Bikes or Boats?

Without any real value analysis (just like the way the giant fountains were pushed down our throats) Dr. Mike Ervin and Five Rivers Metroparks are about to raise and spend $4 million on a pet project of making Dayton a kayaking destination.

Were any other studies done to see what could have maximum bang for the buck? How big is this kayaking community? And, besides being good for one local business, White Water Warehouse on Valley Street, who else really benefits?

From the Dayton Daily News:

Officials have set a goal to complete fundraising by September for the $3 million needed for the $4 million river project that would remove one low dam from the Great Miami River and install two rock formations suitable for kayaking and canoeing in downtown Dayton….

Removal of the dam likely will cause the river to be more narrow, but the rock formations will continue to give it the depth necessary for water recreation, Scarff said. The rock formations, known as “drop points” will be installed at RiverScape and behind the YMCA on Monument, essentially extending RiverScape to that point.

Openings in the rocks will allow an easy passage for kayaks and canoes and another more adventurous whitewater-style passage.

River access points will be improved at RiverScape and behind the Y, and at Wolf Creek and in the Carillon Park area. Scarff said the project will create a flowing river, improve aquatic diversity, maintain flood control, improve safety and help create a sense of vibrancy that should attract people to the community and retain young professionals.

“We have the opportunity to create a real kayaking scene,” Scarff said.

via Organizers seek $3M more for river by September.

For less than half of what they plan to spend on creating that “real kayaking scene” for the couple of thousand kayakers in the region (and I’m rounding up to be nice)- we could have a world-class bike-sharing program in Dayton. Bike sharing- the thing that other than a feeble mention by Nan Whaley during the “Bike Summit” and the failed “Yellow Bike” experiment (I’ve looked for Yellow Bikes downtown every day- and the only one I’ve seen was being ridden by a junkie in front of my office- like it was his).

A bike-sharing program can help spur business downtown by making it easy for the 20,000 Sinclair students to get off campus without having to risk losing their valuable parking spaces, it can help Miami Valley Hospital employees move from their new building at 2nd and Main to the hospital campus (where parking is a huge problem) – it can help UD eliminate some of its parking issues, as well as give a healthy option for getting from point A to point B.

Nice Ride MN is a hit. The Twin Cities bike share recently celebrated its one year anniversary in June. And in July they started an expansion by adding more stations and bicycles to the network.

We talked with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak who told us about how they got Nice Ride MN off the ground:

“We were gonna have to build a really big system. So I went to Blue Cross and I said we wanna do this. It’s gonna be a major health initiative it’s gonna cost $3 million dollars, we need you to put up a million dollars. And they looked at it, and looked at it, and they said ‘yes’….I was totally blown away. And then we leveraged another million and a half from a federal grant – and again, this was Oberstar – so we got that $2.5 million.”

via Minnesota expands bike share after 1 year

Bike sharing is practical, useful, energy efficient, forward thinking and most importantly- impacts a hell of a lot more people. Almost everyone has ridden a bike- I’m guessing that fewer than one in a thousand has kayaked.

While boondoggles on the river should be nothing new to Daytonians (The fountains no longer have a laser show, there was a very long expensive lawsuit over the fact that the 5 fountains couldn’t converge – forcing the addition of the central spire fountain- never mind the $8.6 million the county was extorted out of by a group of local businesspeople including the direct family of the county administrator) have we really looked at what would have the most positive impact on the community?

Given a choice between bikes for all or kayaks for a few- bikes should win.

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djwIce BanditBob from the BoroJ. DziwulskiDavid Esrati Recent comment authors
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Let’s not overlook that the whitewater project has the ancillary benefit of removing those low-rise dams, which is a safety need.  Those things have killed people!

And isn’t this project being privately funded?

I’m not attracted by bike-sharing.  At present the Miami Valley has an outstanding system of bike trails for recreation; for transportation you still need to ride in the street next to thuggish drivers (a small percentage are thuggish, but it only takes one).  Figure out how to make roadways safer for bikers so that they can get just about anywhere unscathed, and I doubt you’ll have to provide the bikes.  I’d suggest looking at how Eugene, Oregon has designed its transportation, for starters. 

Teri Lussier

I think this is privately funded as well.
I like bikes, who doesn’t like bikes? One way to get biking in Dayton might be to dump the spandex and fanny packs and glam it up a bit.  Stop thinking of it as an extracurricular activity and start thinking about how people can really bike from point A to point B for everyday reasons. It has to be baked into the cake of a Dayton lifestyle. Kayaking isn’t, but as long as it’s privately funded, hooray for them!



Let’s not overlook that the whitewater project has the ancillary benefit of removing those low-rise dams, which is a safety need.  Those things have killed people!

Let’s not overlook that the reason those low dams are there is because of floods that have killed people!  I’m sure the supporting engineering work has been done to show that downtown will be safe in the event of a flood 40% larger than that of 1913 (which IIRC was the design margin for the dams and channel improvements).  I would rather see the results of these studies that show the impact on public safety (hopefully negligible), than a study comparing whether yuppies prefer bikes or boats.


David, thanks for the correction.  I was confused because that old report mentions low dams and weirs as channel improvements.  They are supposed to dissipate energy by generating lots of turbulence so large flows are less damaging to the channel downstream.  You can really see them do just that when we get high water levels.  Thinking about it though, any flood control effect they have would be felt by folks downstream of us. 

J. Dziwulski
J. Dziwulski

The Steele Damn(north of Deeds Point) might have been built for that but the low dam by the I-75 bridge was built for aesthetics in the 1970s.  The idea was to create a broad pool for the river to make it seem wider downtown.   Early plans did show a water taxi, and there was briefly (in the 1970s) an excursion boat, and later (very late 70s and 1980s) a floating garden or pergola out there. 

For those of you interested in the recent history of trying to use the river (including that low dam), here is an illustrated post on “Riverdesign Dayton”:,12609.msg181516.html#msg181516


…and, yeah, I agree with Esrati on this one.   The bikeshare concept would be a much better use of the money since a lot more people know how to ride a bike than know how to kayak or canoe (I think I’ve been in a canoe all of TWICE in my life… and the second time I capsized it), besides offering the pratical benefit of short hop transporation in the downtown/OD/Webster Station area.

This is really a special project of the local elite of next to no interest to me, except they are going to screw up the river (why not let well enough alone?) .  I think there is a Cox family member who is a kayaker or canoer who is working here now, and he is probably behind this to some extent.   As for the safety issue…how is it a safety issue?  You have to be stupid to know you have to portage around one of these dams and put in beyond the boil.    

Bob from the Boro
Bob from the Boro

I think you have some nerve crabbing about how someone is going to spend money they are raising for a project to improve the quality of life in the City of Dayton.  Just because someone is spending THEIR money in a manner that they see fit which is different than the way you would spend the money gives you no right to bitch about it.

This is the worst post you have put on your blog since I started to follow it.

Ice Bandit
Ice Bandit

Just because Alex Taylor- grandson of the Cox’s likes to paddle a boat- (David Esrati)
…well, dear David, it seems that you have added parental resentment along with wealth envy (or perhaps a combination of the two) to your grievance bag. Knowing not Mr. Taylor nor his reputation, the Old Bandito is loathe to comment on how he persuaded various individuals to pony up the cash for this kayak project. However, perhaps he used his noblesse oblige and powers of persuasion to convince the ever-shrinking Dayton moneybag community that the kayak experiment is a good thing. That, in contrast, to someone (hypothetically, natch) who has a penchant for and seemingly delights in pissing people off…


Figure out how to make roadways safer for bikers so that they can get just about anywhere unscathed, and I doubt you’ll have to provide the bikes.

Let me just go ahead and wholeheartedly endorse this observation. I’m a very cautious, unadventurous and compulsively law-abiding biker, and my first year biking around Dayton has had more close calls with cars than the previous decade in Seattle, despite the massively larger amount of traffic there. I’ve biked in a number of other cities as well, and I’ve never been to a place where so many drivers are so utterly incautious with respect to the safety of bikers. I swear, 10% of the drivers here seem to think those really narrow lanes with pictures of bicycles are public art of something.

I’m lucky that my short bike commute can mostly take place cruising through the relatively pleasant and safe South Park neighborhood. If I had to travel on a main road I’d probably have given up by now. 

Re: kayaking vs. bike program–if the removal really is privately funded, the whole discussion is moot, no? They’re both improvements to the city, but if it’s someone else’s money that’s improving it, it stands to reason they can choose the improvement they wish to invest in. 


This bike-related thing came up on Make: Self-serve Bike Repair Kiosk
Thought it might be of interest.