Thanksgiving for Cranksgiving

Riders gather at the starting line. About 30 people participated in the event.

THANK YOU to all of the sponsors, donors, racers, and riders who came together to make Topeka’s seventh annual Cranksgiving event successful.

This year was the biggest ever:

We brought in 940 pounds of food for Doorstep!

Sara announces the winners and doles out prizes.

Once again, thanks to Burger Stand at College Hill, Josey Baking Co, all of the individual cash donors, and all of the racers and riders.

Now, stay tuned for Santa Rampage on December 7th!

Santa Rampage Topeka 2019 starts at Pizagel’s at 10am on Saturday, December 7th.

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.

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.