Wed, Aug 26, 2009 | by TJ JuskiewiczShare
The RIDE RIGHT Community Award is presented each year to the town that best promoted safety events and improved the safety level for riders in their community during RAGBRAI. Council Bluffs really went all out for visiting cyclists in an effort to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
One of the big attractions in Council Bluffs is the new Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge that spans the Missouri River to Omaha, Nebraska. In keeping with RAGBRAI tradition, the committee wanted riders to have the opportunity to ride the bridge and also safely dip their tires in the Missouri River waters. “We wanted to provide a unique and safe experience for riders to ride the new Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge,” said Larry Foster, Parks and Recreation Director for Council Bluffs and RAGBRAI Executive Committee member. Foster came up with the idea of bringing the water to the bridge instead of having the riders attempt to dip their tires in the waters of the Missouri River. Most of the nearby river banking was extremely steep and dangerous, so a plan was devised by Foster to pump river water up to the bridge.
“It came down to just days before RAGBRAI of figuring out the right pump that would work for this project,” claims Foster. The bridge engineering firm, HNTB, was charged with the role of devising a way to pump the river water to the bridge. “I think it turned out just great!” added Foster.
Police Chief Ralph O’Donnell was a bit concerned when RAGBRAI was first announced to start in Council Bluffs. The chief called on Capt. Scott Milner, Lt. Dan Flores, Sgt. Chad Meyers and Officer Darren Budd to dive into the planning process for RAGBRAI. Sgt. Meyers and Officer Budd put together an action plan that addressed all the safety concerns. Lt. Dan Flores added invaluable insight as an experienced cyclist who had ridden many RAGBRAIs. They also lined up help from several law enforcement agencies such as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Department of Transportation, Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office and Pottawattamie County 911 Center.
Lynn Rollins headed up the Council Bluffs RIDE RIGHT Committee, but he credits the local bicycle clubs and cyclists for the success. “We did several training rides on the actual route from Council Bluffs to Red Oak to have cyclists ride the roads and report on them,” said Rollins. The Bellevue Bike Club, Omaha Pedalers and area cyclists heard about the training rides on Facebook. In early June, the statewide RIDE RIGHT committee held its official inspection ride that was joined by over 30 area cyclists. “I give the Law Enforcement Committee a lot of credit for really taking the time on picking the safest route out of town,” adds Rollins. He claims much debate was had on selecting the safest possible route.
“We are very proud of the efforts of our RIDE RIGHT Committee. They worked very hard to ensure safety as their first priority,” said Council Bluffs Executive Committee member Tricia LeSieur. “Our Law Enforcement Committee worked for months as well to cover every detail – again, to ensure safety first!”
The RIDE RIGHT video showing is a staple of starting town. Charlie Schilling, Director of the Mid-America Center, wanted to make sure the riders would be comfortable during the educational session. Schilling offered the use of the arena and the jumbo screen to show the RIDE RIGHT video on as well as the driver’s safety meeting. So many riders remarked about the wonderful way to host the safety sessions in the arena.
Congratulations to Council Bluffs on making RAGBRAI as safe as it can be!