Las Vegas is the current home to the Interbike trade show, but despite this fact sin city doesn’t easily conjure images of being an ideal cyclist destination or biker paradise.
Rather, the Las Vegas Strip, known for its casinos, along with the crowded streets of down town, are far from ideal for riders, and yet the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is looking to make the area much more friendlier to those on two wheels.
This includes efforts to establish a network of bike lanes, routes and paths, along with other cycling amenities that could make Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada region as a whole a truly cycling-friendly community. “Southern Nevada boasts some of the best cycling amenities in the southwest,” Jacob Snow, RTC general manager told BikeRadar in a prepared statement. “With more than 80 miles of bicycle routes, 180 miles of bicycle lanes and 100 miles of bicycle paths located in the Las Vegas Valley, there are a variety of places to cycle for recreation, fitness and to commute by bike.”
Las Vegas' Red Rock bike trail
The RTC plan calls for 735 miles of bicycle lanes, along with 385 more miles of bicycle routes over the next decade. And the project is already in gear. During the 2011 legislative session, the legislature approved SB 248, a bill that requires that if drivers are to pass a cyclist, drivers move into the lane to the left of the cyclist if there is an additional lane, or that they move over to leave at least three feet between their vehicle and the cyclist. The bill has been approved by the governor and will go into effect in October.
But the efforts aren’t stopping there, and one new program is the RTC’s Viva Bike Vegas, a 103-mile century ride that will take place this October. In addition to the century, there will also be 60-mile and 17-mile routes as well, and this year’s ride will actually begin on the world famous Las Vegas Strip. Proceeds from RTC Viva Bike Vegas 2011 will benefit three local charities: Nevada Cancer Institute, After-School All-Stars Las Vegas and Nevada Child Seekers.
“For the first time ever cyclists, from all over the world will have the opportunity to participate in an organized ride down the Las Vegas Strip through the vistas of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and the scenic trails near Lake Mead National Park,” said Snow. “This will be one ride that you don’t want to miss because you get to ride through the city’s famous bright lights and stunning resorts onto the vistas and scenic trails truly experiencing the best of what Las Vegas has to offer," said Snow.
Investing in amenities for cyclist
The RTC is also looking to become an easier place for locals to commute, and earlier this year, recently opened its first Bike Center, located inside the Bonneville Transit Center. The RTC Bike Center is an indoor, staffed facility where cyclists can store their bikes while at work and access showers and lockers.
The Bike Center, which is open daily from 5am to 9pm, also features an on-site bicycle mechanic and cyclists can purchase bikes and accessories at the shop. There is annual membership cost of $20, which allows riders to store their bike and have access to shows. Currently more than three-dozen riders have signed up. “The new bike center is just one of many improvements that are making it safer to bike and to walk in Downtown Las Vegas,” said Snow.
On street bike lanes are infiltrating Las Vegas' downtown
Downtown Las Vegas is also becoming more hospitable to riders, as the City of Las Vegas continues its own efforts to be active in enhancing amenities for riders. RTC is working directly with the City of Las Vegas to install bike lanes in Downtown Las Vegas, which will run along Third, Sixth and Garces streets.
Snow notes there have been many recent improvements. "The RTC and the City of Las Vegas are also investing in bike lanes, sidewalk and landscape improvements and enhanced lighting in Downtown.”
Additionally, all of the RTC’s buses are being equipped with at least two bike racks; while even newer vehicles have three racks. Plus, the newly installed Streetcar vehicles feature bike racks that are inside the vehicle, and according to RTC officials these carry more than 50,000 bikes each month. “These amenities will make it even more convenient to bike, walk and to access transit service to the different attractions, restaurants, shop and galleries in Downtown Las Vegas,” added Snow.
RTC is also working to make it easier for city employees to take advantage of these new improvements, and recently launched an electric bike program to help employees as well as employees at other agencies in the valley utilize bikes rather than pool cars to travel to local meetings. These bikes look and pedal like regular bikes, but have battery packs that help to power them.
Jacob Snow, RTC general manager, (R) at the 2010 Viva Bike Vegas event
The RTC received a grant from the federal government to purchase the bikes, and these have been provided for use to the City of Las Vegas, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Las Vegas Valley Water District, as well as the Clark County Department of Air Quality & Environmental Management.
If the pilot program is proven successful, the RTC may identify other areas in Southern Nevada that may also benefit. “The purpose of the electric bike program is to reduce the number of vehicle trips for relatively short travel distances in the Downtown areas,” said Snow. “Through use of hybrid electric bicycles, we hope to increase bicycle awareness, improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion and promote healthy physical activity amongst our employees.”