Cranksgiving Topeka – Sunday Nov. 17th

Join the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/2518451241537539/

12:30pm, Sunday, Nov. 17th,
Burger Stand at College Hill

Pump up your tires, bring your bikes and your bags, and choose from participating in the haul or the race! It’s the SEVENTH ANNUAL Cranksgiving ride in Topeka!

Food items will be donated to Door Step food pantry.

Registration is at 12:30 and the race starts at 1pm.

Don’t want to ride? You can donate here on the Bike Topeka site with our Paypal link.

Once everyone has finished the race, prizes will be announced and awarded after food donations are tallied.

Feel free to stay to grab a bite and beverage at the Burger Stand during or after the event!

Strong Towns, Strong Topeka

Most American cities have built more infrastructure than they can afford to maintain.

Chuck Marohn, humble engineer-leader of the Strong Towns network, demonstrated this assertion in a dynamic presentation at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library on October 28.

Marohn brought his latest book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, and his presentation loosely followed the chapters within.

If you missed the meeting, you can view the Facebook Live video here.

He showed, through value-per-acre graphs, that cities have high-performing real estate in core downtown areas, but tend to have built beyond their means in other areas.

Working with the firm Urban3, Chuck Marohn has studied value-per-acre for many cities around the world. Eugene, Oregon, shown here, has strong net positives (in property tax and sales tax collected) per acre in their downtown area, but has strong net negatives (in water and street infrastructure maintenance) in other parts of the community.

What does that mean for cities?

We can look to what Marohn calls the “traditional development model.”

Before World War II, most development in the U.S. (and other countries) was small and incremental.

A family might build a house in a neighborhood near friends and relatives. If their family grew, they would add on to the house. In the same way, a business owner might start with a one-story building, next to other, similar buildings. If they became more successful, they would build up and out and improve their buildings. If they were not successful in those houses or buildings – there weren’t great fortunes invested, so it was easy for families or businesses to move on.

The suburban development model builds entire shopping malls or residential districts all at once, requires all new infrastructure to be built, and typically adds on to the outskirts of an existing community.

In contrast to traditional development, building a suburb is a huge, risky bet.

Downtown Topeka (and North Topeka, pictured here) developed incrementally, over time, and primarily before the second world war.

If one building in NOTO needs a new roof, the owners can make the necessary repairs. If a sewer line breaks, they can work with the city to get it fixed. The work gets completed on these projects, and business goes on as usual, most likely without affecting the rest of the street or neighborhood much.

But in a suburb, where every house was built the same year, and all of the infrastructure was installed at the same time, all of that construction and infrastructure ages out at about the same time. So you don’t have just one roof in a neighborhood that needs replaced. You have 25 or 100. And when one sewer line gets old enough to fail, you can guess that others will begin to fail, too.

This compounding math is what makes cities more or less financially resilient.

It bears out in the data that Marohn and Urban3 have been collecting in their value-per-acre graphs. It’s a compelling case for moving cities from the current development model of building huge areas to a finished state, all at once — back toward something a little more incremental and iterative.


Following the presentation, Topekans in attendance had varied questions, ranging from neighborhood concerns, like addressing a heritage of redlining and urban renewal, to applying Strong Towns ideas to problems faced by rural communities, to starting new businesses or building trust among neighbors.

On challenges within neighborhoods or communities, Marohn said, “Empower people at the block level to solve problems in their way.”

He gave an example from Oswego, NY of the Oswego Renaissance Association, which gave neighbors grants to improve their residential properties – but only if they got together as a block, and made a proposal of multiple small projects from that street. Since the start of that program, Oswego has seen $2.5 million invested in neighborhoods.

To start a public project, or even a new business, Marohn emphasized the need to humbly observe where people in the community are struggling, part of the Strong Towns approach to public investment. “Ask yourself, ‘How can I be of service to my neighbors?’”

About 100 people attended the presentation in Topeka, including the City Manager, City Council members and candidates, state officials, county officials and county staff, neighborhood advocates, and city staff from many different departments.

The presentation was made possible by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, the Topeka Community Foundation, the Shawnee County Health Department, and several other community groups.

Stay tuned on BikeTopeka for follow-up discussion from the Strong Towns presentation, including a book club to discuss Chuck Marohn’s book.

Monday 10/28: Strong Towns comes to Topeka Library

The Strong America Tour

Topeka, Kansas (October 2019)—On October 28th, Charles L. “Chuck” Marohn, Jr., founder of Strong Towns, will be coming to Topeka, Kansas as part of his coast-to-coast Strong America Tour. He will be speaking at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library at 6:30 pm on October 28th.

Marohn’s tour kicks off the release of his new book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity. He is traveling to dozens of communities across North America—big cities and small towns alike—to share the ideas in his book and give audiences a new way to think about how they approach revitalization and growth.

The presentation will begin by showcasing why so many towns in North America are struggling financially despite decades of robust growth. Marohn will then invite the audience to “choose their own adventure” from a range of presentation tracks and go deeper into just one area where their unique community can make a change today. Designed to be dynamic and bespoke to each town, the Strong America presentation is part community conversation, part lecture from an expert, and the catalyst you need for your place to become financially stronger.

Here are just a few of the insights from Marohn’s book, some of which may be featured in October 28th’s presentation:

  • Why our cities are on the cusp of a long, slow decline, and how to approach the necessary triage in a rational way
  • Why inducing growth and development has been the conventional response to urban financial struggles—and why it just doesn’t work
  • Why old and blighted areas are often more financially productive than shiny new ones
  • The power of “little bets” to strengthen communities and improve the lives of citizens
  • How humble public engagement can create amazing insights
  • The surprising ways that strong neighborhoods make us better people

In every stop on the tour, a Strong Towns staff member will write an essay about the stories they find there. Then, Marohn will put all of the essays together in a new e-book that paints a portrait of what a Strong America looks like today. It will include photos, profiles of local advocates doing what they can to make their own towns stronger, tour diary updates from the road, and great writing from Strong Towns advocates from across the country.

Topeka will also be featured in other Strong Towns content and on Strong Towns social media feeds, which reach an international audience of millions of readers annually.

Marohn says he was thrilled by the hundreds of requests for proposals to host Strong America Tour stops.

“It’s clear that cities and towns of every size are hungry for a new approach that can help them grow financially strong and resilient,” he says. “Every time I visit a different town, I am gratified to see how passionate and smart and creative people can be. Meeting people, hearing their stories, and exchanging ideas is my favorite part of the job.”

Sponsors of this event include the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library, the Shawnee County Health Department and the Topeka Community Foundation. Supporters also include the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods Coalition, Greater Topeka Partnership, Momentum 2022, and El Centro of Topeka.

Chief Executive Officer Gina Millsap of the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library shares, “Strong Towns offers an opportunity for Topeka and Shawnee County to look at current community projects and visioning processes to ensure sure we are pursuing community betterment with future resources and sustainability in mind. The library is excited to be convening this thought-provoking discussion!”

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About the Author:

Charles L. “Chuck” Marohn, Jr., is the founder and president of Strong Towns and the author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity. He is a professional engineer (PE) licensed in the state of Minnesota and a land use planner with two decades of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s of urban and regional planning, both from the University of Minnesota. Marohn hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America. He is featured in the documentary film Owned: A Tale of Two Americas, and was named one of the Ten Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen.

About Strong Towns:

Strong Towns is a national media organization whose mission is to advocate for a model of development that allows America’s cities, towns, and neighborhoods to grow financially strong and resilient. Strong Towns began in 2008 as a blog written by Charles Marohn. Today, it is a nonprofit publishing daily content by dozens of contributors, sharing weekly podcasts, and giving presentations around the U.S. and Canada. Strong Towns reaches an audience of more than 1.5 million readers per year and has over 2,900 members. Learn more at www.strongtowns.org.

To see some of the other towns that are on the Strong America Tour, visit www.strongtowns.org/events.

About the Book:

Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity (Wiley, October 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-56481-2, $25.00) will be available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit the book’s page on www.wiley.com.

About Wiley:

Wiley, a global research and learning company, helps people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, combined with our digital learning, assessment and certification solutions help universities, learned societies, businesses, governments and individuals increase the academic and professional impact of their work. For more than 210 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The company’s website can be accessed at www.wiley.com.

Bike Month Calendar

Bike Month 2019 is here, woohoo!
Check out the special events here:

NOTO First Friday Ride
Friday, May 3rd
Meet at 615 S Kansas Ave, 5:30pm

Capitol Classic
Sunday, May 5th
Register online first
Ride starts at 8am

Ride With Your County Commissioner
Monday, May 13th
Ride at 6pm, meet at the Bark Park at Gage Park

Ride of Silence
Wednesday, May 15th
Meet at 7pm at the parking lot behind KTWU at Washburn University

Ride to the Movies — BlackKKlansman at Jayhawk Theatre
part of Brown v Board 65th Anniversary
Thursday, May 16th
Ride is a winding route, starting from the Jayhawk Theatre at 5pm.
More details on Facebook.

Bike to Work Week Celebration
Friday, May 17th
5pm – meet at 12th & Topeka Blvd at Huntoon Park / WREN Park

Spring Bike Cleaning
Saturday, May 18th
At Crestview Community Center 10am-1pm

Topeka Metro Bikes New Members Ride, All Welcome
Saturday, May 18th
Meet at Crestview Park bikeshare station at 10am

Cottonwood 200
May 25th, 26th, 27th
Register here

Topeka Bicycle Galaxy Meetup
May 28th
Meet at The Steam Engine cafe at 6:30pm
also visiting Pedego Electric Bikes
and Barrister’s Brewing

If you’re looking for even more, check out these resources:

New Topeka Dreams

What do we want the Topeka of the future to look like?

Really, how should it change? Let’s be dramatic with our placemaking.

We’ve spent 10 years ‘Visioning’ and now we’re building ‘Momentum,’ but where are we really going?

Cities of the future have great transportation networks. Are we building that in Topeka?

When children can use the bike lanes, your city has built a safe and comfortable bike network. Photo from BikePortland, posted on BikeWalkKC. Topeka has a few bike lanes, but none of them are buffered, and none of them are visually-protected with bollards or contrasting pavement colors. Complete Streets? Not sure if we have any of those.

Cities of the future have thriving city centers. Are we truly building that in Topeka?

Downtown property for sale (221 SW Harrison St., March 2016): $8,900 4-bedroom, 2-bath. This is six blocks from the Capitol grounds.

Cities of the future are sustainable. We are making strides in this department, at least.

The City of Topeka’s Land Use & Growth Management Plan sets new goals for the City to manage itself in a way that is fiscally responsible, sustainable, and planned. It’s a great plan, and we highly encourage you to check it out
Utrecht, Netherlands, summer 2018.

We’re not joking when we say we want a future that looks like this. It’s happier, healthier, more sustainable, more productive, and richer! For some people, this is real life. It’s maybe a dream for us in Kansas right now, but it’s not made-up. This is a real place, with real people, living their lives in a calmer, simpler, safer way than the residents of our state. We can do it, too.

Alternative #18 to the $355 million Polk-Quincy Viaduct project

Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is considering a re-build of the Polk-Quincy Viaduct, the stretch of Interstate 70 which cuts a swooshing, 90-degree turn through downtown Topeka. This section is among some of the oldest interstate infrastructure in the U.S., and its curve is one of the most crash-prone sections of I-70 in the country. KDOT considered 17 alternative designs for this project.

Roughly the area of concern, highlighted in red-orange.

The “preferred alternative” re-build project would re-align the curves to modern highway standards, and rebuild the sections of the highway that are in question, including bridges, on-ramps/off-ramps, as well as the sections of the highway that are at, or below street level.

KDOT’s “Preferred Alternative” design of the corridor.

The red lines and green lines are frontage roads / access roads that would be added. These would be precursors to the on-ramps for the highway. If you’ve spent much time in Wichita, this would be similar to the combination of Kellogg and Highway 54 / 400. At the intersection of Rock Rd. and Kellogg in Wichita, there are 10 north-south lanes crossing 12 east-west lanes.

Here’s the highway in the middle of Kellogg in Wichita, looking west. Downtown Topeka could look just like this.

While KDOT considered 17 different design possibilities for the re-construction of this part of the highway, there is one possibility they did not consider.

Rochester, NY had a section of highway that cut through their downtown area. With that project, they decided to close the highway, fill it in, rebuild their old city streets, and give the land back to space for people to live and work.

Rochester is rebuilding their city, instead of rebuilding the highway. What a beautiful solution to this complex problem.

Introducing: Alternative #18.

What do we mean, specifically? KDOT studied 17 possibilities for changing the Polk-Quincy Viaduct, so we are offering this brand new possibility, and calling it Alternative 18. It would look a lot like the photo of Rochester, and would involve closure of this section of highway, and reconstruction of the downtown grid.

This isn’t a wild, or new idea. Even our neighbors in St. Louis have considered the prospect of turning a higway into a boulevard.

Many cities have done, or are considering similar:

Why are we spending millions of dollars right now to build a downtown plaza? We see the value of placemaking. We understand that to embrace a place, people need to feel a sense of belonging, and community. What we don’t need is a 10-lane x 12-lane highway and frontage-road interchange, right next to our gathering place. Have you ever felt warm and fuzzy about a highway?

Evergy Plaza is currently under construction. Ice skaters will be lulled by the sound of four lanes of highway traffic in each direction, at all hours of the day and night.

Streets, roads, and infrastructure are important. We’ve got to get people and goods into and out of our community. And we are rich with motor vehicle access. Topeka has the incredible advantage of having two major highways that pass through the city. The highway that goes through South Topeka, I-470, is a perfect option for traffic that’s just passing through the area. Right now, while both highways exist and encircle downtown, Google shows a minimal difference between using one or the other.

Follow the blue route. It takes about the same amount of time to drive that section as it does to drive the grey route through downtown

See, Google knows. We already have good infrastructure. We just have to use it better. And we can do much better than sending thousands of vehicles a day through our downtown. We might even find that if we make it a more pleasant place to be — that we’ll start sending more people into downtown to stay, and have a good time. We’re grading on a totally different template: Quality of life.

Alternative #18 is the best plan:

  • Cost savings of more than $300 million. Rochester’s project cost about $20 million – far less than maintaining or rebuilding highway.
  • Did we mention that we’re saving the state $300 million? This project has stalled because KDOT doesn’t have that kind of money.
  • Safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Slowing down driving speeds is literally life-saving for pedestrians and cyclists. Downtown has the highest concentration of pedestrian traffic in Shawnee County.
  • Encourages development of land downtown. The project has already had a chilling effect (PDF) on downtown development. That’s the opposite of what we need.
  • I-470 is a great alternate highway option. The highway that connects to I-35 south of town also connects to Highway 75 north of town. It also loops the city and provides a perfect alternative for through-traffic. Not only that, but it’s newer and smoother.
  • Preventing future traffic challenges. When you build more roads, you get more traffic. Rebuilding this section of I-70 would likely cause more traffic, and contribute to greater maintenance costs in the future.
  • Reclaiming acreage for downtown development. Millions of dollars in public and private investment have been poured into downtown in the last few years. That means hundreds of thousands more will be collected in property taxes by the City and County. Downtown has the best performing land in terms of revenue collected per acre. Why not invest in that?

For future prosperity in Topeka and Shawnee County, Alternative #18 is the absolute best option for managing the Polk-Quincy Viaduct problem.

Get involved with promoting this project by dropping a note in the comments, or sending us an email at info@biketopeka.com.