Take to the streets
Local bike experts help Chicoans learn to commute safely
Mike Peavy knows his way around downtown better than most folks. More important, he knows his way around on a bicycle.
The owner of Cyclesport can point out all of the trouble spots, obstacles and many of the scenarios bike commuters are likely to run into while making their way around the heavily (vehicle) congested region, and he’ll be sharing his know-how during a traffic-skills workshop.
“It’s all about not getting killed,” he said, wryly, during a recent phone interview.
Peavy and the participants will meet up at his shop and talk about the finer points of commuting through the area before hopping on their bikes and heading out on a short route. One of the spots they’ll tackle is the ugly crossing right in front of his business. The group will traverse the Second Street intersection and head north onto one-way Main, starting from the southwest corner at Zucchini & Vine.
In some instances, participants will ride next to traffic. In others, though, Peavy will instruct riders to “take the lane,” meaning they’ll merge into vehicular traffic. That’s the safest way to maneuver through some areas, such as the area where The Esplanade turns into Broadway.
On the agenda is learning hand signals, how to look backward for traffic, and tripping bike signals located at intersections. Peavy acknowledged that a lack of bike lanes and traffic patterns, especially one-way streets, make biking through downtown a little tricky.
Overall, he said Chico is a pretty good bike town.
“We have a ways to go,” he said, noting several cities that are light years beyond Chico, including Davis and Portland, Ore. “We’re not perfect, but we’re making some big strides.”
Peavy, who has owned Cyclesport for 16 years, also trains cyclists—a term he uses to refer to long-distance riders—to ride in groups during his pack-riding class. He charges a $5 fee for the popular Tuesday classes that he runs seasonally, April though September.
But the upcoming traffic-skills workshop (5:30 p.m., May 13) is designed for newbie commuters, including families, and it’s free. The event is one of many organized by the Butte Bicycle Coalition for the upcoming BikeChico! Week, which begins May 8.
Founders of the coalition, local couple Pete Hollingsworth and Karen Goodwin, both cycling instructors certified by the League of American Bicyclists, are organizing the popular week-long program as a way to get folks to commute by bike. In addition to the flat-tire repair services and the “energizer stations” set up around town during the week to refresh thirsty riders, this year’s activities include a children’s bike swap at City Plaza May 8, 9 a.m.-noon. The idea, Goodwin said, is to get kids riding ill-equipped bikes onto better-fitting ones.
Goodwin, who is a nutrition-education specialist with OPT for Fit Kids at Chico State, and Hollingsworth, a local elementary-school teacher, are big on getting kids excited about exercise. On Sunday (April 25), for example, they will be accompanying young riders (and some parents) on the kids’ counterpart to Chico Velo’s Wildflower Century, the Childflower, a 15-mile ride down the Durham Bicycle Path starting from the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.
The day before, they’re holding a safety forum for kids at the fairgrounds—a fun-filled program known as the “Youth Bike Rodeo.” Biking is, of course, a great activity to help children maintain physical health. Goodwin pointed out that young people benefit in other ways, too.
“For kids, being on a bike brings a feeling of empowerment and self-dependence,” she said.
Goodwin said bike commuting is extremely doable in Chico.
Peavy agrees and gave the CN&R a list of top tips for riders:
• Make sure your bike is in proper working condition (the brakes are especially important).
• Never assume the person in a car sees you.
• Scan—always keep your eyes moving and looking for problems: vehicles, people and other potential hazards.
• Plan out your routes to avoid dangerous roadways, such as Mangrove Avenue. (Peavy suggests picking up a Chico Bike Map, available at local bike shops).
• Be respectful of cars. “Cars are big and heavy, and they win.”