IOWA CITY – On a day a bicyclist beat a car and a bus in a race between Coralville and Iowa City, a national organization said Iowa City has become more bicycle friendly.
The League of American Bicyclists announced Monday that Iowa City’s Bicycle Friendly Communities status had been upgraded from bronze to silver.
It’s a designation sought after by local government officials nationwide, and Iowa City is one of just five Bicycle Friendly Communities in Iowa. At silver, it is the most highly regarded of the five, with Cedar Rapids, University Heights, Cedar Falls and Des Moines all receiving bronze rankings.
“It’s a pretty cool achievement,” said Kris Ackerson, Iowa City assistant transportation planner. “The city has made a lot of effort over the last five years to try to make the community more bike friendly, and I think it’s paying off.”
There are 259 Bicycle Friendly Communities in 47 states, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Iowa City first joined that group in 2009.
The announcement comes on the first day of Bike to Work Week and also on the day of the annual bike-bus-car race from the Coralville Public Library to the Iowa City Public Library.
This year, county Supervisor Terrence Neuzil rode a bicycle and beat a car-bound Iowa City Council member Jim Throgmorton by three minutes. University Heights City Council member Mike Haverkamp brought up the rear by bus about 10 minutes later.
The League of American Bicyclists cited Iowa City’s investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, policies and infrastructure, according to a news release.
One bicycling advocate said Iowa City can make even more improvements.
“I think there’s a lot left to do,” said Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Coralville-based Iowa Bicycle Coalition. “I think we should go for gold and platinum.”
Improving infrastructure is the next step, he said. For example, Wyatt would like to see the protected bike lanes some larger cities have. These place bike lanes between curbs and on-street parking, so there are parked vehicles between bicyclists and traffic.
Ackerson said the city is awaiting feedback from the League of American Bicyclists on its application, but he said more on-street improvements are likely to be the recommendation coming from the organization. Those could be things like more bike lanes and signed bike routes.
Ackerson said city staffers are aware of protected bike lanes but said intersections can be challenging with cyclists making left turns from behind parked cars.Wyatt said in such a setup, bicycles and vehicles often have different traffic signals.