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Coronavirus

Here’s where to ride bicycles in the Wichita area

Your gym is closed and you’re looking for a new way to work out.

You cleaned out the garage recently and uncovered the bicycles.

With fewer meetings, events or other work and social obligations, you have more time to get outside.

The kids — and you — need a distraction.

Whatever the reason, riding a bicycle outdoors is a good option in these times of social distancing and limited options.

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“It’s clear that exercise is good for your mental and physical health. It’s also clear that being outside is good in those same ways. Doing both at the same time is a great way to deal with what’s going on right now, whether that’s biking or walking,” said Alan Kailer, who serves as board president of Bike Walk Wichita, a nonprofit organization that advocates and educates for improved and increased biking and walking in the city.

National and local bicycling groups are recommending that you limit riding to your local area. The Wichita area has a mix of bicycling options ranging from on-street bike lanes and bicycle boulevards (low-speed and low-volume on-street designated routes) to paths that offer paved, gravel and off-road riding.

Some of the most popular places to ride in Wichita are Sedgwick County Park (about 9 miles of paths), the Arkansas River Path (10 miles) and two trails in former BNSF railroad beds. Eventually the goal is for these rail-trails to connect but for now one is on the east side and one on the west side.

Prairie Sunset Trail is a 15-mile corridor from Garden Plain to Hoover Road in west Wichita. Redbud Trail runs along a converted railway from I-135 east through Andover. Three miles from I-135 to Woodlawn Boulevard are paved, the next 3.5 miles of the trail taking you to K-96 are original large stones and the section from K-96 to 159th Street East is currently closed while it’s being paved. There are another 6 miles of the trail (some paved, some crushed limestone) from 159th Street to Kellogg/Hwy 54.

On days when the weather is excellent, those trails might become too crowded so here are some other resources to find routes near you that might not be as populated. Keep in mind, these are also good options if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground.

The Bike Walk Wichita website has a page of featured local bike paths and links to other resources; visit the “bike locally” page in the bike section at bikewalkwichita.org. There’s also a free Bike Walk Wichita app that includes self-guided tours for walking and biking, from a ride among College Hill historical homes to routes commonly used when the organization is hosting its group rides.

“We’re continuing to come up with ideas about what people can do outside that allow them to connect in another way besides our group events that we, of course, are not hosting at this time,” Kailer said. “The best thing to do is watch our Facebook page.

The city of Wichita maintains more than 100 miles of bicycle paths, lanes and other bicycle facilities. Visit the city’s information page at wichita.gov/Bicycle for city rules on bicycling and links to bike maps.

Get Outdoors Kansas, a coalition of the Kansas Trails Council and the Kansas Wildscape Foundation, created a website ( getoutdoorskansas.org) in 2014 and an accompanying app in 2018 that maps about 3,000 miles of trails and 2,000 miles of routes throughout the state.

State, county, city and river trails are included and you can search by location, permitted use (hiking, biking, equestrian, water, motorized), surface type, length and difficulty.

“Our mission is to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy some of the beautiful places in Kansas,” said Mike Goodwin, a Topeka hiker, trail runner and trail builder who is the director of Get Outdoors Kansas. “Many of us involved in trails in Kansas have always wanted to have one place online with information about all the trails in the state, and Get Outdoors Kansas is it.”

MTB Project is dedicated to helping mountain bikers discover and enjoy trails by providing a website ( mtbproject.com) and free app. The data is rider-submitted, and many local options are shown. Andy Cramb, a Kansas SingleTrack Society volunteer, said he is continuing to map south-central Kansas trails for the project as well as the Hiking Project ( https://www.hikingproject.com/).

Prairie Sunset Trail has its own website ( prairiesunsettrail.org) and one is in the works for Redbud Trail. Both have Facebook pages, where you can typically see current conditions. Ruth Holliday, co-owner of east Wichita’s Bicycle Pedaler shop, asks riders to be kind to the trails. Ruts left when riding a muddy trail are difficult for volunteers to fix. If you start out on one of the rail-trail segments with a limestone surface, turn around if you see that you’re leaving tracks.

Stay safe

Bicycle shops are considered an essential service under Sedgwick County’s stay-at-home order, and Wichita’s shops reported a steady flow of repair business this week as the weather warms up. If you need parts or maintenance, it’s best to call ahead as there are limitations on how many people can be in the stores at once and they are limiting contact between employees and customers by taking payment over the phone, and other methods.

Bike Walk Wichita and area bicycle shops are encouraging everyone to ride but ride safely.

“It’s something you can do that’s singular and will keep you sane,” said Byron Fick, owner of Heartland Bicycle.

Don’t gather in groups, keep your distance from others you encounter and observe normal guidance and etiquette. Wear a helmet; be aware and pay attention to vehicles and pedestrians; make sure others can see you, including using a bell or your voice when approaching a pedestrian from behind; ride in single file with space between bikes; ride on the right side of the road. If you’re hauling your bikes to a trail, be sure to park your vehicle in a safe, visible area.

With a likely increase in bicycle traffic, walkers and runners should keep at least one earbud out so they can hear a cyclist’s audible warning.

Have a bicycle to donate?

As you’re spring cleaning, consider donating unneeded bicycles and bicycle parts to Bike Walk Wichita. Through their ReCycle programs, their volunteers turn the donations into usable bikes that are given to children at no charge and provided to adults willing to trade 15 volunteer hours.

Hours are limited right now on when you can donate: 1 to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday at the organization’s headquarters, 131 S. Laura. Find more information at bikewalkwichita.org.

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