CEDAR RAPIDS — Recreational trails in Linn County need to be expanded so cyclists can better get around and to improve safety, cycling advocates said during the annual Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride to promote recreational trials on Monday. Others said uncertainty lies ahead when a four-year allocation directing 80 percent of federal transportation funds to trails — 80 percent traditionally has gone to roads — expires in 2020. Meanwhile, a wave of new elected officials will take office in Cedar Rapids next year leaving questions if they will be as supportive of trail development.
“We’re in a nice period of trail construction, but the 80 percent allotment is going to end,” said Tom Peffer, president of the Linn County Trails Association. “Once the bubble ends, if we don’t finish these trails now, it will be difficult to finish them.”
Some 250 cyclists gathered at Ellis Park on an overcast Labor Day morning for the event. Some opted for a 2.5-mile bike ride around the Northwest Neighborhood. Others pedaled 8.5 miles through downtown, the MedQuarter, and around Cedar Lake before returning to the park.
Improving trails was on the minds of many at the event.
“There’s not enough and there’s not enough safe ones,” said Michael Simoens, 63, who lives in the southwest quadrant of Cedar Rapids. “We are so far behind towns like Des Moines. I want to see ourselves modeling after that.”
Kathy Long, 59, who rode the 8.5-mile loop on Monday morning with her husband Steve said, “I live on the northwest side. I either have to ride through town or put my bike in the car to get to the bike trial, so I’m definitely in favor of expansion.”
While Linn County has seen additions, areas of town remain dangerous for cyclists and trails such as the CEMAR trail, connecting Cedar Rapids and Marion, have been under construction for years.
“Our goal is to expose elected officials to the excitement of the trails,” Peffer said. “If local officials aren’t supportive none of this goes anywhere.”
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Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett rode a honeymoon decorated tandem with his new bride Carrie (Kennedy) Corbett at the event. The two married over the weekend.
Corbett, who is seeking the GOP nomination in the race for governor, called trail development “good public policy” to improve transportation and recreation. Corbett has championed spending for trails, withstanding criticism at times, due to strong support from cyclists, he said.
Corbett is not seeking re-election as mayor and four other City Council seats are on the upcoming November ballot. City staff supports making Cedar Rapids more bike friendly, but turnover of elected officials makes it difficult to predict the level of support from future City Councils, Corbett said.
Corbett is advocating for a 3/8 of one cent sales tax increase for Iowa’s natural resources, which would include seed money to leverage matching local dollars for trail development, he said.
“Iowa struggles attracting people,” Corbett said. “Embracing recreation is a key to keeping people here and attracting people to come here.”
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