By LMQC Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell, St. Ambrose communications professor, RAGBRAI-er, pizza lover and longtime weight watcher.
I’m a bit of a chicken. I don’t like to mix my biking with traffic. Bike lanes and “sharrows” don’t provide enough protection for me.
So I try to do most of my biking on bike trails.
Riding should be for fun, not for worrying whether or not some driver behind you is distracted by their phone.
Locally, we are blessed with 100+ miles of trails free of motor vehicles. The 26-mile Davenport-Bettendorf loop is a great workout with lots of changes of scenery. The same – times two – can be said for the easily accessible, 56-mile trail on the Illinois side.
But as terrific as the local trails are, if you ride every day, you can get a little bored with the routine. So this summer I’m throwing my bike in the car, looking for new paths to pedal.
My first stop is Iowa City. Iowa City and Johnson County have been doing what Bettendorf has been doing: Installing miles of wide sidewalks so bikers, runners and walkers can enjoy their exercise – or commutes – without worrying about traffic.
I got off the Dubuque Street exit and went north for a quarter mile and then parked at Waterworks Prairie Park. The park is filled with so many gorgeous wildflowers that it had me thinking: Should I keep riding or take pictures? I kept riding.
The trails in the park might take about 10 leisurely minutes to cover. If you go out the back end of the park, you’ll find yourself in a neighborhood without a clue as to where to go. I checked the map when I got home and see I could have pedaled 4 blocks through the neighborhood to get back on the path, crossing the Iowa River to continue on for miles before looping back to the park.
Instead of going forward into the neighborhood, I went back through the park and got on the wide sidewalk on Dubuque Street and headed to North Liberty. This part of the path runs alongside a sometimes-busy street, but you are not right next to it. And there are interesting houses and landscapes to look at.
The ride to North Liberty is up and down, but mostly up. It took me about a half hour to ride up and about 15 minutes to ride back. There is some shade heading out of Iowa City, but a lot of the ride is in the sun.
Once I got to North Liberty, I was on my own. Again, there was no sign as to which way to go. As the Knight in Indiana Jones 3 said, I chose unwisely. I should have gone west when I got to North Liberty Road. Instead I went north, which was fine, until the sidewalk ended abruptly in the middle of a down hill.
The first time on a path, expect some hiccups. My advice? Throw your bike in your car and try new routes whenever you can. But don’t expect the maximum workout the first time on a new path. Use that time for exploration. Then come back the next time and attack it.
Another bit of advice: Make a day of it. Take the kids to the Children’s Museum. Check out the Fossil Gorge and don’t miss the Iowa Raptor Center. And if you’re up for back-to-school shopping crowds, Coral Ridge Mall is also nearby!
|Meet Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell. Alan is a communications professor at St. Ambrose University and a former reporter for WQAD-TV who has exercised – and dieted – his entire life. Read Alan’s other blog posts.|