People love to come to Las Vegas. More than 40 million arrive every year. They go to the strip or downtown to Fremont Street. They gamble, catch a show, eat at one of our celebrity-chef-owned restaurants, or just sit by the pool. They see Las Vegas as a gambling mecca, an entertainment capital, or simply sin city. What they don’t see is the real Las Vegas valley. I spend a good deal of my time trying to convince friends and acquaintances alike that Las Vegas has so much more to offer than simply bright lights, gambling, food, and entertainment.
For example, did you know that Las Vegas has been given a bronze level award as a Bicycle Friendly Community? Or that Henderson has joined a select group of only 75 cities across the United States who have achieved the level of silver? Most people don’t. What does it mean to be a Bike Friendly Community? It means the community has striven to “welcome bicyclists by providing safe accommodations for bicycling and that it encourages people to bike for transportation and recreation.” Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen told the Las Vegas Review Journal in a 2015 interview, “We have made significant improvements to our bicycling amenities since our bronze designation in 2014.” Not only is Henderson the first city in Nevada to receive a silver level designation, it received it only a year after getting the bronze level award. “Winning the silver Bicycle Friendly Community award proves that we are not only committed to the growth of the cycling culture, but also dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for our residents,” said Mayor Hafen.
Henderson did this, in part, by creating 184 miles of dedicated biking trails, separated from roadways—which means you can bike on the trails and not have to worry about cars. Henderson also created a Bicycle Advisory Committee that meets monthly to discuss how the city can better the biking community. They even went so far as to install a bicycle work station on the River Mountains Loop trail where you can fill low tires or perform simple maintenance. Henderson’s commitment to the cycling community is evident, and we get to reap the rewards.
So how does one become a Bicycle Friendly Community? According to the League of American Bicyclists Vice President of Programs Bill Nesper, the group judges the city in five key areas: education, engineering, encouragement, planning, and evaluation. “Only 40 percent of the cities that apply receive any kind of designation,” Nesper told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “It’s not a gimme.” Both Henderson and Las Vegas are dedicated to bicycling. Following the guidelines of the League of American Bicyclists, they have “made bicycling safe, comfortable, and convenient for people of all ages and abilities.”
Not to be outdone, Las Vegas has developed an online resource called Neon to Nature that helps you find bicycling trails throughout Southern Nevada. Each trail in the program has a colorful circular marker with the words “Neon to Nature” and the mile designation right on the trail. Available also as a free app, Neon to Nature is the place to find information such as a description of the trail, the length of the trail, and various amenities—like where to find restrooms.
The trend is catching on all across Nevada. While our state ranking is currently 31 out of 50, we are continuing to rise in the rankings. We have 5 Bicycle Friendly communities, 12 Bicycle Friendly businesses, and 1 Bicycle Friendly university. All of this begs the question, why aren’t you riding? Why aren’t you, your friends, and your family taking advantage of the trails that both Las Vegas and Henderson have worked so very hard to create? Whether you prefer to ride a road bike, a mountain bike, or an urban bike, we’ve got the trails for you. So come on, let’s go ride a bike! +
Paul W. Papa is a bike enthusiast and the author of Best Bike Rides Las Vegas and Mountain Biking Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. When not out on the trails, he can be found at www.paulwpapa.com.