What’s not to like about a shaded, tree-lined...

Las Vegas is bicycle-friendly?

Outside of the strip's casinos and mega-hotels, Lennard Zinn discovers that the cycling in Las Vegas actually has a lot to offer.

For a decade or so, I’ve been riding my bike from downtown Las Vegas to Boulder City for the Interbike Outdoor Demo (ODD) at Bootleg Canyon, and it just keeps getting better. Now, about 40km of the 44km distance is on paved bike paths. It’s a joy to ride such a long way through a busy city without any concerns about cars. Add yesterday’s overcast, cool weather, as opposed to the normal sunbaked, triple-digit temperatures, and it was even better.

I have something of an allergy to taking motorized transport when a riding option exists, and I feel particularly strongly about this at Interbike, given that it’s a bike show, after all. I prefer pedaling to taking an air-conditioned bus, particularly one that you have to wait in line for. Nonetheless, every year I seem to be part of a miniscule minority riding to and from ODD. That said, I am not a big fan of riding up a steep hill into a setting sun that renders me hard to see for drivers on busy, six-lane roads choked with cars and traffic lights, and most on-road routes back from Outdoor Demo involve some of that.

But this particular set of bike trails avoids those roads completely, allowing enjoyment of incredible Las Vegas sunsets without concern for my safety. The route goes from Warm Springs Dr. (one of the less-congested major Vegas arteries) in the north along I-215 and then the Union Pacific Railroad through Henderson. A short piece of quiet road under I-515 links to another trail over Railroad Pass directly to Boulder City’s Bootleg Canyon, which hosts the Outdoor Demo. The bike trails through Henderson alone are amazingly extensive, and they connect to a 35-mile paved loop trail circumnavigating the River Mountains containing Bootleg Canyon and following the western lakeshore in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Except for underpasses, this trail’s road crossings are generally at grade, and some of them can be tedious and even a bit confusing at huge traffic arteries. But contrary to what you might expect, Las Vegas-area drivers tend to be exceedingly considerate at the crosswalks. Even when you don’t push the button for the yellow flashing pedestrian lights, which equip almost every minor road crossing in Henderson, almost all of the cars tend to stop when they see you on the edge or in the median, waiting to cross.

Some serious work, thought, and expense went into these trails. The landscaping along the Union Pacific Trail, for instance, includes long, shady, tree-lined corridors with trickle-drip systems keeping the trees alive in the scorching desert. Next time you’re in Vegas, bring your bike and explore!

Las Vegas cycling
Ah, brand-new bike trails course through this desert city along I-215. Photo: Lennard Zinn |
Las Vegas cycling
The immaculately-paved Union Pacific Bike Trail goes along an operating rail line, rather than waiting for the rail line to be defunct and then putting in a rail trail. Photo: Lennard Zinn |
Las Vegas cycling
Trail signage provides more than just trail rules; some signs explain local history as well. Photo: Lennard Zinn |
Las Vegas cycling
The trail’s tree species span a wide variety. And, unlike in Boulder, CO, where the railroad company does everything it can to prevent people from riding alongside the rails, near Boulder City, NV, simply putting a fence along the tracks keeps everyone safe and happy. Photo: Lennard Zinn |
Las Vegas cycling
At the end of the day, riders can enjoy gorgeous desert sunsets due to the peace and quiet of the trail, instead of fearing for life and limb on busy streets headed up into the sun. Photo: Lennard Zinn |