The city of Henderson envisions itself becoming a nationally recognized bicycle community, the type that lures tourist dollars as a destination.
While at its core the city’s Bike Henderson project is focused on events — such as today’s city-sponsored Bike Swap &Ride — to draw bike enthusiasts and novices from around the valley, the city’s long-term vision is on a grander scale.
“There is a great potential for tourism,” said Scott Jarvis, the city’s bicycle program manager. “Right now adventure tourism is booming. People want to go somewhere and they want to have healthy, fun alternatives. That’s the draw to cycling, anyone can do it.”
Henderson has allocated $200,000 this year to promote Bike Henderson, giving the initiative a prominent spot on the city’s website homepage to promote various events, such as the Bike Swap &Ride, which runs from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. today at Cornerstone Park, 1600 Wigwam Parkway. An estimated 2,500 people attended the event last year, pushing the city to increase the number of vendors this year.
The city has various other bicycle-centered activities planned, including a series of events during National Bike Month in May.
Two years ago, around the time bike enthusiast and new City Manager Jacob Snow arrived in Henderson from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, the city launched Bike Henderson and began pursuing its certification from the League of American Bicyclists, an organization that rates bicycle friendly cities.
The city sent its application in February. The application looks at five areas that cities need to focus on for bicyclists: education, enforcement, engineering, evaluation and planning.
THE LOVE OF BICYCLING
Jarvis, a project manager in Public Works with the city since 2000, is a bicycle enthusiast who rides his bike to work as often as he drives his car. He is also known to take multi-hour rides on the weekend.
“The days I ride my bike to work, it’s like I’m on vacation,” Jarvis said. “It is the most free feeling you’ve ever had. I’ll come flying down in slacks and a dress shirt, and it’s like I’m a kid playing again.”
Jarvis said he was a natural fit to be the city’s bicycle program manager because he has worked on many of Public Works’ bike projects.
“When we do the roads, we look for opportunities to do bicycle lanes,” said Jarvis, who is the senior engineer involved with the capital improvement program, guiding which projects should be done through various funding sources.
Jarvis said the city has increased its focus on bike trails and lanes the past 15 years as funding became available from different sources. The city has more than 100 miles of striped bike lanes and more than 184 miles of bike trails. Most of the paved trails are striped, and many have a drinking fountain every few miles.
The striped, paved trail locations range from running parallel along major roads such as St. Rose and Wigwam parkways, to scenic corridors such as the Pittman Wash Trail that cuts through the Green Valley community. Another popular bicycle trail is the Amargosa Trail that connects the foothills of the McCullough Range to Paseo Verde Park and the Henderson Multigenerational Center.
The most popular route, which only partially cuts through the city, is the River Mountain Loop Trail that takes riders to Boulder City, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Hoover Dam.
Part of Bike Henderson’s mission, according to Jarvis, is to make all of “our citizens to be aware of the infrastructure we have, all the opportunities so they’ll go out and try them.”
Much of the funding for Henderson’s bike trails has come from the Bureau of Land Management’s Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, according to Jarvis. The city also worked with developers to encourage them to build bike paths as part of their master plans.
“We have been very lucky over the years in the trails we’ve been selected on for grants,” Jarvis said. “That is why, today, our system in Henderson is so well interconnected because we have been proactive as a city for 15 years now of filling in the gaps.”
YEARS OF PLANNING
Scott Segmiller, who has lived in Henderson since 1981 and is part of a seven-member Bicycle Advisory Committee appointed by the City Council, said the city began focusing on the bike infrastructure decades ago.
“The thing Henderson has done extremely well is create the bike trails, the bike lanes,” Segmiller said. “The commitment to cycling in Henderson is the best in the valley. They’ve spent the money.”
Committee Chairman Richard Wimmer said the primary reason he moved to Henderson 15 years ago was the city’s plans for cycling trails and bike lanes, which has led to “connectivity” of the bicycle routes through the city as Henderson has grown.
“It was clear to me that if you were going be a cyclist Henderson was going to be the best place to live,” Wimmer said. “I certainly wasn’t wrong. The bicycle network is just excellent in Henderson.”
The Bicycle Advisory Committee’s first monthly meeting was Jan. 23, 2013. The citizen committee gives input on city bike projects, and gives feedback on issues members see or hear about from the bike community.
Their early focus was assisting in preparing the city’s application to the league. The application is a snapshot of Henderson’s efforts to provide safe accommodation and facilities for bicyclists, and encouraging residents to bike for transportation and recreation and provide education to cyclists and noncyclists on safety and laws.
In October, the league recognized 291 communities in 48 states as bicycle-friendly with Boulder and Fort Collins, Colo., Davis, Calif., and Portland, Ore., earning platinum status. The Reno-Sparks community was recognized at the bronze level.
The city’s citizen bicycle advisory committee has been busy with other projects beyond the league application. Wimmer said submitting the application to be recognized as a bike friendly community is only the beginning for the committee.
The committee has laid out areas of focus to help improve the bicycle culture in Henderson, he said.
“We’ve got a new set of goals that amounts to just doing those things necessary that will make Henderson even a better place for bicycles,” Wimmer said. “We’ve taken a great first step but we’ve got ambitious plans to keep refining the culture and making it better.”
Segmiller said the group helped Public Works with the redesign of the intersection of Horizon Ridge Parkway, Horizon Drive and U.S. Highway 95, finding ways to accommodate bikes. The City Council is set to approve a $2.6 million budget for the project Tuesday.
While recognition from the league is a goal for the city and bike community, Bike Henderson is still, at its core, about education and cultivating riders of all ages.
“Everything we do in Henderson is family oriented,” Jarvis said. “We do not want to create an event that is only interesting to one small segment of our demographics.”
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at email@example.com or 702-477-3882. Follow him on Twitter @KnightlyGrind.