Des Moines City Ride is all about increasing awareness of how accessible our city is to bicyclists. And it's not just for experienced riders - it's for everyone! Basically, these rides (held every Monday of the summer) are for people like me who haven't ridden in years. While hanging out at the very cool offices of Gravitate, founder (and new friend) Andrea Metzler answered a few questions about how all this got started.
What inspired you to start City Ride?
I've lived in a couple different places - Austin, Chicago, and Charleston - and in those cities, I saw bike rides that were taking people onto the streets and I really liked that concept.
When I moved back to Des Moines, I saw that while our bike culture here was great, it focused more on recreation and people riding on the trails. I didn't see anything that celebrated the idea of commuting on bicycles and I wanted to start something that did. I wanted to get people off the trails and onto the streets. I also knew that people new to riding the city streets would feel more comfortable doing so in a group.
When I first started riding with friends last year, one of the board members of the Des Moines Bike Collective reached out to me about creating something more large-scale for the spring. Then a few others got on board and that's how our ride ended up as a part of the collectives' Bike Month.
You've been back in Des Moines for about two years now, right? How would you describe the vibe here in the City?
One of the main reasons I wanted to move back is because the community here is so awesome. I'm definitely not the most qualified person to lead a bike ride through the streets, but I've found that if you get something started in Des Moines, people will step up to help you out.
With City Ride so many people have stepped up; the Bike Collective helped with promotion and gathering volunteers and Brad from Fred's Bikes came in and did a really awesome safety talk for us. I think people are eager to see new things happen and are willing to help bring those things to fruition.
Recently I was talking with someone about Des Moines and they said that while it's cool that people are open to new ideas, it also means that it's easier to find success. Do you agree with?
There's some truth to that idea. But I wouldn't say that finding success here involves less work, but I do think you have to work harder to generate interest.
For example, when people hear about City Ride, they automatically think spandex or riding on trails, so you have to show them what you're trying to do because they haven't been exposed to something similar to this yet.
You mentioned living in several other cities before Des Moines. Were those cities fairly bike-friendly?
Chicago's really nice to ride around because it's so flat, but Austin was scary. You'd think that since it's a "hipster city" it would be more bike-friendly, but it's not!
Des Moines' very bike-friendly because you can easily connect to trails right here in downtown. I can ride from here to Saylorville Lake just on the trails alone. It's that type of accessibility we're wanting to educate people on.
Have any aspirations for next year's rides?
If this year goes well, I want to kickoff next year with a bike festival. I've received a lot of feedback from people about how their bike needs a tuneup, but they don't know how to go about it. So I'd love to have a big festival with volunteers ready to teach people how to fix their bikes, as well as local bike shops selling gear. That's my dream for next year.
Check out Des Moines City Ride's website here.
You can also check out their upcoming events over on their Facebook page here.