RELATED STORY: Bike this way with these upcoming events
By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Instead of getting behind the wheel of a car, people are encouraged to ride on top of two for National Bike Month this May.
The League of American Bicyclists sponsors the event which is celebrated from coast to coast. National Bike Month began in 1956 as a way to show the benefits of bicycling and encourage people to put their foot to the pedal. May is also the beginning of the National Bike Challenge. The challenge, which ends Sept. 30, allows people to log miles they ride online to compete with others in their area and across the United States. The competition is through the organization PeopleForBikes.
“We want to bring people together to create a powerful, united voice for bicycling and its benefits. When you sign up for the National Bike Challenge, you are helping us to do just that,” stated the national website.
All participants are eligible for monthly prize drawings and awards at the end of the competition. When people sign up, they will be directed to a local agency. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia oversees cyclists in the challenge from Philadelphia, Bucks and Delaware Counties. The Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF) in partnership with Communities in Motion and the Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC) are overseeing the challenge for Montgomery and Chester County residents.
Ashley Nuckles, GVF transportation coordinator, said businesses and employees are encouraged to join the friendly competition which makes the bicycling experience fun. The challenge is meant to encourage people to bike together and also bring awareness to the trails in the area, she said.
“We participate in the challenge because it fits with our mission,” Nuckles said adding that it helps people explore built infrastructures and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.
She said people can either use a home or work address that’s in Chester or Montgomery County to be directed to GVF. Residents can sign up anytime between now and September. Bikesport in Trappe will raffle weekly prizes including water bottle holders, clothing and more. Last year, the two counties had a combined 570 riders participate that biked about 300,000 miles all together.
“Those riders burnt over just 16 million calories,” Nuckles said adding that the bicycling activity allowed 76,000 pounds of C02 to be saved.
She said the great thing about the bicycling competition is that participants are able to see the impact it has on the environment and their health. She said there’s a definite benefit every time someone chooses to ride their bicycle as an alternative to driving.
“It has an impact not only on the individual but also on the community as a whole,” Nuckles said. “It creates this community locally that I don’t think we get to experience otherwise.”
She said people that compete in the challenge together encourage and cheer one another, even while racing for the most miles travelled. GVF is also encouraging bicycling as a social activity through monthly group rides. From now until September, there will be a community bike ride every second Wednesday of the month. The first ride starts 6 p.m. May 11 at the Reynolds Dog Park in Phoenixville.
In conjunction with bike month, National Bike to Work Week will also be celebrated. National Bike to Work Day is May 20. This is the fifth year GVF will have a combined Bike to Work Day event for both Chester and Montgomery county residents.
“It’s a great opportunity to really promote our trails,” said Maureen Farrell, COO of Communities in Motion which is a foundation of GVF.
Residents that want to join a group ride with Montgomery County commissioners will leave from the Norristown Transportation Center at 7:15 a.m. on May 20. They will bicycle five miles along the Schuylkill River Trail to Valley Forge National Historic Park. A group ride with Chester County Commissioners will leave from the municipal parking lot behind Pickering Creek Inn at the same time for a seven-mile distance to the park. Farrell said the park is celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary this year so the goal is to get 100 cyclists to join the rides.
“We had 60 last year so I think it’s feasible,” she said.
Once both groups make it to the park there will be a press event, Bikesport giveaways and Performance Bikes will be do tune-ups. Farrell said the event is free and that anyone can participate. She said the celebration will recognize the efforts of the trail network and bring awareness to bicycling as a viable transportation option.
“We encourage multi-model use,” she said adding that even biking some of the way to your destination has benefits.
She said it’s all about being realistic and planning a route that works for you. She said people that live quite a distance from work, can drive part of the way then bike the rest. Farrell said Bike to Work Day is a great opportunity to explore alternative transportation options.
“This is the day to get out and try it,” she said.
The Delaware County Transportation Management Association will also have a Bike to Work Day celebration May 20. The transportation association hosts the event every year to promote bicycling as “a healthier, more eco-friendly, and fun way to get to work and school,” stated a press release. The celebration includes a light breakfast, raffle prizes, bike trail maps and safety information. An out-of-service SEPTA bus will also be at the event so people can see how they can mount their bicycle to the vehicle. The event begins 8:30 a.m. on the lawn of the Delaware County Courthouse.
All month long and beyond, transportation associations will be encouraging residents to get on a bike and go which may seem like a problem to residents that don’t own one. People can take advantage of bike share programs.
The Schuylkill River Heritage Area manages Bike Pottstown and Bike Schuylkill, a free community bike rental opportunity. There are locations in Phoenixville, Pottstown and Hamburg. Anyone over the age of 16 can rent the bikes for free by using a driver’s license or valid state ID.
It’s fairly easy to check out a free yellow cruiser. People just have to stop by one of the locations during business hours, hand over their ID and then fill out a liability waiver. People will get their ID returned once they come back with the bike. The bicycle can be used for a short time period or for the entire day. There are bikes available for men and women. The seats are adjustable and cruisers come in different speed options. For more information on how to borrow a bike, visit bikeschuylkill.org.
Also, The Partnership TMA (Greater North Penn Area Transportation Management Association) offers tips to those interested in biking to work at www.ptma-mc.org/programs/bike-to-work/