The Bicycle Movement Builds Momentum

Photo credit: Times-Dispatch

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.

– JAB

8 Responses to The Bicycle Movement Builds Momentum

  1. I can’t talk about the Virginia area, because I’ve not yet had the privilege to visit there (I really want to before I die however). But the two regions that I am familiar with I will speak to. In the Portland, Oregon area, they have a strong group of bicyclists, but up there you need to be rather hard core. Taking a bike in the spring and in early fall is a dream, even summer isn’t too bad with few days over 90 degrees. However, biking in rain, in temps below 40 degrees, in times when the sun doesn’t come up before 7AM and goes down by 4PM, it takes a devotee; oh and the hills, Lord the hills, the hills can kill you.

    As for Texas, three problems – summer, need I say more? Unless you look good in the color ‘sun burn’, you really don’t want to bike in Texas in the summer. Another major problem is that the roads are NOT made for bikes. I watch folks bike down here, but you couldn’t get me to do it as a form of real transportation, too many cars, they go too fast and there is no place for bikes on the roads. Lastly, distance – we’ve got land and we USE it. Texas is made for not living on top of your neighbor. To get somewhere if it’s within one mile, it’s considered local, most locations that you want to get to will be 10 miles or more.

    Folks who like to bike, more power to you. I did it when I was younger (in Oregon) but now … not so much. I acknowledge that bikes are a form of transportation, but I also acknowledge that it’s not a mainstream form of it.

    • You’re right, biking will never be “mainstream,” as in being as popular as automobiles. But bikes can substitute for cars in some trips, reducing congestion to some degree. Fortunately for Virginia, the climate is temperate and, here in Richmond, most hills are gently sloping.

      The larger issue that the biking movement wants to make is that bikes are healthy. Americans need more exercize. Bikes are a very practical way to get it.

  2. I don’t know that hot weather rules out biking… any more or less than it rules out other forms of physical activity – the key issue being, how would one get exercise in warm climates?

    I think it’s the lack of bicycle infrastructure more than any other factor.

    In places that provide bike infrastructure and bike-friendly policies, people will sweat on their bikes.

    And I don’t think distance is that big an issue either as hard core bikers will go 50-100 miles in one day.

    Accurate talks about Houston. What about Austin where there are a a log of high tech companies and a hoard of young people?

    biking infrastructure attracts educated young people – which in turn attracts those companies looking to hire that demographic.

    It could be that Houston doesn’t care or doesn’t want young educated workers but those places that do – provide the things those young folks are looking for – and bike infrastructure is high on the list.

    • Austin??? Austin is where we round up all the liberal whack jobs and keep them where we can see them. As for Houston, we got jobs, jobs and more jobs. I’ve seen what appealing to the ‘young educated workers’ has done to Portland, they have some the highest educated baristas known to mankind. Oh, and with lots of oil and gas, lots of roads, we have plenty of jobs for engineers. Outside of the liberals, Austin is okay, afterall it’s still Texas, but (just like Portland has become for me) the myth about appealing to the ‘young educated’ is pretty much just that – a myth. Remember, those ‘young educated’ will soon be ‘middle-aged educated’ and they will have little ones whom they really don’t want to take to the park versus giving them a backyard. They will have lots of demands on thier time which mandates doing things faster, like traveling your 10 mile trip in 10 minutes rather than 30 or 40 minutes. They will age and biking will be too hard on the body, accidents will take a larger toll on the body and be harder to recover from. And finally, I don’t know if you’ve ever lived in Houston, but trust me, there are weeks on end that you DON’T go outside or stay outside any more than you have to, regardless of your age. As for excercise, there is always the gym.

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  4. re: ” They will age and biking will be too hard on the body, accidents will take a larger toll on the body and be harder to recover from.”

    Accurate, I’m a little taken aback here. Are you not active at all? Age does not render you inactive if you have been active all of your life.

    Plenty of geezers ride bikes, carry backpacks up mountainsides and kayak/canoe down rivers… these days.

    Young people attracted to these venues do have kids but then they pull the kids behind the bikes in little kid trailers… and then the kids get their own bikes.

    I cannot believe you are so oblivious to this so the only conclusion I can come to is that you’ve never been active even when you were in Portland and, in fact, it looks like you really don’t have much administration even for people who are active.

    It’s a lifelong ethic.. guy… but people who have that ethic WANT trails and facilities… and that’s where they often make choices of where to locate.

    Perhaps everyone in Houston does not give a rat’s behind about being active.. so a lack of trails and a life of air conditioning suits them fine for their lifestyle.

    Actually the way you describe Houston.. it sounds like a bit of a hell hole… unless you spend all of your time indoors… on in a car.

    true? what do you guys do in Houston for fun? :-)

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  6. Know what I noticed in Europe? All the bikes, including mountain bikes, have fenders. Oh and the riders wear normal clothes. We have a long way to go in this country.

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