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Commission marks Bike Month
Time is ripe to make bike improvements
bike month pic
A family takes part in Be Well Barton County’s Bike Safety Fair at the Barton County Fair last July. The County Commission Wednesday morning approved a proclamation denoting May as National Bike Month, a time to raise awareness about bike safety and usage. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Between the roller coaster weather and whipping winds, conditions have not been ideal for riding bicycles, but there are still more folks pedaling along streets and roads as spring sets arrives. As a member of Be Well Barton County, a task force promoting biking and active transportation, it is fitting that we observe National Bike Month in May.

As I have for the past several years, I attended the Barton County Commission meeting Wednesday morning to present the annual Bike Month proclamation. I am deeply appreciative of their willingness each year to approve this.

Over the years, Barton County has done a great deal to help cycling. They have placed signage around the county on many county blacktops. I’ve heard from cyclists and motorists who appreciate having that additional awareness of one another on the roadways.

In addition, I want to thank county Cartographer Bj Wooding, also a Be Well member. She created a detailed map of the various cycling routes in the county, which is available in print form and on Be Well’s website.

In addition, a subcommittee of Be Well, Make Great Bend a Bike Town, has worked within the city. A key accomplishment is a campground behind Central Baptist Church for cross-country cyclists which is heavily used since Great Bend sits on TransAmerica Bike Route 76.

Lagging behind

However, the latest survey from the League of American Bicyclists tells us that only 11% of trips are taken by bicycle. This lags far behind the rest of the world where bike transit is commonplace.

At the same time, the number of people bicycling and commuting to work has nearly doubled in the last recent years. So there’s a demand to have more and better infrastructure.

According to the LAB, Kansas ranks 30th in the number of bike friendly communities in the state, with five. These designations are based on ordinances, infrastructure and attitudes towards bicycles. This is unfortunate because cycling and having those types of things in place are a very a strong economic development draw for communities.

Be Well is working toward a bike friendly title. But, we are a long ways from it. But we have made efforts, such as the work by the county, and the City of Great Bend to place signs and street markings.

But, attitudes have to change. 

We’re a rural community. We’ve always been a rural community. We think that by God we can drive a truck or car wherever we want to go and bikes are an afterthought.

What’s it going to take? Strong leadership at all levels.

Officials must embrace the value and importance of biking and all types of active transportation, and have the guts to follow through. It will be expensive and there will be much resistance.

But these tough choice are what separate bike friendly communities from everyone else.

As for what more the county could do, it has already done a lot. I might suggest additional way-finding signs on rural roads to help cyclists know where they are.

“We took a trip to Florida this winter and I rode bikes around the islands, so I know what your talking about,” District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier said during the Monday meeting. “There, it’s the norm. It was fun actually.”

With gas prices rising, District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld more folks may take up cycling.

Additionally, Bike to Work Week will be May 16-22, with Bike to Work Day on that Friday.

Other voices

There were several cyclists attending the meeting along with me. Among them was Brandon Steinert, who was injured when he was struck from behind while riding.

He had this advice for motorists: “Stay off your phones.” 

He and I both suggested ways for the county to make roads better, from including shoulders in resurfacing efforts to using smaller aggregate on road surfaces.

Great Bend Pilot Club member Vicki Richardson noted that her organization has bike helmets to give away.

So, to all of you residents, I encourage you to experience the joys of bicycling as being outside, away from the pressures of life, is beneficial for physical and mental health.

This is where the awareness brought on by this annual observation comes into play. Creating a bicycling-friendly community has been shown to improve citizens’ health, well-being, and quality of life.

According to the proclamation, Be Well Barton County, the county commission and the League of American Bicyclists urge “schools, parks and recreation departments, police departments, public health districts, hospitals, private businesses and civic groups to promote bicycling during the month of May and throughout the remainder of the year.”

So, get out there and pedal away.

Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at