Cyclists flexed their muscles — quadruceps and gluts, mostly — as almost 1,000 of them took part Saturday in the “Martin’s Tour” in the Richmond region, a set of 29-, 59- and 102-mile rides around the metropolitan region. (The Times-Dispatch has the story here.)
The event, organized by Richmond Sports Backers and sponsored by Martin’s Food Markets, provided a vivid demonstration of Richmonders’ increasing enthusiasm for cycling. It is the beginning of a movement, I predict, that will take on political overtones. As the sport grows in popularity, cyclists are becoming more assertive about their rights on the road and pressing local governments to give more attention to creating safe lanes and trails for bike use.
The Martin Tour is likely just the first of many initiatives designed to increase the popularity of cycling. The big game changer in Richmond will be Richmond 2015 world cycling championship. That event is projected to draw thousands of spectators from around the world and generate massive media attention. Organizers are planning to raise serious money from corporate sponsors, creating some institutional heft — beyond the mainly volunteer efforts we’ve seen so far — behind the drive to make Richmond a bike-friendly region.
To win the right to host the championship, Richmond 2015 had to commit to leave a lasting impact on the community, Lee Kallman, director of marketing and communications for the organization, told me. “The legacy component is real important to the Union Cycliste Internationale,” he says. That legacy will include building the community connection between cycling and health, wellness and fitness.
As part of a broader initiative to get people out of their houses and onto bicycles, Richmond 2015 hosted a family barbecue and biking event in the West Creek commercial park last month. Kallman expects to promote bike safety in the community and perhaps to promote riding bikes to schools.
As Richmond 2015 solicits corporate sponsorships, the organization will proselytize the local business community, says Kallman, a former competitive cyclist. “We want to encourage people to ride their bikes to work more often. We want to get people thinking about the bike from a lot of different perspectives — health and fitness, the environment.” Bicycles, he says, can be a positive force of change for society.