The hundreds of bicyclists who rolled through Riverfest on Saturday in an attempt to break a world record won’t know officially for a few weeks whether they achieved their single-file goal.
But they had a good time trying.
They were participating in an event designed by the festival to promote bicycling and to get Wichita to set a Guinness World Record. The goal: Get 1,200 bikers to ride in a single-file continuous line, starting at the WaterWalk, heading west on Waterman, to McLean, north to Douglas, east to Main, then back to where they started at the WaterWalk. The current continuous bike train record stands at 1,148 cyclists.
Though anecdotal evidence suggests that numbers on Saturday might have been a bit short of the goal, festival officials say they won’t know until Sunday or Monday how many people participated. They plan to count the number of signed waivers they collected from participants. If it looks like they did get enough people after all, it’ll take Guinness several weeks to verify that the record was broken, said Ann Keefer, the festival’s vice president of programming.
Around 12:30 p.m., the Hyatt lawn was filling up with bicyclists wanting to be part of the attempt.
The crowd included people of all ages and bicycles of all styles. There were mountain bikes, trail bikes, cruiser bikes, recumbent bikes and bicycles built for two. There were bikes with jumbo tires. Bikes with tiny tires. Bikes with baskets filled with puppy passengers. Parents toting kids in pull-behind contraptions. Training wheels. Ape hanger handlebars. Bikes with honking horns. Bikes with ringing bells.
Many people came with their bicycles already decorated, like one woman who had hers completely covered with artificial flowers. Other people decorated theirs when they arrived, using colorful balloons, ribbons, streamers, pinwheels and flags provided by organizers.
Among them was the Ruud family, including mom Sarah, dad Scott and kids Shal, 6, and Skylin, 3. Skylin had an unusual attached seat in the front of her mother’s bike, a device called a “WeeRide” that Sarah had ordered online. Shal had his own bicycle.
The family, regular bicyclers, had read about the world record attempt and thought it would be a good way to celebrate Shal’s recent kindergarten graduation.
“It’s something just for fun,” Sarah said. “We thought it’d be fun for Shal to be able to say he had been a part of it.”
The cyclists started lining up around 1 p.m., and once the police escort arrived at 1:15 p.m., they started to roll. Somehow, with very little direction, the large group of strangers managed to self-organize into a single-file line.
The first biker to take off arrived back at the starting line in 11 minutes; the end of the line hadn’t even departed yet. It took 15 minutes for everyone to get going.
“Take another lap,” a festival employee shouted to the first finishers. “We have to have everyone rolling at the same time.”
Only 25 minutes after it started, the event was over. Participants regathered on the Hyatt lawn to compare bicycles, trade tips and speculate about the world record chances.
Even if it doesn’t happen, the event achieved one of its goals, Keefer said: promoting bicycling in Wichita.
“Wichita is becoming more keen to the idea of sharing the road,” she said. “This makes a really big statement.”