Gas too dear? Try a bike
If you think about it, you’ll agree that the bicycle is a nearly perfect invention, one that meets several needs at once. Bicycling fights obesity by providing exercise, it gets a rider around quickly and easily and without expensive gas, and you get to have fun in the bargain.
That’s the message Karen Goodwin, an organizer of the BikeChico! program and founder of the Butte Bicycle Coalition, wants people to hear during BikeChico! week.
The week, which takes place Sunday-Saturday, May 11-17, is part of a larger national program that aims to encourage Americans to commute to work by bike rather than car.
Sometimes a bike is more practical than a car. Goodwin recalls a time when she challenged her husband to a race to a store, she on her bike and he in the car. She won and credited her victory to the fact that bicyclists do not have to follow the streets and are able to cut corners, unlike cars.
This year is Goodwin’s second time helping organize the BikeChico! week, and she said she is pleased with how Chico is handling it.
“When I look around at other cities and states, I am very impressed with what we have done,” Goodwin said. “I’ve seen some cities with very strong bicycle movements that only have a bike-to-work day, while we have a whole week. The national event is actually a month long, but the [local] organizers can only handle a week. I’m very happy with what we’ve done.”
After last year’s BikeChico! week, several people approached Goodwin asking for a similar event in the fall. Because so much effort was required, Goodwin and her husband started the Butte Bicycle Coalition this spring.
“One of the things that we are looking into are safe routes to school for children and educating kids on bike safety,” Goodwin said.
Both the coalition and BikeChico! week are spreading the benefits of biking.
“I see the obesity rate rising on an almost daily basis,” Goodwin said. “People can make healthy choices, but unless you exercise, it’s not coming off.”
Goodwin said that when she goes to the Farmers Market and talks to others about biking, there is another common theme, besides health, that appears over and over again.
“People want to ride their bikes to work because they can’t afford the gas,” Goodwin said. “If they go one week without driving, or just cutting back a lot on driving, and see how much they save, it’s just one more incentive to bike.”
Other incentives BikeChico! week provides are “energizer stations,” which will offer refreshments throughout the day to bicyclists at the City Plaza, In Motion Fitness and the airport. The stations also will hand out “I bike Chico” stickers for cyclists to wear, and many businesses around Chico have agreed to offer discounts to anyone wearing the stickers.
Besides encouraging people to commute via bicycle, BikeChico! is also offering educational services for new bikers to help them ride safely and learn to ride in traffic.
“One of our key ideas is ‘ride to the right,’ “ Goodwin said. “And that means you bike far enough to the right that you are not impeding traffic but not too far, so that you can still be seen by drivers and cannot be passed by a car if it is not safe to do so.”
Goodwin said one of the big mistakes many cyclists make is choosing to ride only on sidewalks. “Fifty percent of bike fatalities occur when the bikes are on the sidewalks, because the last place cars look while driving are the sidewalks and driveways.”
Last June, Goodwin and her husband put on BikeChico! week almost completely by themselves. This year, they have more people helping out.
“We want to provide a loud shout that bicycling is a form of transportation that needs to be taken seriously,” Goodwin said.