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 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 ( and the City of Dubuque’s ordinances ( 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?

Lots of Local Disc Golf Courses

by Dianne Koch

Several disc golf courses are in the area, providing a fun way to get outdoors, sharpen your Frisbee skills, and walk your way to fitness. There is an art beyond the basic tossing of a Frisbee. Involving several different kinds of professional discs, the game takes on an entirely new feel. Those new to the game should learn the difference between the distance and fairway drivers, the mid-distance discs, and putters and when to use certain discs. With several different kinds of professional discs, the game takes on an entirely new feel.

At Veteran’s Memorial Park behind Wahlert High School has a great 18-hole hilly course that is challenging and scenic. Well-maintained as always, the course has been in place for many years but is hidden from Kane Street. Turn onto Northview Drive, head into the Veterans Memorial parking lot and the first hole is down the hill immediately on your left. Also in Dubuque, a new course is being planned at the new Proving Grounds County Park out near John Deere.

Elsewhere in the county, Swiss Valley Park, just outside of Dubuque, a 9-hole course is at the picnic and campground area. Dyersville, Iowa, has a 9-hole course on the west side of town at ironically Westside Park. Hole number one is off of 3rd Street Southwest. Online reviews say it is a well-kept course. North of Dyersville, Dubuque County Conservation park New Wine Park also has a 9-hole course. Monticello’s Willow Park, described as mostly flat and wooded, is home to a disc golf course. In Peosta, the Kelly Oaks course on Cox Springs Road just north of Seton Catholic School is a 9-hole moderately hilly, wooded course.

In East Dubuque, Dunlieth Park on Parklane Drive and then Dunn Street is sporting a new 9-hole course called Nubbs Nine. The website describes the course as hilly and heavily wooded with short, technical holes.

Over in Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, a disc golf course lies on Greenwood Avenue and another Platteville city course is at Westview Park on Camp Street.

With so many courses nearby, now is the time to get out, discover new places so close to home, and challenge yourself with the intricacies of a new hobby while hiking.

Bike to Work Week Moved to September!

While May is a lovely month to ride or walk to work, the Coronavirus pandemic has made it trickier this year. So for 2020, Bike to Work Week will be moved from May to September 21-27th, according to a recent announcement from The League of American Bicyclists. May is still designated at Bike Month, so you can still plan to get out as much as possible.

A new development locally is that Dupaco Community Credit Union has engaged Candace Eudaley, the former City of Dubuque Transit Manager, as a consultant to work with their employees and the wider community to develop sustainable transportation efforts not only during Bike to Work Week, but year-round. When plans are confirmed, she will let us know what is in store for September Bike to Work Week.

TMBR Trail Update

by Brett Erthum, TMBR President

            Tri-state Mountain Bike Riders (TMBR) is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization focused on development of natural surface woodland trails. Our trails are tailored to appeal to cyclists, but are also enjoyed by walkers, runners, and others that appreciate being in the wooded environment.   TMBR is in its fifth year of operation in 2020.   

This time of the year is challenging for soft-surface trails because of the moisture retained from winter.  As the weather improves, our users are eager to get on the trail.   The trail surface is shaped to shed water.  However, tire tracks and foot prints will compromise the trail’s ability to drain water because these create pools and ruts that keep the water on the trail longer.  Because of this, the land owner will close trails if the conditions are too soft to support traffic. TMBR is working with these land owners to communicate trails status at the following website:  . Volunteers are working to maintain the trails surface for the enjoyment of everybody.  Please show your support of their commitment by honoring trail closures.

2019 closed with groundbreaking at our latest trail project at the new Proving Grounds Park on the North end of Dubuque.  Bike trail specialist Pathfinder Trail Building was onsite in November and December to start construction of the 6 mile, $240,000 project. The Pathfinder crew is expected to return when ground conditions and C-19 containment improve. Expect to see them working in the park during the late spring and early summer.  Most of the constructed trail will remain closed to all users until appropriate signage is put in place this spring. The entire system is expected to be open this year.  It will include Mississippi River views and challenging terrain.  Until then, users can enjoy the 2 miles of ‘easy’ grade trail that already exists at the park.

Interstate Power Preserve trails enjoyed a landmark year in 2019.  Backyard Trails took over the project to complete the final loop.  IPP now boasts nearly 7 miles of the best mountain bike trails in the state of Iowa.  As a matter of fact, lists IPP as the #1 area to ride in the state of Iowa. Congratulations to Dubuque County Conservation and TMBR for creating a remarkable trail system in our community.   Our citizens and generations of Dubuque area residents will enjoy this resource for decades to come.  Dubuque County leaders were surprised by the popularity of this trail, and they are currently evaluating improvements to the park that will further enhance the user experience.

TMBR continues to seek new opportunities to expand our network of woodland trails.  It wouldn’t be possible if not for the people that commit their time to make this happen. If you appreciate what TMBR does in our community, consider getting involved by volunteering for a board position or become a member supporter at  TMBR enjoys great support from the Dubuque Community. Thanks for all the help we get making our trails something that we can all be proud of.

Bike Coop Update

By Rob Williams

At this point, we have our annual Bee Branch Bike Rodeo on the calendar – tentatively Tuesday, 5 May 2020.  It would be after school – most likely at Audubon, but as with everything else, all plans are in “pencil”. 

The Coop is operating on an appointment basis.  One of our volunteers, Josh Roer, has taken lead and has photos of all available bicycles listed on our facebook page:  Patrons just need to message us via the page and we can set up appointments to collect.

Any other activities will be announced via the page.


Dubuque County Water Trails

In the Covid-19 era with social distancing, what better way to explore the outdoors than kayaking or canoeing the Dubuque area water trails?

               In the city, the Dubuque Water Trail extends from A.Y. MacDonald Park on Dubuque ‘s north end to Massey Park Marina. Established a number of years ago, the 11-mile trail provides accesses at the A. Y. MacDonald Park, Schmitt Island, the Waterfront Pavilion on the RiverWalk, Mines of Spain Catfish Creek, and Massey Marina. Water travelers can hug the shore or check out the backwaters. More information can be found at:

                Several paddling options are offered by the Dubuque County Parks. Behind John Deere on Riverside Drive, a ramp at the John Deere Marsh parking lot can lead to more river and marsh exploration of the Mississippi. Going around the peninsula on the left, floaters can go to the mouth of the Little Maquoketa and travel upstream. 

               At Mud Lake Park, paddlers can access to the Mississippi and a long backwater protected channel also allows for spectacular nature viewing, particularly water birds, up close. 

            Fillmore Park offers an access point for Whitewater Canyon trail with a take out point at Bellevue-Cascade Road bridge.

            More information on area paddling sites can be found at Dubuque Kayakers & Paddlers Facebook Page.

While the water may currently be high on area rivers, we can always plan for warmer days with lower water levels.  In the next edition, we will review some Jackson County water trails.