“Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.” – H.G. Wells
Sometimes you hear a city referred to as being a good town for business, or as an excellent place to raise a family, or as a great place to shop and have fun.
McKinney is all of these, but did you know it’s a fine place for bicycling, too? When I say “bicycling,” I mean all kinds of bike-riding: people who need their bicycles for transportation, those who ride for pleasure, those who compete in McKinney’s growing number of organized cycling events and those who bike off-road and love nothing more than the thrill of pedaling their way through forested hills and around tight dirt curves.
Let’s take a look at each of these and learn a little about how each has been impacted by — and are in turn having an impact upon — our community.
In much of the world, the bicycle is the primary means of transportation. Most of us in McKinney tend to see biking as a hobby, a pastime, or just a fun way to get exercise, but the fact is that a surprising number of our fellow residents really do use a bicycle as their only way to get to work.
Two area men, Randy Hancock and Rich Szecsy, saw the reality of this when they helped with a church project to repair bicycles and provide them to people who didn’t have one. At the outset they wondered if they could find ways to make older bikes useful to others and, if there was such a need, get the bikes into the hands of such people. The response to their effort was immediate and very clear. As Szecsy says, “The need was overwhelming. At first it was just three bikes, then 45, then 100. It took off in a way we never imagined.”
Photo by Ann Hiner
Rich Szecsy assumes the racing position.
The logical extension of the project was to establish an organization that could fill a tremendous need, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit, “ReCycles McKinney,” was born. Local businesses, including McKinney’s first dedicated bicycle shop, Cadence Cyclery, soon joined forces with ReCycles McKinney to help.
Several events to provide bicycles have already been held and, as organizers immediately discovered, the bikes went quickly and were happily accepted by young and old alike. 3e McKinney, an organized, faith-based collaborative effort that seeks to engage volunteers for short and long term community involvement, was astounded to see at its most recent “Garage Giveaway” that 150 bicycles went to new homes in just 45 minutes!.
Hancock and Szecsy are thrilled that ReCycles McKinney is helping fill a need and keep bicycles out of landfills. Best of all, the entire operation and all of its benefits remain local: everything goes right back into our community. In March of this year, ReCycles McKinney received a $5,000 grant from the McKinney Community Development Corporation for funding tools and equipment.
A bicycle is an almost magical means of transportation that can be used and valued for years. John Lennon once reflected: “As a kid I had a dream — I wanted to own my own bicycle. When I got the bike I must have been the happiest boy in Liverpool, maybe the world. I lived for that bike.” Thanks to ReCycles McKinney and its caring organizers and sponsors, there are some McKinney residents who no doubt feel the same.
Randy Hancock and Rich Szecsy the organizers of ReCycles McKinney – a non-profit that repairs bikes and gets them in hands of those who need them.
McKinney is on its way to becoming a more bike-friendly city. Bicyclists by and large have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. The City (and state law) reminds automobile drivers and bicyclists that cyclists moving slower than traffic should stay as far right as practical. Also, the law stipulates that bicyclist may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles. You may have noticed new signs on some of McKinney’s roadways (for example, on Lake Forest Drive and Hardin Blvd.) That say “Bicycles May Use Full Lane.” These began going up in McKinney in March of this year to remind motor vehicle drivers of the right of bicyclists to use the full lane. The signs are part of McKinney’s On-Street Bicycle Transportation Master Plan. The city reminds drivers of motor vehicles to look for cyclists when driving and especially on roadways with signage, and to treat cyclists as they would any slow-moving vehicle operator.
There are a growing number of cycling events held in — and supported by — the City of McKinney. McKinney serves as either a passageway or home to several, including the annual “Collin Classic Bike Rally,” held in the summer, and the “Wish 100 Bicycle Rally,” which will be held Oct. 5 and offers 10-, 45- and 60-mile rides to raise funds for children with life threatening medical conditions.
Of all local events, however, the fastest growing and perhaps most well-known is the unique “Bike the Bricks” event, an annual race held in Historic Downtown McKinney. Riders come from throughout the southwest to compete for a piece of the $20,000 (and growing!) Purse, often hitting speeds over 40 mph. Spectators are welcome, and the excitement of seeing racers zoom past just inches away is exhilarating. It’s no wonder some describe it as “NASCAR on wheels.”
Photo by Lachelle Via
Racing at the 2013 Bike the Bricks event in downtown McKinney.
McKinney is also an excellent place for off-road cycling. There are miles and miles of wide, spacious hike-and-bike trails throughout the city. Newly opened trails provide auto-free access from Boyd High School to Towne Lake and McKinney High School. Families with small children find these trails especially inviting. For a bigger thrill, it’s difficult to top the incredible multiuse trail at Erwin Park. Eight miles long and full of twists, turns, hills, field, forest and skill-level choices from novice to advanced, the trail is considered one of the top five in the region. Bicyclists from other cities plan vacations around the chance to ride on this free, exciting, remarkably diverse trail. The City’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department does an outstanding job with the hike-and-bike trails and owns the Erwin Park property, but the trail is actually cared for and overseen by a number of biking associations, who consider it an invaluable off-road riding spot. In fact, close to 2,000 hours a year of volunteer work goes into maintaining the location.
McKinney is a fine city for bicycling, and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s on the way to becoming, in some ways, a benchmark location for the pursuit. It’s home to everything from organizations that help residents with transportation, to biking events and dedicated areas for all types of riding. If you want to try your hand — or perhaps I should say feet — at pedal-power, McKinney’s is a great place to do it!
About the author: Christopher Foster is a writer and photographer living in McKinney. An occasional off-road biker, he enjoys seeing riders who never lost the ‘biking bug’ after growing up — or who have rediscovered it.