2012 RAGBRAI route announced

On Saturday night the Des Moines Register announced the major stops on the 2012 Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). The 471-mile ride will start in Sioux Center on July 21 and end in Clinton on July 28.

Overnight stops are after the jump, along with findings from a new study on the economic impacts of recreational bicycling for Iowa.

The official RAGBRAI site includes details about the ride, which looks like a relatively easy route:

The event’s theme this year is “Celebrating 40 Years of Iowa,” and its less-intensive route should afford space to pause and reflect: The route is the 18th-shortest in RABRAI history and the 11th-flattest. Only eight routes since the ride’s 1973 inception have been easier.

RAGBRAI riders will start in Sioux Center (Sioux County) on July 21.

July 22: 54.4 miles with 1,583 feet of climb to the next overnight stop in Cherokee (Cherokee County).

July 23: 62 miles with 2,062 feet of climb to Lake View (Sac County).

July 24: 81.2 miles with 1,724 feet of climb to Webster City (Hamilton County).

July 25: 77.1 miles with 2,018 feet of climb to Marshalltown (Marshall County).

July 26: 84.8 miles with 3,576 feet of climb to Cedar Rapids (Linn County).

July 27: 42.2 miles with 2,272 feet of climb to Anamosa (Jones County).

July 28: 69.4 miles with 2,890 feet of climb to Clinton (Clinton County).

As a politics geek, I couldn’t help noticing that this route goes through a bunch of competitive Iowa House and Senate districts:

House district 48 (Webster City)

Senate district 36 (Marshalltown)

Senate district 38 (en route between Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids)

House district 66, House district 68, and Senate district 34 (Cedar Rapids)

House district 96 and Senate district 48 (Anamosa)

Senate district 49 (Clinton)

I wonder how many candidates will ride this year. Lots of current state legislators have done parts of RAGBRAI in the past. State Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City has completed the ride several times.

Getting ready to host RAGBRAI can be a huge organizational task, but businesses along the route tend to benefit from the thousands of tourists on wheels. According to the Des Moines Register, “an economic study from the University of Northern Iowa two years ago found the [RAGBRAI] festival brings $24 million in new spending to Iowa, or $3 million for each hosting town.”

This week the Iowa Bicycle Coalition posted findings from a study on the “Economic and Health Benefits of Bicycling” in Iowa, conducted by the University of Northern Iowa’s Sustainable Tourism and Environment Program.

The project was sponsored by a grant from Bikes Belong, Creating Great Places, and members of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.  Research tools were created to survey Iowa bicyclists, bikes shops, and bike clubs.  

The study cites the economic impact of recreational cyclists’ spending to generate $364.8 million in direct and indirect impacts to the State of Iowa. This is equivalent to $1 million per day spent for cycling.

“The return on investment was much larger than expected.  We know that communities recognize the impact that an event like RAGBRAI has on the local economy.   But what about the rest of the year when cyclists aren’t concentrated on one route?” said Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.  

In addition to being an economic generator, bicycling can curb health care costs. Iowans need more physical activity.  The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 29.3% of Iowans do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity.  The Centers for Disease Control report 67.2% of Iowan adults were overweight or obese.  Being sedentary and overweight leads to health problems increasing health care costs.

Bicycling can be part of the solution to Iowa’s health issues.  The study estimates that bicycling saves the State of Iowa $73.9 million in healthcare costs for those who cycle recreationally. Another $13,266,020 in health care costs is saved by those who commute to work.

“More opportunities for Iowans to bicycle will help Iowa become the healthiest state,” says Wyatt, referring to the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa number one in health and wellness.  “We know a lot of Iowans have bicycles, but may not have ridden them in some time.  We need to find ways to encourage more bicycle riding.” Trails are an investment in which 41% of Iowans use for physical fitness and 51% of the population is interested in using trails according to the 2006 Iowa Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

Encouraging bicycling means continued investment in bicycle infrastructure like trails.  The study indicates 66.5% of respondents would bicycle more often if there were more or better bicycle facilities.  “Bike lanes, trails, cycle tracks, and other treatments make bicycling more convenient than driving.” states Wyatt.  “The bicycle facility workshop at the Iowa Bicycle Summit shows how cities can integrate bicycle facilities into their community infrastructure.”  

Small investments are made each year through the Iowa Recreational Trails Fund administered by the Iowa Department of Transportation through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.  In 2011 the legislature invested $3 million for trails. $2.5 million is in the budget for 2012. Efforts are underway to see the fund raised to $3 million or more.  “This study indicates there is a solid return on investment through trails with more than $21 million being returned to the state in the form of sales tax.  This study doesn’t include out of state tourism dollars and the potential in recreation tourism.  As demonstrated during the Iowa Bicycle Summit, there is more we can in addition to trails to encourage more bicycling in Iowa.”  

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf file).

Research in other countries and across the U.S. suggests that addressing women’s concerns is critical to getting more people to use bicycles for transportation:

“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’-just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ¬≠rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

“Despite our hope that gender roles don’t exist, they still do,” says Jennifer Dill, a transportation and planning researcher at Portland State University. Addressing women’s concerns about safety and utility “will go a long way” toward increasing the number of people on two wheels, Dill explains.

So far few cities have taken on the challenge. In the U.S., most cycling facilities consist of on-street bike lanes, which require riding in vehicle-clogged traffic, notes John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and longtime bike scholar. And when cities do install traffic-protected off-street bike paths, they are almost always along rivers and parks rather than along routes leading “to the supermarket, the school, the day care center,” Pucher says.

Although researchers have long examined the bike infrastructure in Europe, they have only just started to do so for the U.S. In a study conducted last year, Dill examined the effect of different types of bike facilities on cycling. The project, which used GPS positioning to record individual cycling trips in Portland, compared the shortest route with the path cyclists actually took to their destination. Women were less likely than men to try on-street bike lanes and more likely to go out of their way to use “bike boulevards,” quiet residential streets with special traffic-calming features for bicycles. “Women diverted from the shortest routes more often,” Dill says.

I will often ride an extra mile or two to avoid busy streets. When riding to or from the downtown Des Moines area, I usually prefer a bike trail or a quiet street like Kingman to the bike lane on Ingersoll.

Any comments about RAGBRAI or bicycling are welcome in this thread.

  • Des Moines

    was rumored to be on the route this year as this is the 40th anniversary. They picked 2nd City instead. Hmm. I’m ambivalent about this route.

    RAGBRAI is ok. I don’t feel it’s a yearly must, but that’s because I literally bike all the time and do a lot of distance riding. Plus, all the drinking/drunks gets old, fast.

    Only about 1/3 of the riders are Real Iowans and mostly from places like DSM/Iowa City/Marion, although not exclusively. I imagine politicians “cheat” a bit and spend more of their time in the towns of interest … to them. I am more interested in blog users that have ridden or will ride now/future than politicians.

    The ability to make money along a bike route, like anything else, is location-sensitive. Often “trail towns” are skeptical during initial planning/outreach about prospects, but I’ve yet to visit a town that regrets the (operational) trail nearby.

    Biggest problem for Iowa in attracting out-of-state $$ is that it’s not currently “on route” for distance cycling. There’s a connection network of sorts planned for IA-NE-MO.

    The gender gap is narrowing a bit. I’m told that on longer trails by monitors that more women are biking alone. Most of the women I know who bike in urban areas/east coast are warriors. I suspect this is the case more for those who ride bikes as a way of life rather than the lose-weight types.

  • coupla thoughts

    I was at the announcement gig last night at Vets. (The new facility is beautiful, BTW, IMHO.)

    I could be mistaken, but generally, my impression is that The Register tries to alternate between a northern route and a southern route, and this year it was the north’s turn.

    I observed same to one veteran rider sitting at our table and hisreply was “I hope not. The hog lots stink more up there.”

    I didn’t think much about it at the time, but upon reflection, it’s probably true, and a sad commentary on our state that hog lot odors are top of mind.

    I’ve been on the whole thing in the past, back in the day, it was a lot of fun.  A coupla years ago, when RAG came through Central Iowa, I took a spur-of-the-moment day off and rode the day, figuring I’d hook up with someone I knew. Didn’t know a single person and most everyone I spoke to was from out-of-state or even out of the country. Also, I hadn’t been on it for a while, and was taken aback about how commercial it has become.  You could see it coming, I guess, and it is not surprising, but it sure takes some of the Iowa charm out of the ride.

    Don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer about it. Have a lot of great memories from my rides. It is a great thing for Iowa and a lot of fun. But I’ll probably skip it this year, and I will cheer the riders on from afar. We have some fantastic trails in Central Iowa.

    • for a while

      tries to alternate

      they were hugging I-80 year after year, and people got tired of it.

      it’s probably true,

      NW IA

      how commercial

      I don’t go back far enough to make a comparison, but yes, I agree.

      We have some fantastic trails in Central Iowa

      I am a big booster of all things IA, but despite the “trail capital of the world” moniker, I think Iowa is just “ok” on trails. Also need longer ones — some are in the works now, though.

      • agree

        “Trail capital of the world” is stretching it. Things are improving, and I think the success of the High Trestle trail will encourage more trail development in other areas.

        We need more local politicians to focus on making streets more bike-friendly. In the Des Moines area, for instance, there are lots of good east/west options but few bike-friendly streets running north/south.

    • I met someone last year

      who did the first dozen or so RAGBRAIs–raved about the experience. He still rides his bike a lot, but has only done one RAGBRAI in the last 10 or 15 years. Didn’t enjoy the atmosphere. But so many things are more commercial now than they were in the 70s and 80s.  

  • I'm from Out of State!

    Hey folks, I troll here often because of my love for Iowa, politics, and RAGBRAI.  I’m from North Carolina and this will be my 5th RAGBRAI; my college roommate is from Mason City originally and he got me involved.  We’ve expanded to a team of 15 from all over – and yes, its about half women!  

    I hear what y’all are saying about the commercialism.  I try to really get into the towns and the tourist-y aspects of the ride.  I think I appreciate it more than another of my Iowa friends on the ride.  He just wants to ride and drink and could care less about the church suppers (which I flock to).

    I look forward to the ride every year!  You’ve got a beautiful state and awesome people.  Also, thanks for this blog – I love reading the legislative race details you post.  If anybody else is riding this year, let me know, and we’ll meet up.  I’ll probably  be the nerd taking pictures of Democratic signs I see while riding!

    • post your nerdy political sign pictures

      here! I would love to see a RAGBRAI photo diary.

      • I'll definitely round up some old ones

        I rode in 07, skipped 08 (I was a delegate to DNC – “had” to use my vacation time for that!), then back 09-11.  So, I have some political pics going back til then.

        • North Carolina ride out?

          AppHawk: Per chance are you currently living in North Carolina currently? I’m a northwest Iowan living out here in North Carolina, wanting to do Ragbrai again and looking for a fellow commuter to Iowa for Ragbrai.

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