organization, we find ourselves in need of developing a bit of a working capital fund to support our efforts into the future. That is why we have kicked off a $20,000 in 2020 Capital Campaign. Could you spare $20.20 or more to support a safer and more inclusive cycling community? If so, please make a donation by clicking the logo below. Thank you for your support!

2020 Campaign: Donate Here!

Bike Lane Debris – What’s a cyclist to do?

Bike Lane Debris – What’s a cyclist to do?

With #BikeMonth upon us, we are encouraging anyone and everyone to get out and give cycling a try as a fun, healthy, and sustainable mode of transportation. With all this extra bike traffic, more people may be encountering bike lanes or shoulders that are filled with gravel, glass, other garbage, etc. Note: Finding a car parked in a bike lane is a whole other issue, but no less frustrating.

In any case, we want to give you some things to consider when riding a bicycle on roads around Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County. The two main points we want to make are related to clarifying where a cyclist is legally allowed to ride and what a cyclist can do to help improve road surface conditions.

Question: “If there’s debris in the shoulder/ bike lane, can I ride around it?”

The Short Answer: Yes!

The Long Answer: NDOT has a great, easy to read document that outlines existing bike laws in Nevada (available as a PDF here). We encourage all local riders to review and become familiar with this document and the laws it describes. For now, we want to boil down the most direct answer to the question of “What part of a road can cyclists use?”.

With the exception of certain highway sections, cyclists have essentially as much right to Nevada roads as people driving cars. NRS 484B.777 directs cyclists to “ride as near to the right of the roadway as is practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.” However, there is no legal requirement for cyclists to use sidewalks, shoulders, or even bike lanes when they are available. So, if there is some sort of obstruction in a bike lane or shoulder, you are within your legal rights to travel in the vehicular travel lanes to avoid it.

That said, YOU, as a vulnerable road user, need to be an EXTREMELY defensive rider. You are responsible for making the best decisions for your own safety. Lights, reflectors, predictable riding, hand signals, etc. can all help reduce your likelihood of being hit by someone driving a car, but there’s never a guarantee. So, choose the routes you are most comfortable with, make eye contact with drivers, and don’t let your interest in convenience (e.g., not having to stop and wait to get safely around an obstacle) override your interest in making it home safely. We here at TMBA are interested in helping make as many people as possible feel comfortable choosing to get places on a bike. So, we will keep doing what we can (as modest as these efforts may be) to help educate drivers and to promote well informed policy and infrastructure.

Question: “If there’s debris in the shoulder/ bike lane, what can I do about it?”

The Short Answer: Report it!

The Long Answer: Believe it or not, our local jurisdictions (city, county, and state) do have programs to help ensure that our roadways do not become completely choked with garbage and debris. There are two major limitations on these organizations, though, that may make it appear as though they are ignoring your favorite travel route:

  1. Unfortunately, city, county, and state road maintenance agencies don’t have unlimited funding. So, their ability to maintain a monstrous fleet of street sweepers and the staff to operate them is also limited.
  2. The limitations mentioned above also apply to agencies’ ability to deploy an army of full time debris spotters.

These agencies have to do their best to prioritize their limited resources. They do this, generally, through a combination of regularly scheduled street sweeping schedules and directed responses to identified problems. This is where YOU (being the proactive, civically engaged local cyclist that you are) come in. By reporting problem area, you can accomplish two things:

  1. You’ll get your problem area added to the “to do” list of the appropriate agency. While we can’t guarantee you that said agency will be able to address your issue quickly, we’re optimistic that they will address it at some point.
  2. By showing these agencies that people are riding bikes and that we are concerned about bike lane and shoulder maintenance, we will provide pressure for these agencies to dedicate (or find) more funds or staff time to achieve a better overall road condition for us as users of the infrastructure.

Who should you be reporting to? Well, it depends on where you are and what road you’re on. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to provide you a specific answer for every single road segment. What we can do is share with you a few programs or contacts to get you going in the right direction. Even if you report an issue to the wrong organization, they should be able to tell you who the right organization is. Here’s the quick list (click the links to go to the reporting sites):

Happy and safe riding!

Commuter Challenge Shake Up

Commuter Challenge Shake Up

As you may have noticed, our Commuter Challenge is being run slightly differently this year. If you are scratching your head and wondering, “Huh, why can’t I just log in to bikewashoe.org and log my miles like previous years?”, you aren’t alone. This little blip of a blog post is for you!

Over the last few years, we’ve had multiple discussions about what the best way is to track bike commute miles in Washoe County. We kept asking, “Do we really need to keep managing our own separate data set?” In no particular order, here are the major reasons we decided to switch how we ran our Commuter Challenge for 2019:

  • By running the Commuter Challenge through our own site, it increased the demand on our already stretched thin, all volunteer organization.
  • By running the Commuter Challenge through our own site, it created one more place that people were being asked to log miles (e.g., the National Bike Challenge, RTC Smart Trips, business-specific bike commute programs, etc.).
  • By collecting bike commute data ourselves, we limited the collective power of those data as a tool to help leverage funds and inform policy to help make Washoe County a safer and more inclusive cycling community.

The RTC of Washoe County has been a major partner of TMBA for a number of years. They support us by hosting monthly planning meetings, donating design services, helping us spread our messages and more. Additionally, they recently completed a major update to their Smart Trips website (with an associated app to be released in the near future). By joining our Commuter Challenge with the RTC Smart Trips program, we are supporting this RTC program and benefiting from the RTC’s ability to better share and utilize these data for all Washoe County cyclists’ benefit.

The RTC will be sharing bike commute data from Bike Month with TMBA so that we can select a few individual winners, provide recognition to participating businesses, and highlight a few key Commuter Challenge stats once Bike Month is over (just like we’ve done in past years). By providing the RTC with basic data on just how often and how far people will ride their bikes for commuting purposes, however, we can improve the RTC’s ability to fight for more funds, improved infrastructure, and better policies. The RTC will be able to use this information when prioritizing long range projects, when partnering with state or federal departments of transportation, or when seeking funding or support from the Federal Highway Administration.

While we are focusing our outreach efforts on recording bike commute miles during Bike Month, we want people to know that Smart Trips can be used to demonstrate your impact on our community year round.

Now that you’re “in the know”, be sure to get signed up with RTC Smart Trips and log some bike commute miles! Hint: Once you’re signed up click on “Things To Do” at the top and then “Log Commutes” icon or just click on the “Commute Calendar” to get your miles logged.

Happy Bike Month and safe riding!

Safe Cycling on Oddie/ Wells – We need your support!

Safe Cycling on Oddie/ Wells – We need your support!

We are happy to spread the word that multimodal improvements are coming to the Oddie/Wells corridor! Below, we’ll briefly walk through what the proposed Oddie/Wells Project will mean for bikes and peds, where the project is in its timeline, and what you can do to help make it awesome.

What is happening? RTC is planning to revamp Wells Avenue/Oddie Boulevard from 9th Street in Reno to Pyramid Way in Sparks (see map). Right now, this 3.2-mile-long corridor is a hellscape for multimodal travelers: there are no bike lanes, inconsistent sidewalks, few trees, and wide auto lanes in each direction leading to high traffic speeds. The proposed project will reduce the auto lanes to two narrower lanes in each direction, add a median, and–best of all!–add bike infrastructure, continuous sidewalks, and landscaping in both directions. The western end of the project has been extended to connect to the I-80-adjacent frontage path between Wells and Valley, so this sweet multimodal infrastructure will link to the University (and the upcoming Center Street Cycle Track!). This is great news!

Screen shot of a map showing the project corridor.

What’s the timeline? RTC’s engineers are in the preliminary design process right now. Public meetings about the project were held in November 2018 and March 2019, and RTC’s team has been great about incorporating public input into the proposed design. RTC expects to have the final design completed in early 2020. Currently, they are working through the 30% and then 60% designs with input from the public and local jurisdictions.
What can you do to help? There are two potential bike infrastructure design elements under consideration:
1. A standard white striped bike lane with a striped buffer.
2. A raised cycle track throughout the whole corridor AND green bike boxes to allow cyclists to safely make left-hand turns at intersections.
We strongly support that cycle track and bike box option! The cycle track would create an additional visual and physical barrier between cars and bikes (since the track is slightly raised, cars would feel like they were hopping a curb if they drifted into it, unlike a standard bike lane), and this would encourage less confident riders to try biking. Additionally, this cycle track would connect a number of existing bicycle routes including the multi-use path between Wells Avenue and Valley Road and the bike lanes on Sutro Street and El Rancho Drive.

To help make the cycle track happen, you can
1. Attend an upcoming RTC Board meeting, held on the third Friday of every month, and make a public comment in favor of the cycle track option for this project.
2. Email Maria Paz Fernandez, the RTC project manager, at MPazFernandez@rtcwashoe.com, to express your support.

Below is a sample rendering of how one portion of the corridor could look with the addition of a cycle track.

Pedego Reno Opens, Ready to Charge into Bike Month 2019

Pedego Reno Opens, Ready to Charge into Bike Month 2019

If you’re thinking about getting into the electric bike game, it can be a little overwhelming. There are so many brands getting into the market. There are So many questions to ask:

  • How does pedal assist work?
  • How big of a battery do I need?
  • How far will the bike go on a charge?
  • Are electric bikes heavy?
  • Will people make fun of me for adopting an awesome new technology that will increase my likelihood of participating in a non-passenger vehicle mode of travel?

The folks over at Pedego Reno have you covered! They’ve got a wide range of bikes (cruisers, fat bikes, tandems, folding, trikes, and more!) for you to check out in person. Their staff are trained up on the technology and the components to help get you in the know. Not ready to shell out for an e-bike of your own? They do rentals, so you can give one a try for an hour or two and see what you think.

Pedego Electric Bikes Logo

Here’s the best part!

Pedego Reno stepped up as a supporter of the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance and our Bike Month activities. Pedego is donating a Comfort Cruiser – Electric Beach Cruiser to help TMBA raise money to support our events. How great is that!?

Red Pedego brand Comfort Cruiser bicycle.

Pedego Comfort Cruiser

TMBA is working on the details to raffle off this great e-bike during Bike Month. We hope to announce the lucky winner at our Bike Month After Party on June 1. Stay tuned!

Active Transportation: A better way to experience your town.

Active Transportation: A better way to experience your town.

A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.

― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Yesterday, I spent a few hours on foot in MidTown Reno distributing posters for Bike Month 2019. According to my phone, I logged just over three miles of distance traveled. Yes, we are a cycling organization and I did bike to a central location to start, but when you’re going door to door, continually locking and unlocking a bike can get tedious.

In any case, I had an amazing time. I got a chance to talk to several business owners about their thoughts on bike infrastructure. I got a chance to see several new businesses as well as business that were making upgrades or changes to their facilities. There was essentially a lot of exploring that I got to do and I learned quite a bit about MidTown that I didn’t know when I started the day. These are the types of experiences that you generally miss out on when you use a car to get to specific places. Active transportation (biking, walking, etc.) gives you more time to look, learn, and experience. Cars, too often, cut us off from the natural and cultural environment through which we travel. Next time you go to MidTown, regardless of how you get there, I encourage you to spend some time walking a little to see what you find.

Plaza Maya: Miguel at Plaza Maya took some time to chat with me about his hopes to be a bike and pedestrian friendly space. In the near future, they plan to make their current parking lot a car-free space to allow for bike parking. Miguel wants people to take advantage of the bike lanes on Wells and feel comfortable using Plaza Maya as a sort of “home base” when they can securely leave their bike while they walk and explore other local businesses. We even talked about having TMBA provide bike parking consultation so that whatever bike racks they end up with are functional for the greatest number of people.

Plaza Maya Now Open Sign

Courtyard Panorama at Plaza Maya

Micano Home Decor: Did you know that the owner of this local source of awesome, artistic home decor was hit by a driver while in a cross walk? For this reason and others, Sam is an advocate for appropriate infrastructure that allows for bicyclists and pedestrians to move about their community safely. On tope of that Micano offers some great bike-themed art pieces. Want a giant penny farthing sculpture for your house or yard? This is the place to go!

Micano Home Decor Sign

Micano Home Decor Penny Farthing


Happy (and safe) walking and biking!


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