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Club’s concern is TransAmerica Bicycle Trail

One of the Parkland Cyclists Club’s biggest concerns is Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica Bicycle Trail that runs through southern St. Francois County, bringing in cyclists from all over the country and the world.

Unfortunately, cyclists’ experiences riding through the area have not been pleasant. And it is this area that has one of the worst reputations.

Over the past couple years, Adventure Cycling has received so many complaints that they are thinking about rerouting the trail so that it doesn’t go through St. Francois County. Cyclists say their concerns are rude motorists who don’t respect cyclists rights and also the condition of the roads that don’t have shoulders.

The route starts in Astoria, Ore., and ends in Virginia Beach, Va.

The route had originally hit St. Mary, Coffman, Farmington, Doe Run and Iron County, via Routes F, W and V.

It was recently changed so it makes a loop around Doe Run. Cyclists ride from Highway 21/Route N in Iron County to Route W. From there, they hit Route N and ride all the way to Highway 32 (Bismarck) before returning back to Route W in Farmington via Pimville and Bray roads.

While it has been rerouted, Virginia Blaine, a member of the local cyclist club, said many of the TransAmerica cyclists still take Route W the entire way because it is obviously the shorter route.

From Route W, they travel to Ste. Genevieve County via Columbia Street/Route OO and then Route F. Blaine has always suggested Highway 32 over Route F but now she sees how keeping it at Route F could benefit the area.

&#8220I changed my mind,” she said. &#8220(Route) F takes them by all the wineries and the beautiful (scenery).”

Drop in Number

Tim White, who opened his bicycle shop across from the St. Francois Courthouse five years ago, said he is getting fewer and fewer customers from the TransAmerica route.

He believes it is because the Parkland joins part of Kentucky in having the worst reputation for the way motorists treat cyclists. He said those who have bicycled through the area get on the Internet and post messages about how they have been treated.

It’s not just the people that alarm them. It’s also loose dogs.

&#8220You wouldn’t believe how much pepper spray I sell,” he said.

White said he heard of one cyclist renting a car in Steelville and driving through the area to Chester where they get back on the bike.

He said 22 TransAmerica riders came into his store this summer. Two years ago, he had almost 100 TransAmerica riders come in and the year before, he had 141 TransAmerica riders stop in.

&#8220We’re losing these people because of the way they are being treated,” he said.

He has heard that many of the cyclists are riding up through Festus and then riding on Highway 61 to get to Ste. Genevieve. He said there is also talk of the route going through Cape Girardeau or Poplar Bluff rather than Farmington.

He said Farmington businesses do not cater to the cyclists at all. He is disappointed that they aren’t offered motel or restaurant discounts or offered maps of the area by area groups.

White, like others, are pushing for Route W to get a paved shoulder or a bicycle trail. At least then cyclists won’t have to ride on the roadway.

Emily Vasquez, coordinator for bicycle advocacy for the Parkland Cyclists, said Route W is very unsafe. The members of the cyclist club are too afraid to use it at all for leisurely cycling.

Vasquez would like to see the state acquire funding to add shoulders to Route W or construct a cycling trail to keep those interstate cyclists safe.

&#8220Improving the road shoulders on Routes 106 (Summerville), 21 (Ellington), V to W (Doe Run to Farmington) would increase the amount of bicyclists, which would improve businesses along the way,” she said.

&#8220The route also exposes the cyclists to one of the most scenic places in Missouri, which includes the Ozark National Scenic Riverway and Johnson Shut-Ins. Having an improved route would encourage cyclists to come back and bring new ones with them.”

She said now that gas is so high and obesity is increasing in children and adults, bicycling should be encouraged and made safer.

&#8220Our goals should be to create a safe bicycle center for tourists, bringing in more money into this area, and for community members to enjoy the wonderful bicycling opportunities this area provides,” Vasquez said. &#8220… We need to get rid of our reputation for being the worst area to bicycle to.”

State Talk

Brent Hugh of the Missouri Bicycle Federation feels like Missouri is behind in roads and making things attractive for cyclists. The state doesn’t even have signs for the TransAmerica route. He feels signs would alert motorists and keep cyclists from getting lost.

But Caryn Giarratano feels like some progress is being made. She said the state bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee is writing their strategic plan that will identify what needs to be done.

She feels MoDOT is making great strides to partner with the communities in order to provide infrastructure for non-motorists

As bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for MoDOT, she’s behind the statewide bike map and emphasizes right now it is just a draft.

If you look at the draft of the state bicycle map, you’ll see the national routes have not been marked yet. She said they want to make sure that when they put them on the map, that is where the routes should be.

Giarratano said she would like to see the TransAmerica route stay in Farmington.

She said everything that could be done to keep it in Farmington is being done. She said local legislators have contacted her. She has also been contacted by the Parkland Cyclists and attended a meeting with them here.

&#8220The community and the county has demonstrated that they want the route,” she said.

She said they will continue working to come up with a solution until they come up with one that pleases all the people involved. She admits there has been discussion of it being rerouted through Cape Girardeau.

She said it is important to partner with anyone who is wanting &#8220to be at the table” and &#8220bureaucracy moves slowly.” She believes it is better to move slowly and make sure everyone has a say than to jump to a decision.

She said Missouri is fortunate in that they have six cross-country routes going through the state. She said now is the right time to take advantage of the location and promote themselves to bicyclists. She said Missouri offers beautiful scenery and great historical sites.

She feels they should be welcomed because it would only boost the economy.

&#8220They eat a lot,” she said.

She said most of the people are well-respected residents in their own communities with a lot of money to spend.

She said cycling is a very attractive choice for baby boomers because nearly everyone can do it and it is easy on the body.

State Legislators

Both State Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence, and State Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, would like to see the route continue to go through Iron and St. Francois counties because it brings in revenue and boosts tourism.

Engler said they are working to get Routes W and V wider. He said W is one of the most traveled lettered routes with no shoulder. He estimates about 10,000 motorists travel it each day.

Engler said motorists and cyclists need to use common sense when encountering each other on the roadway. He said bicycles have a right to be on the roadway and unfortunately, many of the roads are narrow.

Kuessner would like to see the TransAmerica trail rerouted back to Route V so that cyclists will ride right by Fort Davidson. He said he is sending a letter that makes that request to Giarratano this week.

Kuessner believes that Route V actually has more traffic than Route W. He believes rerouting it may give them more of an opportunity to get shoulders for both Routes V and W.

Kuessner said the main purpose of the cross-country route is to provide a scenic route across the country.

&#8220I can’t imagine them changing it (to go through Cape Girardeau) if they are wanting the most scenic route,” he said. &#8220I don’t know where they would take it to get a more scenic route.”

MoDOT District 9 will soon take over the maintenance of Routes V and W all the way to U.S. 67 at the request of local officials.

According to a District 9 official, a shoulder paving and road resurfacing project for both routes would cost about $4.2 million. Officials are hoping to get the project on the five-year state transportation improvement plan but the first step is to get it approved by Southeast Missouri Regional Planning in Perryville.

There are numerous vehicle accidents on both routes. Kuessner believes it is due to the routes not having a shoulder and there not being a place to safely pass.

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