by Susan Herndon-Powell
Since accepting a position with Play Roanoke in early 2018, I’ve had the privilege of guiding people of all ages all over the Roanoke Valley and beyond. As the COVID-19 pandemic approached, I knew we would be drastically changing the way we led programs. Since it is not safe for us to congregate together in person, the Play Roanoke team launched the Happiness Project, a page on our website dedicated to providing tons of ideas for staying active and busy while having fun.
One idea that came to mind was to create bicycle routes to visit all of our City parks. For the last few years I have worked for the department, I have been wanting to visit all of our City parks (note: there are over 60!). With the pandemic in full swing, and May being bike month, I thought, why not now? I set out to visit every single one of our City parks and all on bicycle. The result is seven bicycle routes of about eight to 11 miles each, all starting and ending at a City park for easy parking.
If you complete all the routes, you’ll do a total of 71.7 miles visiting every City park, save Smith Park, which was inaccessible during the greenway closure. If you’re an avid cyclist looking for a challenge, consider the full pull route (not for the faint of heart) where you visit all the parks in a single go. These routes also include a visit to Carvins Cove, where our department manages over 60 miles of natural-surface trails open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
I highly recommend getting out and exploring our city by bicycle. There’s a lot to see, learn, and explore, especially in the areas you may not usually frequent. Before you head out, we’ve compiled a few tips for you to consider. Watch this bicycle safety video we helped create, in partnership with Rachel Ruhlen and the Roanoke Valley-Allegheny Regional Commission, for tips on how to bike safely around town, including the
five rules of the road, and proper hand signals. Kelsey Harrington with Downshift Bikes and Brews offers some advice on what to check on your bike before every ride in this ABC Pre-ride Quick Check video. And don’t forget to wear a helmet, bright colored/high-vis clothing or safety vest, along with lights in the front and rear of your bike to help give you better visibility.
You can find a list of our routes on our website, including a link to the routes in Ride With GPS and downloadable PDF cue sheets for each route. If you need assistance accessing the route on your phone, check out our tutorial on how to make that happen.
After finishing all seven routes, I feel a sense of satisfaction and also a greater connection to my community. During this time of social distancing and isolation, these rides allowed me to connect with areas of the City I had yet to explore and the communities within. Even with just a passing smile, quick wave, or a yelled “hello!”, I found connection, and that is something we can all use a little more of right now. Until we can all ride together again, I hope you enjoy these routes and find ways to spark a little connection.