Cycling Across America: An Update From Architects & Urbanists Cycling Across the Country

The riders and Tom Jestico (our van driver). (Grant Smith)

The riders and Tom Jestico (our van driver). (Grant Smith)

[ Editor’s Note: Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect’s Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. ]

Reaching Mount Rushmoor was a significant—indeed iconic—moment of the trip, our sense of arrival heightened by the steep and long hill that takes the visitor up to the Avenue of Flags and the rather pompous facilities that are in stark contrast to the desolate scenes one remembers from Hitchcock’s North by North West.

Forming a tight peloton to reduce the effect of the wind. (Bob West)

Forming a tight peloton to reduce the effect of the wind. (Bob West)

We had started the day from Deadwood, scene of America’s last great gold rush and Wild Bill Hickock’s demise. He was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights (the Dead Man’s Hand). Appropriately, the town has been reinvented as a gambling town, Main Street is all casinos and our hotel lobby was full of slot machines where people sat all day, staring at screens amidst a cacophony of jingles that erupted every time a player pushed a button or won a prize. But for us the most memorable aspect of Deadwood was the rain. It poured solidly for 48 hours, it poured as we rode into town, it poured on our day off, and it poured as we left.

The pine-covered Black Hills are very beautiful although cycling through them was made less enjoyable by South Dakota road department’s use of rumble strips. In previous states the rumble strip, about a foot wide, runs parallel to the road just outside of the “fog line,” generally leaving plenty of room on the hard shoulder for the cyclist. South Dakota places their rumble strips at 90 degrees to the road every 15 feet or so, which means you either have to weave in and out—often dangerously close to the carriage way—or ride over the strips which feels like you’re taking part in the Paris-Roubaix race over cobbles.

Coming out of the Black Hills we dropped down closer to the plains—through the bare Badlands with its lunar-like landscape and onto wide and open grass lands. Riding from Interior to Murdo, we encountered 24mph south easterly winds—70 miles of hard grind!

Riders formed tight pelotons to reduce the drag, but we were all exhausted by the end of the day. We had our reward the next day when we turned north to Pierre, capital of South Dakota, and we were blown into town at 35-40mph.

As we go we are studying the impact of cycling on cities in the US as well as raising money for Article 25, ABS and Architecture for Humanity.

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