Fall Adventures at Swiss Valley

          Fall programming at Swiss Valley Nature Center include The Great Swiss Gnome Hunt on Friday, November 27th at 10:00 a.m. This Black Friday event is perfect for Thanksgiving Day weekend. The Swiss Valley staff explains: “Every year Swiss Valley staff report sightings of tiny men in red hats hiding out in nooks and crannies along the trails of the preserve. Gnomes are known to be highly skilled wood workers and deeply care for nature. That may be why they are found here. It’s been long said that garden gnomes are nocturnal creatures being timid and afraid of humans. They freeze during the day in hopes that no one can see them, much like rabbits do. Or perhaps they keep moseying around, it’s hard to say. You’ll have to come and discover for yourself. Keep a safe physical distance of six feet or more from all gnomes, as well as other humans who are not a part of your group. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find every gnome in each setting. After all, they might scamper around and try to hide from you!” This program is sponsored by the Friends of Dubuque County Conservation Board.

          Last week the Nature Center held its annual Halloween Hike. This year’s theme was focused on Scooby Doo, who was fighting off invasive species.

           Good family fun can be found outdoors. Check out the Swiss Valley Event Calendar for opportunities to share with your family or to volunteer to be a part of this imaginative organization having fun outdoors!

Newly Paved Riverside Road to the John Deere Marsh

          Riverside Road behind John Deere recently received an upgrade with new asphalt. The road back to the John Deere Marsh is newly completed, and the road and marsh are perfect for biking, birding and, of course, hiking. Dubuque County Conservation maintains a parking lot, a small boat ramp, and the marsh area for the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.


The MyDBQ app can be downloaded from the Apple Store and the GooglePlay Store. If you are riding or walking in the Dubuque area and see an area that needs attention, such as a dangerous pothole, download the MyDBQ app and report it. There is a GPS system built into the app, recording the location. There is also the ability to take a photo of the problem area. Once the city receives the information, the problem can be directed to the proper city department or county agency for a resolution.


Kayaking at Blanding’s Landing

                A beautiful fall day called to us to go kayaking somewhere. We choose Blanding’s Landing, south of Galena off of Blackjack Road. We paddled north from the landing, viewing the cottages along the shoreline, imagining what life would be like if we owned a cabin here. We noticed a couple of train tunnels that allowed side creeks to flow into the river. The warm fall day was so enticing that we wanted to see more fall foliage.

         We then traveled to the other side of the landing, and we caught a glimpse of Bellevue across the channel.

The explosive fall colors on the drive to Blanding’s Landing were muted here along the river, but nature gave us a show we didn’t expect. About 500 coots traveled in front of us on our way back to the dock. Hiding in dying lily and lotus plants, these birds floated out silently in great swarms. When they spotted us, they took to the sky, splashing and slapping the water as they don’t gain much height when they fly. Other coots continued paddling along, undisturbed by the commotion the others were making. What a cool sight! 

Bike to Work Week Ideas

You may have noticed that the month of May passed by without any fanfare about biking to work. It may have been because many of us were working from home, our kids were attempting to learn from home and many other aspects of our lives were (and probably still are) functioning a little differently; but the League of American Bicyclists opted to shift Bike to Work Week to September 21-27, 2020. Bike Month was still celebrated in May, but you didn’t miss Bike to Work Week! 

The purpose of Bike to Work Week has always been to promote the benefits of bicycling including physical and mental health and reduced air pollution from congestion and vehicle emissions.  Many of us are still working from home, balancing childcare, our day-jobs, and figuring out how to navigate when to wear masks, when to have items delivered vs going to the store, if and when to see family and friends, etc. Because of this, Bike to Work Week is a little bit the same and a little bit different this year. 

It is what it always was: a reminder to get outside and move our bodies. It is also a chance to do it with our families or friends outside of traditional commuting hours, utilizing the public infrastructure available for biking and walking that are available in our community. Click here for maps and details on Dubuque’s trails.

Here are a few ideas to get you moving for Bike to Work Week:  

Working from home? Create a commute!

If you’re working from home, take a walk or bike ride before you officially start your workday. Plus side: no need to transport your change of clothes and you get to shower in the comfort of your own home!

Working from home with kids? Take them along for the Ride!

If you’ve got kids at home while working from home, take them with you for that pre-work walk or ride. It’s a great chance to (a) introduce your kids to the idea of getting places without a car, (b) show them the places you like to walk or bike, and/or (c) practice their (hopeful) return to school “commute” by foot or bike. I’ve been doing this with my kids throughout the pandemic and it helps them fall asleep faster at the end of the day (BONUS)!

Running an errand? Go by bike or on foot!

Fun Fact: 40% of all trips taken in the US are less than 2 miles. That’s a very reasonable biking distance. Challenge yourself to get out during Bike to Work Week and go by bike or foot for one of those trips. 

Participate in Cycle September: Global Bike Challenge

For the month of September, Love to Ride, USA is hosting a Global Bike Challenge. Log miles, earn points and win prizes!


The Unexpected Effects of the Covid Pandemic

by Dianne Koch

The effect of being cooped up with the pandemic has brought about surprising results, most notably the resurgence of biking in American life, a rise in park usage, a cleaner atmosphere, working from home, and a calmer, slower lifestyle.

Bike store owners have reported that bike sales, particularly of the cross or hybrid bikes, are extended out to October or November delivery dates. Some of the bikes are made in China, which was first hit with the virus. Parish Marrugg of Bicycle World reports those factories are back in production but at limited capacities so American customers must wait. The wait for bicycle parts is also longer than normal.

Other outdoor sports are also seeing an uptick in participation. Kayaks are gone within a few hours of being placed on the floor at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

All city and county parks have seen increased usage as well since being outdoors is good for fresh air, good exercise, and developing an interest in nature, sports, or history. Perhaps residents will be more appreciative of the wide variety of park services and amenities we have available in the Dubuque area. Families have more time together as they are encouraged to self-isolate in household groups.

A cleaner atmosphere is another startling facet of this time. With so many people limited to their homes and the ability to be connected to one’s job via the internet, traffic in all parts of the world is way down. Photos of the differences in the atmospheric conditions are quite noticeable. The 2020 Trek Bicycle catalog illustrates the dramatic difference with two photos from New Delhi, India, dated October 20, 2017 and March 30, 2020.

Meanwhile, the decrease in traffic has caused many to note the quieter streets, which has, ironically, gotten more bike riders onto the streets, notes Dave Hartig of Bicycle World.

Last, a calmer, quieter lifestyle is another unexpected ramification from the pandemic. Parents aren’t spending time in traffic, and trips to the stores are limited and more judiciously planned. Gone are trips for our children’s practices and rehearsals, and nearly all live concerts, graduations, and large group events are cancelled. These will return in time, but for now alternatives are taking place: playing board games, practicing and composing music, reading, computer gaming, cooking, and watching Hamilton.

Perhaps lots of new skills, hobbies, and interests will arise during this time of isolation. The unintended effects are notable and worth thinking about for the future. Meanwhile we may be frustrated with the isolation, we do have the outdoors yet and many opportunities await us as we wait the pandemic out.

Proving Grounds Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails to be completed by Fall 2020

by Dianne Koch

The TriState Mountain Bike Riders (TMBR) has another gem waiting for completion. With the rave reviews and the stellar success of the Interstate Power Preserve Trail, TMBR has positioned itself with another awesome entry in the Dubuque area at the Proving Grounds County Park near John Deere. The trails were developed on land donated by John Deere in 2018. Today the land is managed by the Dubuque County Conservation Board. Funds were raised by TMBR, and the trails were developed by a professional mountain bike trail building designers. As a testing grounds for John Deere products, the land had multiple uses. Keeping in that spirit, hiking trail names today are indicative of the area’s history, such as Dozer Drive, Backdrag, Skidder Loop, and Excavator Ridge. While the machinery is gone, the park today contains open prairie grasslands, forest, bluffs, and flatlands for hikers and bikers.

Bikers and hikers are welcome to use the park even though all the trails are not yet finished. A recent front page article in the Telegraph Herald also touted its merits. The trails wind in and out of all the ecosystems, creating scenic variety and technical challenges. When finished in late 2020, over 6 miles of dirt singletrack and 3 miles of grass trails will be in place. Eagle Scout Dan Reich built six wooden structures for the skills area. Plans are also underway to develop a disc golf course eventually as well.

Please check the Condition updates to any of TMBR’s three trails at https://tmbrtrails.org/ before venturing out.

Rules of the Road for Bicyclists in Iowa and Dubuque

By Art Roche

In an earlier issue of this newsletter, I wrote about what automobile student drivers are taught about bicycles.  For this issue, we take a different perspective- what state laws and city ordinances should bicyclists in this part of the world know?  I have been bicycling in Dubuque for about fifty years, but there are still some things I’ve wondered about.  Is it okay to ride my bike on the sidewalk?  Is a rear reflector enough at night, or must I have red light back there?  Can I signal a right turn by sticking out my right arm?  Should I ride in the middle of the street like a car, or way over on the right?

There are two main sources for information about your rights and responsibilities as a bicyclist- Iowa Code 321.234 (www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iacode/2001/321/234.html) and the City of Dubuque’s ordinances (https://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=803) search= bicycle.  The Code of Iowa regulates bicycle operations on a statewide level.  The Code allows for local cities to create their own laws to regulate bicycle traffic including registration.  The Iowa Code does require that any local ordinance cannot conflict with Iowa Code 321.234 that gives bicyclists the same rights and duties as the operators of motor vehicles except by nature where they don’t apply.  There are 269 cities in Iowa with local bike ordinances, including Dubuque.

If you have serious legal questions, please refer to the source material.  This article is intended only to pique your curiosity and open some conversations.  I’ll tell you what’s in the law and elaborate a bit on things that I found unusual or unexpected.

Iowa law says that a person riding a bicycle on the street or highway has all the rights, and is required to know and obey all traffic laws and rules of the road that are applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle.  Note that this applies to bicyclists of all ages who ride on streets and highways, and in fact I find no age requirement in state or city laws for riding bicycles on public roadways.

Bicyclists must ride “with the flow of traffic on the right side of the roadway.”  Exceptions include passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, avoiding parked vehicles, drain grates, debris or other unsafe conditions. Bicyclists may also ride on the shoulder or a designated bike lane. “Bicyclists operating on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride as close to the right curb or edge of the roadway as is safe and practical.”  The Dubuque ordinance says this means the rightmost four feet of roadway.  So I guess unless I’m keeping up with traffic, I need to be on the far right side.  My personal interpretation of “unsafe conditions” means I stay far enough away from parked cars to completely avoid the arc of an opening car door.

The keys to safe bicycling include being predictable, visible, and communicating your intentions to motorists.  Iowa law says a right turn signal involves extending your left arm with forearm and hand upright, like an automobile driver would.  The Dubuque ordinance allows a bicyclist to signal a right turn by extending the right arm.

A bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a white light on the front, and red light or reflector on the rear, both visible for a distance of at least 300 feet. (Note: for reference, that’s the length of a football field.)

Bicyclists are allowed on almost all Iowa roads except interstates, certain other controlled-access highways with posted minimum speed limits, and streets where bicyclists are prohibited by local ordinance.

You can’t carry more people on your bicycle than it is designed and equipped to carry, except for adult bicyclists carrying a child securely attached to the bicycle in a seat or trailer designed to carry children.

Motorists and other cyclists aren’t looking for a bicyclist on the wrong side of the roadway. Riding on the wrong side increases the likelihood and severity of head-on collisions.

Bicyclists who violate traffic laws are subject to the same fines as motor vehicle drivers.  (Note: While speeding may not be a typical bicyclist violation, running a red light or a stop sign may be.)  Bicyclists must stop for school buses just like motor vehicles.

Dubuque City Code as of September 3, 2019 offers a lot more detail on bicycle laws, and covers areas not mentioned in the state laws.  Some of the more interesting points:

  • “Every bicycle owned or ridden within this city shall be registered pursuant to the provisions of this chapter within ten (10) days of the date the bicycle is acquired or the residency of the owner is established.” The fee is $5.00, good for as long as the bike is owned by the person registering it.  (There’s much more about this topic in the code, but I’m very skeptical about whether anyone registers their bicycles.)  Also, it’s unlawful to alter or counterfeit the registration sticker, in case you’re thinking of making a fast $5.

An examination of Dubuque County ordinances revealed no mentions of the word ‘bicycle”.  There are some special event ordinances that would regulate events like bicycle rides of 100 participants or more.

New Dubuque County Bike Route 1 Trail Signs

Signage for Dubuque County Bike Route 1 has been installed over the past few weeks. The scenic route is 66 miles in length. Starting at the Heritage Trail Pond Parking Lot, it meanders through Sageville, Sherrill, Balltown, Holy Cross, Dyersville, Farley, Epworth, Centralia and back to Dubuque. Described in more detail in the Spring 2020 issue of the Trail Vision Voice, this route is worth the time to explore in smaller segments if you want to spread out the fun and enjoy the good food establishments along the way. The signs came with a minimal cost as they were attached to existing county signs and were acquired via funding from the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.

Guess where TSTV member Art Roche is?