Hays will paint the town white with bikes creating the Hays Bike System and will celebrate with its first ground-painting ceremony, celebrating the city’s success in adding 21 miles of bike routes and off-street paths.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday at 11th and Main, the city of Hays and the biking group, Kandango, will have the ground-painting party ceremony instead of the usual ground-breaking ceremony an idea that came by way of city intern Shane Scranton.

Everyone is invited to ride a bike downtown with their bicycle helmet and take part of the commemorative photo Thursday. Mayor Eber Phelps will be seated on a painting truck, and the remainder of the city commissioners will be on their bikes.

They will ride their bikes up to the city commission meeting afterwards, which is at the city offices at 6:30 p.m.

Eleventh Street will be blocked off for the party. A live band will play, food will be available, vendors will be present as well as the biking group Kandango, who along with Gella’s are sponsoring the block party.

“We thought that was appropriate since they are going to be painting this bike system throughout the entire community,” said Paul Briseno, assistant city manager. “It’s been something long desired and will improve the quality of life in Hays.”

The project has been in the works for two-and-a-half-years, although ideas were planted as early as 1995.

“This will improve the quality of life here in Hays,” Briseno said. “I encourage everyone to come out and participate in this wonderful event and be a part of history in adding this quality-of-life amenity.”

The bike trails will connect citizens to parks, schools and city attractions. The recommended age for children to ride unsupervised is age 10 as younger children do not have the ability to adjust to traffic, Briseno said.

“The on-street system is only designated for bicycles,” Briseno said.

Motor vehicles are not allowed to drive in bike lanes.

The concrete levee path on the west side of the city will be done in just a few days, and the east side will be completed in mid- to late June. Twenty-four bike racks will be placed throughout the community, paid for by Kandango grant funds.

Beginning Tuesday, stripes and symbols will be laid down for the bike routes, connecting the city from north to south and east to west. There are seven routes throughout the city, in addition to the levee paths.

It will take the contractor three weeks to paint the stripes.

Briseno said the contractor can temporarily take up parking spaces, but those spots will be available when the painting is done.

Funding for the bike routes came from federal and state transportation money supplemented with local alcohol tax dollars and stormwater funds. No property or sales tax dollars were used.

Kandango is a biking group dedicated to touring the state of Kansas and modeled after biking organizations in Iowa. Impressed with those biking groups, Shannon Corley, Junction City, founded Kandango.

“I got the idea for Kandango in 2003, while we were traveling to Garden City. We decided to break the monotony of the long drive by exploring the back roads,” Corley said.

“We took Highway 4, west from Topeka, into central Kansas, and I fell in love with the idea of riding my bike on these beautiful back roads. I thought that I knew Kansas, but realized how much I had missed when I finally took extra time to explore my own state.”

The idea for Kandango to visit Hays and the route through western Kansas this year resulted from a stop Corley made when he and his wife were coming back from Colorado.

Kansas is a great state and has great back roads, Corley said.

A total of 127 Kandango riders, coming from as far away as Iowa, will be joining the ground-painting party. Corley is encouraging casual bike riders to bike with the group, and the first day of the Kandango ride is to Ellis.

On Friday, the group will bike from Hays, through Victoria and overnight at Wilson. It will be followed by a ride from Wilson to Abilene, and then to Junction City.

A full set of rules and routes for the Hays Bike System is available at bikehays.com.