The Wichita River Festival is making a concerted effort to get people to ride bikes to the festival this year by offering free valet parking for bicycles and two themed tours of downtown for riders. People can also join in or just watch fast-paced bicycle races that will include injured Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
“Quite honestly, the festival is more appealing to bicyclists,” Ann Keefer of Wichita Festivals said. “We’re in a concentrated area. The more bicyclists we can get moving around the better, and we wanted to make it convenient.”
The new Bike Valet will give people a safe place to leave their bicycles while attending the festival. It will be south of the food court and behind the public library. The free service will be staffed by volunteers from Bike Walk Wichita (formerly the Bike/Walk Alliance); donations also will be accepted.
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Hours for the service will be 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. both Saturdays and on Sunday.
When a person leaves his or her bicycle, he or she will get a number that will correspond to a number attached to the bicycle. Bike Walk Wichita will be handing out free bicycle maps and will answer any questions about biking in Wichita.
“We have 60 miles of bike trails people don’t know a whole lot about,” Barry Carroll of Bike Walk Wichita said.
Carroll said the group tells riders to be consistent and follow the laws for bicycling, including not riding on sidewalks in the downtown business area.
“We encourage people to have lights on both the front and rear of the bicycle,” he said; some riders put blinking lights on their helmets as well. He also advises riding on wide side streets and wearing bright-colored clothing.
I Bike Douglas tours
Bicycle riders can take part in two themed tours through downtown on their bikes from 10 to 11 a.m. Sunday and June 8. Each tour will have a theme: photography on Sunday (bring your camera) and public art on June 8. The tours are free with a Riverfest button; riders should meet at the site of the Bike Valet, south of the food court behind the library.
Criterium Bike Races will be Saturday and Sunday, with several categories of male and female racers doing numerous laps around courses that are a little more than a mile long, the races lasting 20 to 75 minutes. Speeds can approach 40 mph in the fastest races.
“Hopefully a large percentage of good Kansas racers” will be taking part, organizer Ron Wade said, because there aren’t that many races of this type in this area. The Wichita events also are unusual because they include categories for the disabled who do adaptive racing, pedaling with their hands. Wade said 15 of the 35 or so people who are signed up for adaptive racing are Iraq or Afghanistan war veterans. “It’s my way to give back and say thanks to our veterans,” Wade said.
Saturday’s races kick off at noon near 1208 W. 11th St. in Oak Park in Riverside and will cover a 1.1-mile lap. Sunday’s races start at 9 a.m. at 255 W. First St. downtown and will cover a 1.2-mile lap that will sweep along the east side of the Arkansas River.
There will be about 10 minutes between races, and spectators must stay on the curbs because of the high speeds, Wade said. The fastest races come at the end of the day: men’s Category 1, 2 and 3 races starting at 5:25 p.m. Saturday and at 2:45 p.m. Sunday. Races for adaptive cyclists will be at 12:50 p.m. Saturday and 10:25 a.m. Sunday.
On Sunday, children can take part in riding a short race for free at 12:30 p.m. Ages 3 to 7 will ride between Waco and Water, and ages 7 to 12 will do an entire lap. Parents should arrive a little early to sign the required waiver for a child. Helmets are required.
Fliers for the races, including times for each category, can be found online at www.usacycling.org/events/?state=KS.