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City to host several downtown running and cycling races, including Tour of Lawrence

Well, it looks like a certain basketball-oriented celebration that has been known to close downtown streets has been called off this year. But fear not, there will still be plenty of opportunities to celebrate — and close downtown streets — in the coming weeks.

What sort of a lineup have we got scheduled? What would you say if I told you that you could take out your hatred on tick-borne diseases by participating in a 5K race that will go through downtown and parts of East Lawrence? I would say if you are still ticked off about the KU-Michigan game, here’s your chance to actually take it out on the ticks. (Yeah, that joke sucked. Most tick jokes do.)

Mark your calendar for 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 11: The Kansas Tick-Borne Disease Advocates will host a race that will begin on Massachusetts Street at South Park, go through downtown to Seventh Street, head into East Lawrence, loop back onto Massachusetts Street at 15th Street and then finish at South Park. Massachusetts Street will be closed for a few minutes at a time as the runners come by in waves.

Several other events either have been approved or are in the process of being approved for the downtown in coming weeks. Here’s a look:

• At 8 a.m. on Monday, May 27 — Memorial Day — organizers will host The Home Run 5K in downtown Lawrence, an event that benefits Family Promise and the Lawrence Community Shelter. Perhaps the Royals pitching staff will participate. They usually are at the scene of a home run. (Yes, I’m a true Royals fan. I know Opening Day is not too early to lose your optimism about the team.)

The race will use the same route as the tick-borne awareness race. City officials, I believe, are trying to convince more events to use that route because it requires fewer resources from the Police Department to control traffic, and it introduces people to the city’s Burroughs Creek Trail that runs through East Lawrence.

• The Tour of Lawrence bicycle races will be back in Lawrence from June 28 through June 30. Once again, the events will happen both downtown and on the KU campus.

On Friday, June 28, downtown will host the Street Sprint portion of the tour. The 700 and 800 blocks of New Hampshire will be closed from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 28. That’s where the sprinting will take place. Eighth Street between New Hampshire and Massachusetts will be closed from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 28. That's where the post-sprint celebrating will take place. The area will have a kids zone and live music, and adult beverages also will be sold.

A word of warning to people who park along New Hampshire Street: Be sure to move your car by 5 p.m. on that day, because towing will take place to ensure the race route is clear. (It's a Friday, so you can tell your boss that it's super critical you be out of the office by 5 p.m. I think I’ll park there.)

On Saturday, June 29, the racing will shift to the KU campus. Several streets on and near the campus will be impacted by the race but none will be completely closed. Here’s a look at that route and others used during the tour.

On Sunday, June 30, the event will finish with a Downtown Criterium, which is kind of like bicycle’s version of NASCAR short track racing, except the pit crews don’t fight at the end of each race. (The spandex must have a calming effect. Maybe NASCAR should try it.) It really is some action-packed racing, and it will require several streets in downtown to be closed from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. That includes much of Massachusetts Street and parts of New Hampshire and Vermont.

As in the past, the event will receive $10,000 from the city’s transient guest tax fund. The event will use the money to help attract elite teams to the race. This year the money also will be used to increase marketing to cyclists in the Chicago and Dallas areas.

• And finally, on the weekend of Sept.14-15, an estimated 2,000 cyclists once again will be camping overnight in downtown Lawrence. The 2013 Bike MS event is set to take place from 6 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, to noon Sunday, Sept. 15, in South Park.

In case you don’t remember the event — which will be making its third appearance in Lawrence — it is a fundraiser for the Mid-America Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Near as I can tell, cyclists ride miles and miles — from the Garmin headquarters in Olathe to South Park — to justify partaking in a large beer tent that has been sponsored by an area brewing company in the past. (Personally, I just drink light beer and skip the miles and miles of cycling part.)

In addition to riders coming from the east, a separate group also will be leaving from Topeka to ride to South Park.

The event will require Massachusetts Street from North Park and South Park streets to be closed from 6 a.m. Sept. 14 to noon on Sept. 15. The Community Building Parking lot also will be closed at that time. Both South Park and the Community Building will be used as an overnight “Cycle Village.”

• This last event isn’t a race and it won’t impact traffic in downtown. But I thought I would mention it anyway because it may impact traffic near 27th and Iowa streets. At least it is likely to when my wife is driving by it, becomes distracted by it and uses the Ford Taurus to create a new drive-thru at the nearby Runza restaurant. Beginning April 13 and lasting for the entire week, there will be 5,860 multi-colored flags stuck into the ground near the southeast corner of 27th and Iowa Streets — in front of Landmark Bank and Runza.

The flags — about 20 inches high — will be commemorating the Week of the Young Child. The 5,860 number is meant to be one flag for every child that is in childcare in Lawrence. The flag idea is being put together by Child Care Aware of Northeast and North Central Kansas, a nonprofit group based in Lawrence.

So, don’t be distracted. I’ve warned you. But Runza folks, if you see a maroon Taurus with a driver pointing at the pretty flags, I’d take cover behind the counter.

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City looking to partner with Hertz for on-demand car rental program in downtown

Soon a yellow and black sign likely will be prominently displayed to reserve a prime parking spot in downtown Lawrence.

No, Hell hasn’t frozen over and the city isn’t beginning to reserve parking spaces for Missouri Tiger fans. (Although, we ought to consider it. If a Tiger fan is willing to go to the trouble to take his car down off the blocks in his front yard, the least we can do is help him get a parking space.)

But no, that’s not what city commissioners will be contemplating tonight. Instead, commissioners will be considering a program to allow Hertz — and its yellow and black sign — to begin an on-demand car rental program in downtown.

Hertz has four cars that are part of an on-demand program on the KU campus. The program has been used enough that the company has an interest in placing a fifth car in downtown.

The program works like this: Hertz will have a dedicated parking spot — hence the sign, which, have I mentioned, is yellow and black — in the free two hour lot on the west side of New Hampshire Street near Eighth Street. (City lot No. 4, if you are scoring along at home.)

If you think you may want to use the car sometime, you sign up for the program and get a swipe card. Then, you can rent the car anytime online, swipe the card to unlock the doors, and away you go.

Eileen Horn, the city-county sustainability coordinator, worked to get the program in place for downtown because she thinks it may actually make people more comfortable using public transportation.

Horn said some people are nervous about riding the bus, biking or walking to work because they never know when they may unexpectedly need to use a car.

“If you have to run and get your child at school for some reason, you’ll have a car to do it,” Horn said as an example.

City commissioners are being asked to give final approval for the program at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today.

There are no fees for the city to pay to be a part of the program. The city, however, will need to donate use of the parking space to Hertz. The city is proposing a month-to-month donation agreement to monitor how the program progresses.

Horn said she expects the program could begin in two to four weeks.

Hertz is seeking approval to place a sign like this one in downtown Lawrence for its on-demand rental car program — Photo courtesy city of Lawrence/Hertz.

Hertz is seeking approval to place a sign like this one in downtown Lawrence for its on-demand rental car program — Photo courtesy city of Lawrence/Hertz. by Chad Lawhorn

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