A group of local bike advocates are placing a second batch of aluminum bike racks around town.
The racks will be in addition to the 20 the group has already placed in Kenai and Soldotna at Kenai River Brewing, Soldotna Public Library and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, to name a few, with the aim of make cycling a safer and easier way to get around. on the vast central peninsula of Kenai.
Jacob Nabholz, himself a biker, cuts and assembles the racks this round. He worked with Cook Inletkeeper, a local non-profit organization, which sponsors the project, to brainstorm a list of local storefronts that could use front racks.
“So I took that list and went around and talked to, I think, over 70 different companies to see if they were interested in bike racks,” Nabholz said.
Of those companies, he said a few were interested, including the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and Red Run. Now he is looking for more.
The idea for the bike rack started in 2018, when a group of local cyclists got together and started a plan to make the area safer for bikes.
This group would later become Biking in Kenai & Soldotna, or “BIK&S”. And he submitted the towns of Kenai and Soldotna to become designated Bike-friendly communities through the League of American Cyclists.
Kaitlin Vadla was part of this group initially. She said the request involved a deep inventory of how cities were already supporting cyclists.
“And basically what it does is walk you through this pretty robust application process, assessing everything that’s in place — or not — in your community,” she said. declared. “And that gives you a roadmap to improve.”
This process also gave the cities grades. Kenai and Soldotna were ranked bronze.
“And what that means is that we’re doing pretty well, but we could do better,” she said.
In Alaska, Juneau is also a bronze-rated cycling community. Anchorage and Sitka are both silver rated.
One of the easiest to implement ideas the American Cyclists League had for the group was to install functional bike racks in Kenai and Soldotna. The group hired a local welder to create the inserts and students from Kenai Central High School to do the laser cutting.
Nabholz was one such student. He said the inserts, which bear the band’s logo, are cut with a CNC machine and framed by arches of rolled aluminum tubing, which hold the bikes upright.
There are two types of racks: one that can hold two bikes and another that can hold six.
“I think just trying to have more usability of bike racks, so you can put more bikes in so more people feel like they can get out there and ride their bikes when the weather’s nice – I think that was the goal,” he said.
And Nabholz said putting these racks in different places around town is important to show bikers that they can use their two wheels to get around.
Supports aren’t the only way the BIK&S Group has tried to encourage local cyclists.
Vadla said the League of American Cyclists told the group it was also important to host iconic cycling events – including local races like Mouth to Mouth. This is something that helped cities earn the bike-friendly designation the first time around.
The education of riders is another objective. Nabholz has grants to place multiple racks at local schools. This is in addition to a bike safety program at schools in Kenai and a youth mountain bike program – Sprockets – through Tsalteshi Trails.
The town of Kenai is also working to connect an unfinished section of the Unity paved trail, which connects Kenai and Soldotna.
It’s all about getting more bikers on the road.
Vadla said she thinks more people are cycling now than before. She works with Cook Inletkeeper at Community Action Studio on the Kenai Spur, which has its own bike rack out front.
“It’s a community action studio, so a lot of community members come in and out. And, especially in the summer, there’s a lot of cycling,” she said. “It’s heavily used.”
If you would like to house a rack, you can contact Cook Inletkeeper or call Jacob Nabholz of Nabholz Fabrication at 907-953-5795.
Vadla also said the advocacy group, BIK&S, is always open to new members. You can find them on Facebook.