Tuesday, May 10, 2011

If Now is the Time, This is the Place

May is national bike month. If now is the time to try bicycling, Iowa City is the place. With gasoline pushing $4 a gallon, it seems like a no-brainer. Two-thirds of all car trips are less than one mile. Especially if you count looking for parking and other annoyances, biking can get you there faster and easier. Try it several times a week and you’ll see the savings in trips to the pump will begin to add-up.

Need another reason to try biking? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 75 percent of us don’t get enough exercise. The fuel for bicycling is the inexhaustible supply we carry around on our midriff that we seem to renew with ease. Biking just a few miles burns about 100 calories of energy. Revving up your internal engine that way will decrease your waistline and improve your health. Additionally, bicycling offers an inexpensive, family-friendly activity.

If now is the time, Iowa City is one of the best places to do it. Two years ago, the League of American Bicyclist, the national bike advocacy organization, recognized Iowa City as a “Bike Friendly Community.” According to the US Census, Iowa Citians bicycle for transportation at twice the national average.

Iowa City has many amenities that make biking around town do-able, including streets with bike-friendly street markings (sharrows) and Share the Road signs. There’s ample bike parking; a link on the website Think Bicycles (www.thinkbicycles.org) will help you get to your destination, and we have more than 80 miles of bike trails, too.

In May, area cyclists have organized a host of events to encourage bicycling.

If you need a bike to get started, check out the Iowa City Bike Library (www.bikelibrary.org). A small deposit will get you a reconditioned, mechanic-checked set of wheels for up to six months. If you like it, forgo the deposit (it’ll go to buy parts to recondition additional bikes) and keep the bike. A half-dozen locally owned bike shops sell new and used bikes.

If you would like some training in safe biking, Bicyclist of Iowa City (BIC) hosts five rides a week for riders of all abilities. You don’t have to be a member to ride (though bike helmets are required). The Thursday evening leisure rides are geared for beginners and families with an emphasis on safe riding. There are faster-paced rides, long rides, and rides to area weekend events. Check the BIC web-site (www.bicyclistsofiowacity.org) or the Press Citizen Thursday GO section for start times and locations.

In May, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, the statewide bike advocacy group, will tip-off a six-month challenge to recruit 1,000 new bicyclists. The Iowa Goes by Bike Challenge (www.iowagoesbybicycle.com) invites new riders to sign-up and receive tips on biking as well as an opportunity to win prizes for completing the challenge. What a fun way to get into the biking groove. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant number of new bikers riding around the area.

Beginning this Wednesday, May 4th, at Horn Elementary School, is the first of six bike rodeos at local schools sponsored by BIC and the AAA Auto Club. Bike rodeos are skill and safety education events geared toward kids 12 and under. University of Iowa Children’s Hospital Safety Store will sell bike helmets at a modest price, too. For dates and times of the bike rodeos check the Think Bicycles web site (www.thinkbicycles.org).

Bike to Work Week in Iowa City is May 15-21. Look for the posters around town, or click on the Bike to Work Week logo at the Think Bicycles web site. The week is chock full of special events and participants have an opportunity to win some great prizes donated by area businesses and groups. One of the featured events is the Mayor’s Ride from the New Pioneer Coop in Iowa City to the New Pioneer Coop in Coralville. On Wednesday, May 18, the ride leaves at 5:30 PM from Chauncey Swan Park across the street from the Iowa City Civic Center and New Pioneer Coop. Our destination is the Coralville Coop, where we’ll enjoy a picnic (courtesy of the New Pioneer), listen to music and win prizes at the raffle.

With all the options available, now is the time and Iowa City is the place to become a bicyclist.

Bob Oppliger (boboppliger@msn.com) is Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the Bicyclist of Iowa City.

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