Many of the cyclists were members or supporters of the Reno Bike Project, a non-profit organization that restores donated bikes or breaks them down for parts, handles repairs and offers public work stations for community members to fix their own bikes. Since its founding in 2006, the RBP has increased awareness of cyclists on Reno and Sparks roads and advocated for the construction of more bike lanes in the community.
Noah Silverman, executive director and co-founder of the RBP, said the organization has recently elevated its public advocacy to a higher level in terms of raising awareness of the need for bike lanes.
“If no one says anything then it is not an issue,” he said about attending public meetings. “The cyclist’s voice needs to be heard and when we get all of us together we can be heard.”
The RTC studied 4th Street’s traffic, businesses and design for more than a year before finalizing plans to begin widening and adapting the road to accommodate bikers and pedestrians in unsafe areas. The corridor improvements would extend west to east from Keystone Avenue to Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks.
“This was identified as one of our top priority corridors and it is so important because it is our only arterial road that connects downtown Reno and Sparks together,” said Amy Cummings, director of planning for the RTC. “There are many places on the road where we can reduce to two lanes with a center turn lane and make room for bike lanes and improved ADA accessible sidewalks.”
Cummings and her team worked closely with the RBP as they studied traffic conditions in the areas where the corridor will extend, giving them a map of the congested and desolate areas of traffic. She said some businesses and community members were concerned about continued use of on-street parking in front of businesses and uninterrupted traffic flow.
“The first phase will be from the 4th Street Bus Station out to Pyramid Highway to improve the service of the Rapid transit bus,” Cummings said, adding that 4th Street is a major commuter route for residents of Reno and Sparks.
Having the ability to commute from Sparks to Reno, and vice versa, is a major concern for cyclists in the area who use primarily their bikes as their mode of transportation.
“In some places (on 4th Street), if a car is alongside you, you are riding in the gutter and it is only about eight inches wide,” Silverman said. “Having bike lanes will increase ridership and let people know it is safe to bike on this road.”
The RTC’s project is attempting to improve the overall quality of life on 4th Street. Michael Moreno, public information officer for the RTC, said improving safety will allow them to show the connection between the economy, transportation systems and the quality of life.
“By holding community workshops we are able to see the economic opportunities for people in these areas and we can ultimately improve transit that affects buses, bikes and everyone traveling the road,” he said.
Jeff Mitchell, program director at the RBP, said the RTC’s attention to 4th Street makes sense due to its economic and aesthetic condition.
“It’s great because they are focusing on an area that is no longer connected to the economy,” Mitchell said. “They realize we don’t need five lanes of traffic down here, we need humans.”
Mitchell said advocating for the construction of bike lanes is just one part of the RBP’s mission to create a culture where cycling is a preferred mode of transportation in the Reno-Sparks area.
“There is a public perception that it is ‘too far to ride my bike to work’ or ‘it is too dangerous to ride on the major roads’ and safer places to ride will help break through that,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and Silverman understand the RTC’s efforts are longterm and will ultimately change the layout of the traditional streets, but are excited about the boost in cycling it will bring.
“The progress signals a shift in the transportation sector about how people will travel,” Silverman said. “There will be parts of Reno we won’t recognize someday and our kids will grow up in a different Reno than we did.”