116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
“This could be the start of something big in C.R.” the Page 1 Gazette headline declared Sept. 5, 2006.
The story and pictures told about the first Mayor’s Bike Ride, held on Labor Day the day before.
The 8-mile ride, to support making Cedar Rapids more bicycle friendly, started from City Hall when it was on May’s Island. The course included several neighborhoods and Brucemore on First Avenue SE.
This year’s ride has been canceled because of concerns over the number of new COVID-19 cases and the high transmission rates of the delta variant in Iowa.
The first Mayor’s Bike Ride was the brainchild of the city’s purchasing director, Judy Lehman, and council member Tom Podzimek, who advocated for adding bike lanes to city streets. They worked in concert with the Hawkeye Bicycle Association to plan the ride.
Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston went on the inaugural ride and said she wanted to see the next ride go out into the county.
On the day of the ride, “clouds parted, the sun came up and more than 200 ardent bicycle riders gathered in the cool, early morning for the first of what’s expected to be an annual Mayor’s Bike Ride through the city,” The Gazette reported.
Mayor Kay Halloran rode on a tandem bike with Podzimek.
Second year’s ride
The second annual ride, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007, attracted 400 riders.
The 8-mile ride again started on May’s Island, with a shorter, 2½-mile ride added for children or anyone who found 8 miles too long.
The ride, sponsored by the Linn County Trails Association and the Hawkeye Bicycle Association, again veered through several neighborhoods and the Brucemore grounds.
One rule was that all riders had to wear bike helmets. One hundred helmets, donated by attorneys John Riccolo and Tom Semelroth, were given away.
Halloran and Podzimek again led the ride on a tandem bicycle.
No ride was scheduled in 2008 because of the catastrophic flood in June.
2009 & beyond
In 2009, a Mayors’ Bike Ride — note the plural — started at 10:15 a.m. Labor Day from Ellis Park. It was preceded by the shorter ride at 9 a.m.
Mayors or their representatives from Cedar Rapids, Fairfax, Marion and Robins participated in the ride, with U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack joining them. The ride passed through flood-impacted neighborhoods and along the Ellis and Cedar River bike trails, which has been restored after flood damage.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett led the Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride from 2010 to 2017. The rides continued to draw around 400 riders, including politicians, each year.
The 2016 ride started at Ellis Park and went through all four city quadrants.
This time, riders were given an opportunity to talk to elected officials about trail development. About 365 people of all ages told the officials they were happy with the addition of bike lanes to city streets and the development of trails in the county and metro area.
On Labor Day 2017, about 250 riders started out from Ellis Park for Corbett’s last ride as mayor. His tandem bike was “honeymoon-decorated” in honor of his recent marriage to Carrie Kennedy the day before.
“Even though the general public, some of them don’t bike, I’m really appreciative that they support it,” Corbett said. “What makes a city successful and vibrant is a variety of exercise options and transportation options in the community and certainly bicycling is one of them.”
The 2019 bike ride on Sept. 2 again started from Ellis Park, going through the downtown to Coe College, the Cedar Lake Loop and then back to Ellis Park.
Another natural disaster — this time a derecho — canceled the 2020 ride. And now COVID-19 has canceled the ride this year.