Friday, October 22, 2010

Neighborhood Bike Ride ponderings

We had 50 people respond to the post-bike ride survey. The overview of the results is here

We had many comments and I wanted to offer a response to some of them. First of all, thanks for all the positive ones! We are glad you had fun and we did, too!

Several people, as they do every year, wonder why we can't do these rides more often. There are a few different reasons. One is that I don't think people grasp how much effort goes into this one ride. It may seem simple to pull off, but it's a lot of work. We have some great volunteers but they have full-time jobs so it would be impossible to ask them to do something every month. Another reason is that we tried having monthly rides for two summers (remember the Knoxville By Cycle series?). It was fun, but a lot of work, and we only had about 30 - 60 people each month. The Bicycle Advisory Committee discussed it, and considering the amount of effort it took to do the series, we decided to concentrate on the two rides that got the most turn-out. So we have the NBR and the Tour de Lights. We love having big events, but we are working on a lot of other programs and projects to make bicycling safer and better in our community, so we need to be sure we leave time and energy to work on those as well. See for more info on our other efforts.

We had a comment or two about the location this year. Someone said we should pick a less busy date so that we could go back to downtown. Maybe they don't realize this, but there is not a less busy option on Saturday anymore! Farmers' Market takes up Market Square and Market Street, which is terrific, but meant we were pushed down to the block between Clinch and Church. In addition to Farmers Market, there were several other downtown events going on that morning because it was an away game weekend. Many people do drive to the ride's start, and it's difficult for them to get themselves, their kids and their bikes/trailers from the parking garages or parking spaces through all the crowds and booths to where we are. We cannot have the ride on a home game weekend because we need KPD support and they are slightly busy on home game days. That's why all the other events happen on away game weekends as well. I really did think that Happy Hollerpalooza would have been more obvious by the time we got back to the start location so that people would have stuck around and joined in the fun. But one reason everyone took off immediately after the ride could have been that they were scheduled for one of the many other activities going on that day!

No one really complained about missing the after-ride pizza, other than wishing for something to get people to stay and socialize. I'll just say that the reasoning behind not having pizza was not wanting to step on toes of the businessnes in the vicinity by offering free lunch instead of urging people to patronize them. That's why we came up with the discount card idea.

Another comment was that we should have an optional longer route. We tried this in the past and it didn't work very well. The main point is that there are many, many bike rides to choose from that are more than 10 - 15 miles long. We were trying to have a ride friendly to casual bicyclists, which is really rare. The point is to have a large group of bicyclists out seeing parts of the city they don't usually see, be together on the roads to send a message to the public that there is support for bicycling, and have fun. If bike clubs want to have a longer ride after ours as an option, they are more than welcome to. When we decided to drop the summer ride series, I invited the clubs to take over, but that hasn't happened. That's a pretty good indication to me that they recognize the amount of effort it takes to make these events happen.

After 10 years, we have done the routes from downtown several times, so one idea for upcoming years would be to start in a different part of the city and be able to see different neighborhoods that we could never reach from downtown. What does everyone think about that?


Randy said...

Those of us who bring kids appreciate the shorter route AND the parking. Thank you for all the hard work. I (we) look forward to seeing more of Knoxville on future rides!

Anonymous said...

We appreciate the hard work that goes into these fun rides, but the starting point left quite a bit to be desired. I saw no evidence of "Happy Hollerpalooza" when the ride finished, so left to head back home. There is a lot more going on downtown. Park people in the garage at the end of Market Mall (near TVA towers) and start the ride between the Mall and the TVA towers! No need to drag people all the way down to Krutch Park. When the ride is over, there's a lot going on down there to keep folks around. Central Ave? Not much happening.

Don said...

The comment regarding an optional longer route was mine. I fully concur with your goal of a large group casual-cyclist friendly ride to see city neighborhoods in a big group and have fun and socialize. There are not many opportunities for that, certainly not in club rides, and I come most years just to see folks you don't normally see on a ride and chat, as well as to see the city neighborhoods.

This year's route, if I recall, was less than 10 miles. My comment was headed more toward the notion that a group ride this short is over before you want it to be, even for casual cyclists. I might suggest either a route toward the longish end of your 10-15 mi range, or the <10 mi route with an optional 15-ish or more route (or vice versa). This would enable those with kids or more limited ability to still ride short if they wanted to. The longer route doesn't have to be fully supported with volunteers and marshalls at intersections, just a route through more of the neighborhoods. You all do a fine job, make it easier on yourselves! Thanks for all the hard work putting these on every year, we do recognize that.

And moving around to different parts of the city sounds like a grand idea to me.

Anonymous said...

i agree with don a little longer would of been great. also more than one time a year would be nice also, i do not get a chance to ride with other people during the week and the fact that i ride a hybrid also limits me to group rides, so rides like your gives me the chance to ride with other people.

kelley said...

For those of you who want a longer ride, you may not have noticed how spread out the group gets. I think we are likely about a mile long from the leaders to the sweep. I was at the back of the group and don't think the folks in the back would agree with you that it was over before you want it to be. The wide variation in skill levels and types of bicyclists is something we struggle with every year; it's just what we end up with when we open the ride up to everyone. Is every person completely pleased with the ride? No way. If we can make 90% happy, we are doing a great job, and I think we have done that.

Yes, it would be great to have rides like this more often, but someone else, another group, is going to have to do it. As I said, the Bicycle Program can only handle as much as we are doing right now because there is a lot of other work to be done to implement the Bicycle Plan. That's what we need to concentrate on.

We aim for about 12 miles, but in the route planning process, whether it is 10 or 12 miles isn't as important as other factors. Trying to avoid big hills is a very important factor.

If anyone would like to help us plan the 2011 ride, just let me know at We would be very glad to have help in finding a good route and other logistical issues.

Anonymous said...

I loved finishing in Happy Holler. Some of us did socialize over refreshments, thanks to our coupon, and after that we shopped the funky flea markets. I got a fringed pillow that's just perfect for reading in the hammock after a fun little neighborhood bike ride.

Anonymous said...

The ride was perfect this year. Thanks for all of your efforts. I brought my 10 year old daughter and we really enjoyed it. It was fun going through the neighborhoods and saying "good morning" to the kids in their yards. We also liked that we went by the old cemetary - very cool. I really appreciate that the ride is less than 12 miles and avoids big hills so that beginning (or young) cyclists can attend. It is a wonderful, family friendly, event. Thanks again!!