UI professor works to make Iowa roads safer for cyclists


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Despite Iowa’s unique and treasured tradition of cycling across the state each summer during RAGBRAI, deaths of everyday cyclists are on the rise. (Channone Arif/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | May 26, 2017

Bicyclist deaths in the state of Iowa have risen by 260 percent in the last four years, and Dr. Cara Hamann of the University of Iowa is working to do something about it.

Hamann, an associate professor of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health, has done extensive research on bicycle safety. Now she aims to bring her work to the attention of lawmakers.

“I am working to close the gap between research and policy,” she said in an interview with the Big Ten Network. Hamann and her research team have explored the relationship between motor vehicle driving behavior and bicycle crashes in both simulated and naturalistic settings. She explained, “We have conducted studies of how drivers interact with bicyclists using the National Advanced Driving Simulator (located here on the UI campus) and have also conducted real-world naturalistic bicycling studies, using GPS and video to capture first-hand data on bicyclist trips.”

National trends match those observed in Iowa. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in bicycle crashes according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most fatal bike crashes, Hamann explained, happen when cars strike bicyclists. To explain motor vehicles’ particular lethality, some researchers point to the fact that an estimated 660,000 U.S. drivers use their cell phones while driving during daylight hours.

Hamann said, “We have also found that bicycle-specific infrastructure (e.g., bicycle lanes) have protective effects, which supports the need for more appropriations and implementation of those types of roadway treatments to reduce crashes and related injuries.”

Over its lifespan, the average motor vehicle emits 1.3 billion cubic yards of polluted air, including earth-warming greenhouse gases. In contrast, bicycles do not produce any emissions during use. Additionally, when more people are on bikes, traffic congestion is reduced and cars spend less time idling. Bike friendly communities are also generally healthier than those that center entirely around motor vehicles.

Hamann said, “Reduced bicycle crashes and associated injuries can have huge benefits to communities—the same things that are associated with increased biking and walking, in general—better overall health of the community due to increased physical activity, less traffic congestion, and environmental benefits, to name a few.”

Cooler temps offer needed relief for RAGBRAI bikers


Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)
Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)

After enduring two days of high temperatures and gusting winds, RAGBRAI cyclists will get a much-needed reprieve from the heat during Wednesday’s leg of the ride.

Today’s RAGBRAI route takes bikers from Forest City to Mason City, a distance of 38.5 miles. Conditions in both cities are dry and mild, with comfortable temperatures and low wind. Cyclists were greeted in Forest City yesterday by above-average temperatures and wind gusts at up to 30 miles per hour. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for western Iowa Monday and Tuesday which was lifted Tuesday night.

With average summer temperatures in Iowa expected to increase over the next few decades, RAGBRAI will become even more challenging for bikers who make the trek across the state. Extreme heat combined with exercise can cause elevated heart rate, and increased sweating can lead to dehydration and electrolyte depletion, putting even more strain on the heart. A respected cyclist suffered a fatal heart attack during Monday’s RAGBRAI route, the first cyclist to die during RAGBRAI since 2010.

Iowa City Bike Library searches for new home


Photo by ruimc77; Flickr
Photo by ruimc77; Flickr

The Iowa City Bike Library, a popular community resource, is currently on the lookout for a new location. Their current location at 408 E. College Street will be repurposed by the city before the end of the year.

The nonprofit, volunteer-run organization is seeking an affordable site near the heart of downtown Iowa City in order to serve the most people.

The IC Bike Library offers a range of services including bike rentals, education about bike repair, and bike recycling.

 

UI to host bike commuter challenge in April


Photo by twbuckner, Flickr.
Photo by twbuckner, Flickr.

As part of Earth Month, the University of Iowa is hosting  a commuter bike challenge throughout April.

Departments at UI can create teams of cyclists who will report the distance they commuted and the number of trips made each week.

The winning department will receive a trophy.

To find out more about this challenge, click here.

UI receives honorable mention from Bicycle Friendly University program


Photo by 350.org, Flickr.

The University of Iowa has received an honorable mention from the Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program.

BFU judges schools based on how they promote bicycling through engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning. Bronze, silver, gold and platinum awards are given out to the colleges and universities who receive high scores in each of the five categories.

In the upcoming year, the University of Iowa hopes to improve their designation by offering a bike repair course and training instructors to teach bicycle safety and skills, developing a plan for bike repair stations on campus, forming a bike advocacy student group and by increasing education about bike resources.

Read more here.

Iowa City musicians advocate for the environment during RAGBRAI


Photo by channone, Flickr.

A pair of Iowa City musicians used RAGBRAI to help promote environmental advocacy.

Elliott Beenk and Griffen Harris make up the “indie-beach-blues” band Chasing Shade. Harris is a University of Iowa graduate, and Beenk is going into his senior year at UI.

They rode RAGBRAI with all of their music equipment attached to their bikes using custom-built trailers. These trailers included portable solar panels, which collected energy to power the musicians’ performances during the ride.

Read more Beenk and Harris’ experience here.

Iowa Geological & Water Survey analyzes RAGBRAI route in brochures and podcasts


RAGBRAI riders in Orange City. Photo by mrsdkrebs, Flickr.

The Iowa Geological & Water Survey website has released a series of brochures and podcasts detailing the nature RAGBRAI riders are traversing this week.

The podcasts contain interviews with multiple geologists and other environmental experts. The brochures focus mainly on the geology of each day’s route.

Both the brochures and the podcasts are available here.

Environmental focus on RAGBRAI’s hosts: Sioux Center


Photo by dwcouch, Flickr,

Over the summer we will highlight the environmental efforts of RAGBRAI’s host communities.

The seven-day bike ride across Iowa begins in Sioux Center on July 21st. Sioux Center has implemented a series of initiatives in recent years to better the city’s environment.

Since 2009, Sioux Center has hosted an annual E-Cycle Event focusing on the proper disposal of recyclable electronics. This past year, 27,334 lbs of electronics were recycled.

Sioux Center is also active in addressing energy concerns. The city offers discounted home energy audits to limit energy waste and lower energy bills. Sioux Center also offers a wind energy option for homes through their RiverWinds program.

Learn more about Sioux Center from the city’s website here.

New trail will connect Cedar River Trail to Marion


Photo by sgt fun, Flickr.

The Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization is committing $2.5 million in 2016 to connect Cedar Rapids’ Cedar River Trail to Marion.

The connecting segment will be 2.8-miles long. Overall, the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization is using 80 percent of its 2016 funds on trails and bike lanes.

There is also a need to repair some parts of the current Cedar River Trail. These repairs would require an additional $1.3 million.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Johnson County group promotes youth cycling


Photo by ttcopley, Flickr

A group in Johnson County is working to promote youth cycling.

The Youth Off-Road Riders Cycling Club first organized in March. There are currently 11 members and three trainers.

The members have a wide range in experience. Some have completed RAGBRAI while others are just learning how to bike.

Among the groups goals are to “foster a responsible attitude toward the use of roadways, trails, and the wilderness”, and to promote cycling as a means of transportation.

Read more about the group from the Press-Citizen here.