By Emily Furia, business network writer
Brent Hugh couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.
The executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation was looking at the Strava heat map for Louisiana, Missouri, a town of about 3,200 people on the Mississippi River. To cross the river into Illinois, bicyclists must ride over the 88-year-old Champ Clark Bridge, a 20-foot-wide, five-truss span with no shoulders. After driving over the structure, a reporter from the Boone County Journal in Illinois described it as “so painfully narrow, you squeeze your shoulders together and hold your breath as you slowly inch your way over it.” And it was glowing.
“I was astonished,” Hugh said. “You would not believe the number of people who bicycle across that bridge.”
The bridge’s replacement, which will have two 10-foot shoulders, will likely attract even more riders when it opens next November. “It’s going to be a huge improvement for bicycle access,” Hugh says.
A bicycle rider’s dream
The new Champ Clark (see map, 1) is just one of many bicycle-related projects that could transform the riding scene in Northern Missouri. In many respects, the region is a bicycle rider’s dream. Shaped by glaciers during the Ice Age, the terrain is gently rolling, much less rugged and more human scale than the Ozark Mountains to the south. The area is mostly rural, with miles of low-traffic paved roads connecting small, friendly towns through vast stretches of farmland. “It has a huge potential for bicycle tourism,” Hugh says.