Soon, dozens of new, bright yellow signs will be popping up along the sides of Harvey County roads — a reminder for drivers to watch out for bicyclists and to safely share those roadways.
The installation of the bicycle safety signs is just one part of a larger grassroots effort to promote cycling in Harvey County. A group called the ReNewton Bicycling Initiative not only came up with the idea for the project, they raised the money and partnered with the county government to make the project a reality.
"It plays so well into improving health, making the community more friendly, more accessible to people," said Dana Shifflett, a member of the ReNewton bicycling group.
"We're really pleased that this is happening," agreed John Waltner, county administrator. "... I just think it's a win all around."
The signs are designed to remind motorists that by law, they must give cyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing them on the road. There will be about 70 signs placed around the county, and the signs will be 30 inches by 30 inches in size. Community members raised the funds for the signs, contributing about $1,400.
"It's just been such a good response," said Jerry Smith, one of the members of the bicycling initiative.
Members of the ReNewton bicycling group said they hope the signs will help drivers be more aware of the bikes around them.
As a cyclist, Shifflett can recall times when he has had cars and trucks pass by him too closely, running him off the road.
While trails meant specifically for bicyclists are nice, they don't always meet all the needs of cyclists, local riders said.
Smith knows of a local group that meets about 7:30 on Saturday mornings and bikes to nearby towns for breakfast. He thinks the signs will help these types of cyclists, who ride in between cities and not just in town.
The ReNewton Bicycling Initiative meets at 4 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays of every month at Newton City Hall. The group is an off-shoot of the ReNewton project, a comprehensive plan recommending what the city of Newton should look like in the future.
"New ideas keep coming up," Shifflett said of the group. "There's a synergy here, and we're all working off of each other, and we're helping each other."
The group already has put up signage promoting the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, which passes through Newton. The trail stretches from the East Coast to the West Coast, and attracts cyclists from as far away as Asia, Europe and South America.
Some of the projects the group would like to tackle in the future include placing bike racks throughout Newton, including in parks and at businesses; promoting bicycle safety and education for children and adults; working with city staff to develop a bicycling master plan for Newton; creating a bicycle racing league for middle and high school students; and creating bike routes that follow the Chisholm Trail.
Bicycling initiative member Lester Limón said the group advocates for all types of cycling — people of all ages who use bikes for racing, touring, recreation or transportation.
He hopes the group's bicycle safety signs will let cyclists from other towns, states and even countries know Harvey County is a welcoming place for bike riders.
"People out there, communities are advocating for their safety," Limón said. "This is a bicycle-friendly state, a bicycle-friendly community, a bicycle-friendly county."
Have your own ideas about bicycling in Newton and Harvey County? ReNewton Bicycling Initiative members encourage people in the community to attend one of their meetings and to participate in a Kansas Department of Transportation cycling survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/KTJZNCM.