Three decades after founding, Tour de Shawnee Bike Ride continues to celebrate cycling

Leah Wankum - August 8, 2019 11:10 am
The Tour de Shawnee Bike Ride has offered family-friendly routes for the past 20 years. This photo was taken in 2003. File photo from city of Shawnee photo archives

The city of Shawnee is celebrating three decades of cycling with the 30th annual Tour de Shawnee Bike Ride.

Tonya Lecuru, deputy parks and recreation director for Shawnee, said the tour first started to introduce residents to cycling as an alternative form of transportation to move about the city. City staff had mapped out particular routes to introduce cyclists to various parks and amenities in Shawnee as well.

Lecuru said she definitely thinks the city has accomplished its goal of introducing cyclists to on-street bike lanes, Share the Road, off-street trails and other bicycle-friendly options for motorists and cyclists alike.

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“It’s helped us receive our bicycle-friendly designation,” she said. “We were the first in the state of Kansas to receive that, and it’s because of our commitment to the bicycling community.”

The Tour has also engaged residents in the city’s process for developing future bike lanes and bicycle-friendly streets as Shawnee plans for future road infrastructure upgrades, Lecuru added. The city has established 9.23 miles of bike lanes and 72.26 miles of Share the Road streets, and 12.31 miles of trails.

Here’s a look at the city’s future plans for bicycle accessibility:

“There’s a lot more bicyclists than people are aware of, and we want to make it safe by incorporating it into the design of the roads and the routes, being able to plan that far in advance,” Lecuru said, citing the city’s bicycle master plan. “It’s really made a difference.”

As to the Tour itself, the routes have evolved over the years, with the shortest route being 25 miles and the longest at 50. City staff found they wanted to create a more family-friendly experience, so they created a shorter route at 5 miles and made the longest route be 25 miles.

“For some folks, 12 miles, 25 miles is intimidating; the 6 miles is a little more doable,” Lecuru said. “However, when we got rid of the 50-mile route, a lot of our hardcore distance riders, we lost those because even for them, 50 miles was a shorter option.

The Tour de Shawnee Bike Ride in 2009. File photo from city of Shawnee photo archives

“Over the years, we’ve evolved to something that’s more family focused so that all riders of a variety of different abilities can participate,” Lecuru added. “Those riders who do ride a lot, it’s kind of a way for them to be able to share their passion of riding with their families that maybe don’t want to go out and ride. It’s also a way to introduce kids to the sport.”

Each intersection is monitored for safety of the cyclists, and there are four rest stops with refreshments to keep cyclists fueled up. Average participation is about 400 cyclists, with as many as 700 participating one year. Since its inception in 1989, total attendance has reached 10,000.

This year’s Tour de Shawnee takes place Sunday, Aug. 25. The event is sponsored by the Shawnee Parks and Recreation Department and benefits the JDRF, a nonprofit for type one diabetes research.

Riders can choose from three routes: 5-mile, 12-mile or 25 mile route. Check in begins at 6:30 a.m. and the ride will start at 7:30 a.m. The tour will start and end at Power Play Family Entertainment Center at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Pflumm Road.

Riders who wish to continue on to the 12-mile route must reach 61st and Rosehill by 8:15 a.m. All riders who wish to continue on to the 25-mile route must reach Midland and Maurer by 8:40 a.m.

Registration and additional information is on the city’s website. Helmets are required for participants.

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