September 19th was the first and last opportunity for cyclists to check out the new section of freeway connecting Highway 50 to Fairview Drive. The new section of the freeway is not open to cars yet, but NDOT put on a special event that allowed the public to be the first to check it out on bike or on foot. People showed up by the hundreds to take advantage of this big event.
Muscle Powered assisted NDOT by helping out with a free Bicycle Safety Check station. Muscle Powered members and other Carson City cyclists volunteered at the station pumping up tires, adjusting brakes, and tightening bolts from 8:00AM until a little after 11:00AM.
Jeff Potter and I showed up at 7:00AM to help Bill Story and the NDOT crew setup the welcome station at the HWY50 on-ramp. Shortly after, people began trickling in. The runners came first, and Fleet Feet hosted a run for them up the freeway and back. The bikes began showing up around 8:00, and were going non-stop for three hours. I even saw a few wheelchairs and a couple guys on rollerblades.
When we weren’t tuning up bicycles, we got to test ride a variety of bikes. NDOT had two folding bikes with them, the ones they use to inspect bicycle facilities when on the road. I was surprised to learn that these bikes are actually pretty fun to ride! While flex was a little noticeable with all the hinges and connectors, the little 20 inch wheels rolled fast on that new asphalt. One of these little bikes would be great to have stashed away when traveling.
Another exciting bike was the Felt X-City that Denis brought down from the Bike Habitat. The X-City has the comfort and handling of a mountain bike, the speed of a road bike, and the simplicity of a cruiser all in one. Shifting is handled with a Shimano Nexus 8 speed internal hub, so there are no derailleur adjustments to fuss with. 8 speeds are more than enough for getting around the urban flatlands of Carson City, and with the addition of a rack, this bike would make an excellent commuter or city bike.
September 19th was also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. A renegade band of pirates buzzed the welcome station a few times, and finally stopped. I was expecting to be robbed, but was astonished to find instead that even pirates appreciate bike safety. Pirates, like the rest of us, enjoy a properly inflated tire.
Kids were everywhere, excited to be out riding the wide open space. My son was enjoying the fresh asphalt so much, that it beckoned him to see how fast he could go on it. It wasn’t much later that he got his first taste of road rash. Although he said he was done with the festivities after the crash, he still rode a mile back to the house for some bandaging. After a brief rest, he was back out on the bike again in the afternoon! I wish I could bounce back like that still.
After seeing hundreds show up to ride the freeway, I had to ask myself, “Do people really get this excited over freshly laid asphalt and concrete?” I don’t think so. I think the real reason is that the people of Carson City are yearning for a safe place to ride and spend time with their families. There are very few places in Carson City that provide extended rides without the threat of traffic. The freeway provided a temporary sanctuary that allowed families to relax and just enjoy the ride. Thankfully though, the new bike route that will connect Governors Field to the Silver Saddle Ranch will be open soon, and will provide a nice family route with very little traffic interaction. Look for the grand opening soon!
For more on this story, please check out the Nevada Appeal website HERE.