Wichita roads friendlier to bicyclists

A bicyclist makes his way down one of the bike lanes on Second Street in downtown Wichita.
A bicyclist makes his way down one of the bike lanes on Second Street in downtown Wichita. File photo

Maybe you’ve noticed the increase in bike paths or the new bike lanes downtown. Or maybe instead of warming up your car in the morning, you’ve decided to snap on your helmet and hit the streets.

In the past five years, Wichita roads have become much friendlier to those who prefer two wheels over four.

“I’ve definitely noticed more cyclists,” says Tyler Pendergraft, a longtime Wichita cyclist. “More people are riding to work.”

Pendergraft used to ride his bike to work near Douglas and Webb Road each day from College Hill. Since he started working from home, he now just rides for fun with his wife and daughter. He says he has seen significant changes in the bicycle culture in town.

“We ride around College Hill for coffee, to Ziggy’s or Dempsey’s for dinner, and with no challenges anymore,” Pendergraft says.

Scott Wadle, senior planner for the city manager, says the focus on making Wichita more bike-friendly began in February 2013, when the Wichita City Council endorsed the Wichita Bicycle Master Plan.

The plan serves as a 10-year guide for the development and implementation of bicycle programs and projects in Wichita. It was created with input from more than 4,000 people through surveys, committees and community events.

Major goals of the plan have included creating a bicycle advisory board, increasing the amount of bicycling in the city, improving safety, adding bike paths and connections, fostering a bicycle-friendly culture and eventually earning Bicycle Friendly Community status.

Bicycle report card

Since 2013, bicycle-friendly improvements have been noticeable around the city, with about 37 miles of bike paths added, new bike lanes, events such as the Tour de Cure and PedalFest, increased awareness from organizations such as Bike Walk Wichita, and Together Wichita’s recent project to establish wayfinding signs.

Wichita earned honorable mention on the most recent report card from the Bicycle Friendly Community program with hopes of achieving the Bronze level next.

Wadle says achieving Bicycle Friendly status is significant because it would implement something residents have said is important to them. It also serves as an important tool in attracting and retaining young professionals.

An increase in bicycling helps Wichitans save money and provides more opportunities to those whose only mode of transportation may be biking. Wadle also says it makes a city healthier.

More path connections

Jeanne Forbes, a cyclist for more than 30 years and a member of the Oz Bicycle Club, says more path connections have been a convenience and essential safety measure for her.

“Back in the old days, the trails weren’t connected,” Forbes says.

Forbes often frequents Redbud Trail and the Prairie Sunset Trail on the west side. On a recent warm day, she was able to travel from southeast Wichita, where she lives, to Sedgwick County Park in the northwest corner of the city to meet her granddaughter.

“Except for going on Edgemoor to get up to the bike lane on Second, I went all the way up to Sedgwick County Park without really being on the street very much,” Forbes says. “That wouldn’t have happened not too long ago.”

Forbes has been most pleased with how the public has been involved with the projects and improvements, and she looks forward to an even more cyclist-friendly Wichita in the future.

“Wichita did it the right way,” Forbes says. “They had community input and asked bikers what they were interested in, and that really helped.”