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Thursday, December 06, 2007

World Class Cycling Summit

The Missouri Bicycle Federation and the Westplex Sports, Arts and Entertainment Local Organizing Committee will host a "World Class Cycling Summit on two dates -- both will have the same program, so you can plan to come to either of the two:

* Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m., I-70 Holiday Inn in Wentzville, Missouri, 900 Corporate Pkwy, Wentzville, Mo.

* Saturday, Dec. 22, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m., Crossings at Wentzville, 100 Mall Parkway, Wentzville, Mo.

The groups are looking for the help of a select group of people to make the Westplex region of the St. Louis metropolitan area -- St. Charles, Warren, Franklin and Lincoln counties -- and the entire state of Missouri a world=class bicycling center.

You can reserve your spot at the summit by sending an e-mail to Ed Watkins of the Westplex group at edwatkins@charter.net

Why a "World Class Cycling Summit?" And why in the Westplex? The groups offer reasons listed here:
The success of the 2007 Tour of Missouri has brought unprecedented international attention to bicycling in Missouri.

The recent announcement of a 46-mile "Kansas City Connection" to the Katy Trail on the western end, and 11 additional miles between St. Charles and Machens on the eastern end, means that the nation's longest rail-trail will soon be even longer -- over 280 miles.

Our dream of making a trail connection between Missouri's two largest metropolitan areas is very close to reality. Imagine bicycling from the St. Louis Arch to Kansas City's Liberty Memorial on a network of trails stretching state line to state line!

These two events have put our state out on the world stage as a place where people want to live, work, visit--and bicycle.

Now what is it going to take to make Missouri into the bicycling Mecca that it really should be? ...

At the World Class Cycling Summit, we will talk about where we are, where we need to go, and what we need to do now to become a world-class bicycling center -- both as a region and as a state.

Representatives of MoBikeFed, Trailnet, and other bicycling and community organizations will be there to talk about the statewide, regional, and local perspectives.

Why in the Westplex?

When Stage 5 of the 2007 Tour of Missouri ended in St. Charles--to the biggest finish line crowd of the week -- several Westplex leaders saw the future of their region before their eyes.

The Tour of Missouri Local Organization Committee had already made the decision to become a permanent, standing committee dedicated to bringing events into the Westplex area -- events like marathons, runs, triathlons, and -- of course -- bicycle races.

Area leaders, organized by Ed Watkins, were able to raise $70,000 in just a few weeks to create the Westplex Sports, Arts and Entertainment L.O.C.

Ed has played a central role in creating support and raising funds for an amazing number of local, state, and national project such as: The St. Charles Family Arena, the TR Hughes Ballpark, the Robert F. Hyland Performance Arena, the St. Peters Rec-Plex and Olympic Swimming & Diving Center, the National Fantasy Baseball Camps for the Hearing Impaired, the Ozzie Smith Stadium, and many others.

The Westplex L.O.C. now wants to make the Westplex area a model "Bicycling Center."

The Bicycling Center will implement many of the best practices for creating bicycle-friendly communities, practices that have been tried and tested by communities across the U.S. and the world. To these proven best practices we will add opportunities unique to the Westplex area.

Here are just some of the possibilities we will explore:
  • Bicycle-friendly cities where children and adults feel comfortable riding for health, recreation, or to visit friends, parks, schools, and shopping by bicycle.
  • A regional trails network anchored by the statewide Katy Trail.
  • Better promote the Katy Trail and the region as a tourist and recreation destination.
  • A world-class velodrome.
  • Regular bicycle rides, races, and events, both amateur and professional.
  • Bring unique bicycle-related businesses to the Westplex.
  • Creating a "culture of bicycling" what will set Westplex apart from almost everywhere else in the United States.
The groups have a rather ambitious goal. In the past, St. Charles County has developed a reputation of being somewhat unfriendly toward cyclists, who sometimes are told by motorists to "get on the trail," referring to the Katy Trail that runs through the county. I don't do enough riding in St. Charles County to know first-hand whether that reputation is deserved.

I do think the Tour of Missouri may have opened some eyes to the economic impact of cycling, and the success of the trail system in Madison County, Ill., can serve as a model for the Westplex to follow.

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