PLANNING, BUILDING & MAINTENANCE…MORE THAN PUSHING DIRT
IMBA’s fee-for-service trail-building arm Trail Solutions does the heavy lifting to actually construct the parks, and the group’s clientele has change in recent years. “We’re not just doing work for bike clubs any more,” says Mike Repyak, who heads up Trail Solutions. “Since 2010, we’ve seen that stakeholders and clients of professional builders are now municipalities and businesses and state agencies. We work for cities.”
Repyak spoke in February at the Wisconsin chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) spring conference. By necessity, trail construction always includes multiple user groups, and the process can be arduous. By enlisting groups like the ASLA, bike industry advocates can help ensure the cultural shift toward the deliberate visioning, planning, design, construction, promotion, and activation that can lead to spectacular outcomes. That deliberate shift is part of what’s behind the rise of bike parks.
“If they’re not actively constructing bike parks, municipalities are at least incorporating bike parks into larger master plans. Bike parks have transitioned from outlier status. They’ve become a staple to the parks and recreation sector.” —Tim Babcock, Progressive Bike Ramps
Bike parks are one of Trail Solution’s signature initiatives. And thanks to IMBA’s efforts, in part, mountain bikers are better organized than ever before and better able to educate and energize land managers.
The bike parks movement indicates a maturation of the sport, as the public continues to drive park construction for the permanent benefit of local communities. Municipalities are responding and stepping up, too.
“If they’re not actively constructing bike parks, municipalities are at least incorporating bike parks into larger master plans,” says Babcock. “Bike parks have transitioned from outlier status. They’ve become a staple to the parks and recreation sector.”
Ross Swanson, projects manager and landscape architect with Portland Parks & Recreation in Portland, Oregon, concurs. He’s spearheading construction of Gateway Green Bike Park on previously neglected land at the confluence of two freeways, a railroad and a transit line. “We’re a service provider. Open space is one of the services we know people want,” says Swanson.
Bike parks are explicitly designed to be ridable on a lot of different types of bikes by different levels of riders.
Lawson sees evidence of more municipalities investing in bike parks and trails because of the associated economic, social, and health benefits.
“Counties with outdoor recreation economies are more likely to attract new residents with greater wealth and have faster-growing wages than their non-recreation counterparts,” says Lawson. “These trends are particularly true in rural communities.” And these residents are trending healthy: People who bike to work, for instance, have a 40-percent-lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer than those who don’t.
The bike parks movement indicates a maturation of the sport, as the public continues to drive park construction for the permanent benefit of local communities.
Not everyone can afford a full-suspension mountain bike, but almost anyone can pull a beater from the shed and go have fun. Bike parks are explicitly designed to be ridable on a lot of different types of bikes by different levels of riders.
“Bike infrastructure is so exciting and fun, such a people-pleaser, that these projects tend to get a lot of media coverage,” says Babcock of Progressive Bike Ramps. “Media reports on the volumes of people coming out to use these facilities, and the excitement builds on itself. These parks become community gathering places, and neighboring communities want the same.”
Bike parks are particularly gratifying investments because, once constructed, they generate additional energy and enthusiasm that helps perpetuate the sport of biking. They constantly attract new users and calve off experienced riders with a passion for the sport—and often a passion to protect public lands for recreation. As Babcock puts it: “Use breeds advocacy.”
Municipalities, land managers, and local politicians experience the benefits of an activated, healthy community. These multiple feedback loops make bike parks self-perpetuating, net-positive investments.