Is Sheridan the following thriving bike metropolis? | Open air
It’s no secret that the people of Sheridan love to ride bikes. If you drive around town or head to Kendrick Park on a fine day, you’re guaranteed to see at least 10 people riding bikes. Go to Big Goose, Soldier Creek, or Beaver Creek and you will likely see a few more. We also have beginners and more serious drivers. As the Dead Swede Bike Race approaches, you will hear everyone in town ask, “What distance will you cover?”
The US is currently experiencing a bicycle boom and everyone between the ages of two and 80 seems to own a bicycle. However, does Sheridan have the potential to be the next thriving bike city? Could Sheridan have bike paths through the city like Portland, Oregon or Missoula, Montana? Could Sheridan have bike paths like Bentonville, Arkansas or Sedona, Arizona? Could Sheridan have a bike park in the city like Austin, Texas or Seattle, Washington? What about a downhill bike park in Antelope Butte, similar to Big Sky in Montana or Angel Fire in New Mexico?
There is potential for a thriving cycling community in every city in America. A flourishing bike community not only improves the quality of life for cyclists, but also offers numerous community benefits. Similar to a ball field, swimming pool or other recreational facility, bike paths and bike parks are an asset to the community.
“They create jobs, promote healthy lives, take children outside, increase property values, reduce crime, create connectivity for hiking trails and turn unused lots into valuable community hubs,” said the International Mountain Biking Association.
There’s a reason cycling infrastructure is being built across the country. Bike lanes and bike parks have a positive impact on the local bike community as well as the local economy. In Oakridge, Oregon, mountain bike tourism generates up to $ 5 million in direct spending annually, according to a 2014 study. 15 new stores have opened in Crosby, Minnesota since 2011, when 25 miles of bike paths were built. Many cities are building mountain bike parks and hiking trails to not only diversify their economies, but also to attract and retain a young and skilled workforce by improving the quality of life. Young people flock to small towns across the country with cafes, breweries, and accessible outdoor opportunities like mountain bike trails.
Last spring, the Sheridan Community Land Trust hosted two discovery sessions on mountain biking on the Hidden Hoot Trail. After realizing the success and potential of the SCLT Discovery Sessions, the Antelope Butte Foundation partnered with SCLT and the Sheridan Bicycle Company to host four more mountain bike discovery sessions on the Hidden Hoot Trail and Red Grade Trails.
Around 175 participants took part in the six meetings. Despite the wide range of skills, each individual learned something new and improved their skills on a bike. Sheridan’s residents are looking for ways to ride more bikes and improve their skills.
The Sheridan community has a demand for more bike tours, races, clinics and events. The Sheridan Bicycle Company also recently hosted a women’s bicycle maintenance clinic with nearly 40 women present. The excitement and interest in the clinic was overwhelming. Participants learned how to take care of their bikes, how to eat properly and how to dress, and how to fix a flat tire with hands-on exercises.
After the first clinic, further events on other topics were requested.
Many Sheridans of all ages and abilities are interested in cycling. The Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health Care System invests in bicycle programming. Sheridan College provides bicycles that can be rented to students. Antelope Butte develops a curriculum for youth bicycles. Over 500 participants registered for the Dead Swede Bike Race in just one week. The bike community in Sheridan is gaining momentum.
Over the past five years, the Sheridan Bicycle Company has sold more and more bicycles. More people ride bicycles in Sheridan today than ever before. There is no doubt that there is a growing need and support in Sheridan County for accessible cycling opportunities that cover a wide range of user abilities. Residents are looking for bicycle infrastructures like parks and trail networks that don’t require a motorized vehicle to access.
The city of Sheridan has created a great network of walking and biking trails through the city, and SCLT has done a great job building bike lanes for the community. We’re fortunate to have Hidden Hoot Trail and Red Grade Trails, not to mention the Kicking Horse Trail and Link Trail opening soon. SCLT has just received funding for an additional 15 miles of trail on Red Grade.
The construction of hiking trails is vital to the cultivation of outdoor living in Sheridan. But there is more we can do to expand the bike community. We can continue to host bike clinics to help teens and beginners improve their skills, and we can continue to develop and implement bike programs that educate the public about the rules of road and trail riding etiquette.
In addition, we can invest in more than just trails. We could build an accessible bike park. Bicycle parks offer a car-free space for every taste. Unlike bike lanes, bike parks can have areas that welcome kids and beginners, as well as areas that include jumps and other features that may not be suitable on multi-purpose trails.
At this rate, Sheridan could be the next thriving cycling city if we can continue to expand our cycling community, infrastructure and programs.
Nikki Ulug is Development Coordinator at the Antelope Butte Foundation.