Employee Profile: Johnny Pratt & Bike Raising

From time to time here on the Performance Bicycle Blog we like to recognize our coworkers and let them share what they’re passionate about outside of work. This week we’re talking to Johnny Pratt, a Product Developer at our home office in North Carolina. Johnny joined Performance as the Merchant Assistant for components in August 2011, after working for companies as varied as Eastern Bikes and Credit Suisse. He grew up cycling and has always loved to be outdoors. He raced on the Appalachian State Cycling team while in school there and was a participant in the World Race, traveling to over 15 countries on five continents in a year’s time. Outside of work he spends most of his time racing bikes, doing adventure races, spending time with his family, and serving those in need.

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Johnny racing in the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race

It was that passion to serve others that led Johnny to co-found Bike Raising Inc., a non-profit organization that raises money for charity through cycling events. Bike Raising was born on a ride – Johnny and his friend Josh Stinger were riding in the hills of North Carolina when the concept was formed to create an organization that dedicated 100% of the money earned at an event to small non-profits that are hindered by lack of funding. But we’ll let Johnny tell you more about why he wanted to create and run a non-profit, in his spare time, in his own words.

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Johnny in his Bike Raising kit

What is Bike Raising and why does it exist?

We wanted to make a difference to a few non-profits that had massive goals, but were constantly held back because they didn’t have the necessary capital to make it happen.  With my business background and Josh’s project management background we knew we could create something to help out.  We both loved bike racing and we knew our goal was fundraising so the name Bike Raising was born.  It started simple and it remains simple.  You participate in a fun, safe and challenging cycling event and a small partner non-profit gets some help.  In what other race does everyone win?

The charitable organizations we partner with have a purpose and a mission.  We call this their “critical pursuit.”  When they are unable to fulfill their critical pursuit it slows down the change they are working towards.  Many organizations say that the resource they’re lacking the most is funding.  We don’t want them to shift their focus from their mission by dedicating the majority of their staff and resources to fundraising.  Bike Raising strives to eliminate the need for these organizations to take their eyes off their goal – which is where we become a valued member of the team.  We partner with the organization, learn their needs both financially and socially, put together a plan of action, set goals and set forth to accomplish them all.  We allow the organization to keep pressing on with their mission while we handle the rest.  This is why our motto is to Race. Give. Love.

What is Bike Raising involved with now and how can someone help out?

The Needle Gate Project is a journey from the Space Needle to the Golden Gate Bridge.  It’s a pursuit of physical and mental limits.  It’s a platform for freedom both to the individuals riding and those whom are yet to be free.

For this project we are proud to partner with She Dances, who is doing the great work of providing holistic restoration for young girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. She Dances needs funding to be more efficient and effective in their mission.  Due to the nature of the human trafficking industry there is very little time between when they discover an at risk girl and when an actual rescue takes place.  Funding in the hands of She Dances makes this process move faster, which results in that child’s restoration.

BRSDYou can help us in bolstering the speed and accuracy of She Dances’ mission.  Choose from one of our many exciting perks. Join the insider’s circle and get the video of us shouting your name on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Maybe you’d rather go with the Primo Pack that gets you some sweet MiiR stainless steel products, coffee and an original She Dances Tee.  Or maybe you want to join the Bike Raising team and get the complete kit.  If you help out in any way, you’re joining us on our journey and you’re partnering in the fight against human trafficking. Our goal is to raise $5000 to help support the work and restoration that She Dances is providing.

Blood, Sweat & Cheers Scattante Giveaway

Looking for a way to get a great new ride for the summer? We’ve partnered with Blood, Sweat & Cheers, the free daily email that finds fun & active stuff to do with friends, Brooklyn Based, an online guide to what’s happening in Brooklyn (including bike events), and BikeNYC.org, a go-to source to connect with the vibrant world of bicycling in New York City, to give away a 2013 Scattante R570 Road Bike plus awesome gear to make the ride even better. And don’t worry, you don’t need to live in New York to win.

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So what is this array of extra cycling gear? How about a Scattante Razzo Road Helmet, Scattante Matrix 2 Multi-Lens Eyewear, a NiteRider MiNewt.250 Cordless LED Headlight and CherryBomb 0.5 Watt Tail Light, a Forté Strada Lite Stainless Road Cage, a Performance WideMouth 24oz Bottle, a TransIt 30 Wedge, and even a Garmin Edge 200 GPS to track your adventures.

bsc_prizesBut don’t delay – you can only enter for a chance to win until 5 PM EST on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 (by entering you consent to receive future correspondence from
Blood, Sweat & Cheers, Brooklyn Based, Transportation Alternatives and Performance Bicycle).

ENTER NOW over at Blood, Sweat  & Cheers and good luck!

Community Events: 2013 Cycle to the Sea

Some people can’t imagine riding 180 miles on a bicycle from Charlotte, NC to North Myrtle Beach, SC in three days.  Now imagine doing this ride using nothing but your arms to complete the task.  That is what a group of cyclists did April 25 – 27, 2013 to raise money for the Adaptive Sports & Adventures Program (ASAP) at Carolinas Rehabilitation Hospital.  Cycle to the Sea (CTTS) is a unique ride that raises critical funds and awareness for ASAP to offer a variety of low-cost programs for youth and adults with physical challenges.  This bike ride is held every spring and involves athletes with physical disabilities who cycle on hand cycles and/or tandem bikes. Mark, a distributor from our components division here at our home office, participated in this ride with his hand cycle (he is also an accomplished wheelchair rugby player) and he took the time to share what this experience meant to him:

Day 1 started with a dozen hand cycles, 40-45 able bodied cyclists, and countless family members gathered to see their loved ones off on their journey.  The weather was chilly but it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit and anxiousness to get the ride started.  The group rolled out as one big unit but quickly separated into two smaller groups once we got out onto the open road.  There was over 3000 feet of climbing the first day but it didn’t seem to curb anyone’s spirit.  Everyone got over the climbs the best they could, whether by pedaling or getting pushed by a fellow cyclist, and everyone finished together.

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Assisting a hand cyclist up a climb.

The surprise of the day for me was our “safety patrol”.  The local Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club volunteers every year to shepherd the herd to Myrtle Beach.  The guys were amazing.  They created a rotating formation around each group of cyclists stopping traffic from ALL side roads and on ramps allowing the cyclist to pass unimpeded.  We did not stop at 1 stoplight the entire 3 day ride.  Gentlemen, my hat is off to you and what you do.  This ride would truly not be what it is without you.  THANK YOU!

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Rolling Thunder escort

Day 2 brought more of the same just with flatter terrain.  The weather was a little grey in the morning and quickly burned off shortly after the ride headed out.  The longer the ride went on the more the cyclist, both hand cyclist and able bodies cyclist, gelled together.  The two groups were operating as fine oiled machines and were very impressive to see.  The speeds got faster and those that had been pushed the first day didn’t seem to need as much help as they once had.  Folks seemed to have a growing confidence in themselves and their ability to get this ride done.  It was truly inspirational.

Day 3 brought on the last 63 mile stretch and you couldn’t tell from anyone’s face they had ridden over 120 miles in the past 2 days.  Folks were eager, feeling good, and ready to get the show rolling.  Early in the ride, you could feel there was a sense of purpose.  I rode in the front group and speeds stayed between 17-25 miles per hour the whole way.  For those that do not know, such speeds are reasonably swift on a traditional bicycle but that is “cooking” on a hand cycle.

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Rolling down the road with the whole pack.

Upon arrival to Myrtle Beach, you could see emotion on everyone’s face.  Not only on the participants faces with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment but also on the family members faces that their loved ones could pull off such an undertaking.  I’m honored to have been a part of such a great event and Cycle to the Sea will now be on my yearly calendar of “must do’s”.

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Group shot of the Cycle to the Sea riders & staff

I was fortunate enough to be both a participant in the ride and a representative of Performance Bicycle, which was one of Cycle to the Sea’s corporate sponsors.  As a long time cyclist both before the wheelchair and after, I understand the amount of time it takes to both organize a ride of this magnitude and the dedication it takes to complete it.  I salute all involved for a job well done.  The ASAP staff that Jennifer Moore has put together is second to none and I’m proud to be an associated with this organization.  I strongly encourage anyone that is looking for a good ride, an incredible experience, and a worthwhile cause to be a part of to consider the 2014 Cycle to the Sea bike ride.

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Our author, Mark, with his hand cycle.

Everybody has different reasons why they ride.  Some ride to prove something to themselves, some ride to prove something to others, and some ride to honor someone that has touched their life.  For me, the 2013 Cycle to the Sea is dedicated to my friend Jimmy Melton.  I met Jimmy this past Thursday as the CTTS ride was leaving town.  We were both first time riders and Jimmy was there to support one of my fellow hand cyclists Jacob Conley.  We talked and came to know each other pretty well over the next three days.  The end of the ride came, Jimmy met my wife and baby daughter, and we made plans to see each other next year at the 2014 Cycle to the Sea.  Then I got the bad news that Jimmy had died the next night in his sleep.  I was numb.  Jimmy definitely touched my life and made me a better person for knowing him.  Godspeed my friend.  I will see you on the other side.

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Jacob and Jimmy.

Ultimately this bike ride is not about a charity event.  It is about those with physical challenges that display uncompromising human spirit, determination to accomplish what they aren’t supposed to be able to do, and those that just want to ride their bike.

Performance Better Bicycling Community Grants: Open Streets & Kidical Mass

In honor of our 30th anniversary in 2012, we partnered with the Alliance for Biking & Walking to identify 10 worthy organizations to receive $30,000 in Better Bicycling Community Grants, which were distributed directly to local communities to make the most impact on the ground. In this post we’re going to catch up with 4 groups that are making a difference though Open Streets initiatives, powered by the Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Open Streets Project. By temporarily closing streets to automobile traffic, these events foster connections in their communities by allowing people to walk, bike, or just socialize in the heart of their town – creating a public space where before there was just traffic.

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First up is the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, part of our Chapel Hill, NC store community, and only a few miles from our home office & warehouse. The Open Streets event they hosted was designed to meet the city’s public health, social, economic, and environmental goals by allowing residents the opportunity to use the street, a public good, in safe, active, and socially engaging ways.

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Kids ride at Carrboro Open Streets

This first-ever Open Streets event in Carrboro took place on Saturday, April 13, and it was definitely a resounding success. A diverse cross-section of the community came out on bikes and on foot for a variety of healthy activities, from kids rides, to yoga, to rock-climbing and more!

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Cyclists young and old at Carrboro Open Streets

Our Chapel Hill, NC store sent a team to support the event, both to wrench on bikes that needed a quick tune-up or a flat fixed, and also to chat with anyone who stopped by to say hello – a big part of Open Streets events is just getting to know your local community members better.

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Performance Bicycle tent at Carrboro Open Streets

Seth LaJeunesse of the Carrboro Bike Coalition had this to say: “Through promotional activities, community rides, safety clinics, and bike light installation sessions, the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition has advanced the feasibility, quality, and safety of bicycling in the Carrboro- Chapel Hill region. Performance Bicycle’s Better Bicycling Community grant extends these efforts by placing bicycling at the center of a broader Open Streets initiative that promises to enhance the health, nutrition and well-being of diverse stakeholders.”

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There were many options to participate in Carrboro Open Streets

We were excited to be able to help out with an event so close to our home office, and we can’t wait for more events like it in the future.

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Gene, from our home office, at Carrboro Open Streets

Another $3000 Better Bicycling Community grant was awarded to Charlottesville Community Bikes to help celebrate Charlottesville’s bikeable and walkable Jefferson Park Avenue corridor and encourage and support a neighborhood desire to bike and walk to these businesses. Charlottesville’s first Open Streets Event was on held Aug. 18, 2012 along a 1 mile stretch of road, closed to vehicle traffic, and open to all other forms of active recreation and transportation. In collaboration with this event, the local neighborhood associations also held a JPA Bridge Reopening Ceremony and Farmer’s Market that day. Over 40 organizations supported the event through sponsorship and offering activities or items of interest to the community. Participating organizations and nearby businesses reported positive experiences including strong community engagement and even increased business sales from the 2,000 attendees at the event!

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Charlottesville Open Streets

Susan Elliott from Charlottesville Community Bikes said that the Performance grant “made it possible for us to demonstrate that active recreation and transportation can build community, be fun, and offer a valuable amenity to area. Being the first event of this type, many people were unsure of how it would be received. Everyone who experienced the event – families, government officials, represented organizations – came away with positive experiences and enthusiasm for more in the future. This grant gave us the ability to focus our attention on inviting the community to participate and ensuring a high quality experience.”

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Children’s group ride at Kidical Mass Tucson

Our Broadway Tucson, Arizona store has been involved with a slightly different take on the urban riding experience through a partnership with the Living Streets Alliance, who received a Better Bicycling Community grant to help promote family friendly bicycling in the greater Tucson region through four Kidical Mass events in 2013. Kidical Mass is a group ride that provides a safe, fun, and social setting for families to explore urban bicycling riding, for parents to grow more comfortable riding with small children, and for small children to gain confidence and skills in a loosely supervised group ride.

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Littlest cyclists at Kidical Mass Tucson

Since last fall, Living Streets Alliance has partnered with El Grupo Youth Cycling, a local cycling club with a mission of empowering youth through cycling, to host a series of Kidical Mass family-friendly bike rides, with 4 events total to date. LSA and El Grupo are planning two more Kidical Mass events – through partnering together these groups doubled the number of events they could host, and our store teams have been excited to be a part of this experience.

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Kids of all ages at Kidical Mass Tucson

Emily Yetman of the Living Streets Alliance had this to say: “The Performance Better Bicycling Grant has helped Living Streets Alliance make Kidical Mass, an incredibly popular, family-friendly, bike riding event, into a household name in a small, but growing number of homes in Tucson. Kids and neighbors now ask when the next ride will be held and word is spreading beyond the areas where we first held these rides. This kind of growth wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Performance grant.”

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Yoga on the street during Bike Utah’s Open Streets

The last Open Streets initiative from our Better Bicycling Community Grants is schedule to take place in Salt Lake City, UtahBike Utah worked with local partners to develop and implement the 2013 Open Streets event in Salt Lake City and use the success of this template to help other Utah communities organize similar events. The primary role of the Open Streets campaign is to build cycling awareness and to get more people out biking, walking, and partaking in community activities.

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Open Street cyclists in Salt Lake City

The first event, Open Streets – Salt Lake City,  took place on Saturday, May 4, and a big crowd took advantage of the opportunity to have fun on downtown city streets with no car traffic to deal with. Scott Lyttle, from Bike Utah, had this to say about our grant: “The grant from Performance Bicycle has allowed Bike Utah to partner with Salt Lake City to move forward Utah’s first Open Streets event. SLC has wanted to hold an Open Streets event for years and Performance Bicycle’s support has helped to make it happen.”

Community Events: 2013 South Florida Bike MS

Since we’re now open for business in Florida, with 4 new stores and 1 coming soon, we couldn’t wait to get on the ground and out in our new local communities. So what better way to celebrate than with one of our favorite activities, helping out with the dedicated riders of Bike MS.

Steve and Dave are set up and ready to tune-up some bikes.

Steve and Dave are set up and ready to tune-up some bikes.

Three Performance team members headed down to Miami to help out with the South Florida Bike MS in April. We were there to work, doing everything from handing out nutrition to performing quick bike tune-ups – before, during and after the 50, 80 or 100 mile rides.

Dave and Christopher tune up bikes.

Dave and Christopher tune up bikes.

As you would expect in Florida, the weather was sunny and beautiful on ride weekend! More than 1400 riders turned out for the 2-day event and everyone had a very good time. We worked on everything from dry and noisy chains to punctured tires and tubes (and even one punctured rim).

Three handups ready to happen.

Three handups ready to happen.

On the second day we had the first aid station. While there’s not usually too much mechanic work that needs to happen only 7 miles into the ride, we did have a few boxes of GU Energy Gels to hand out so we stood next to the course on a straight open section of road and handed out over 100 peanut butter GU gels on the fly. No need to stop for this aid station, we’ll hook you up as you ride by!

Steve distributes powerbars on the move.

Steve distributes powerbars on the move (click for the animated version).

Here Steve shows us the fastest way to empty a box of PowerBar Performance bars – open them up near hungry Bike MS riders first thing in the morning! All in all, the ride was a big success with no serious injuries and loads of smiles. We had a great time helping out and ended up manning 5 aid stations over the course of the two day event. We can’t wait to help out again next year!

Performance Better Bicycling Community Grant: Cascade Bicycle Club

It’s been nearly a year since we identified 10 worthy organizations to receive one of the $3,000 Better Bicycling Community Grants, in honor of our 30th anniversary, so we thought that it was time to catch up with these groups to see how they’ve used the grants to make a difference in their local communities. Cascade Bicycle Club, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington, used their grant to help fund Cascade’s Advocacy Leadership Institute, a group that is building the grassroots power of the bicycle movement. We asked Tarrell Wright, of Cascade Bicycle Club, to write a few words about what ALI is all about:

Cascade-Bicycle-Club“Our Better Bicycling Community Grant has enabled us to bring power to the bicycling movement by harnessing the enthusiasm of community members. With the skills and training they’ve gained through the Advocacy Leadership Institute, our first crop of Community Bicycle Advocates have gone on to testify at public hearings and start advocacy groups of their own. They’ve already become an invaluable asset to Cascade as we work toward safer, more connected communities where people of all ages and abilities can comfortably bike where they need to go.

cascade_bike_to_work“Since completing the inaugural eight-week session of our new Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI) in July 2012, several of our first 18 Community Bicycle Advocates have gone on to lead their own campaigns, including Don Brubeck of West Seattle Bike Connections and Janet Shull of WaBiBurien. Four graduates testified in support of funding for bicycling at the City of Seattle budget hearing last October. Shannon Koller was featured in the Al Jazeera piece on bicycling in Seattle and across the nation, and Merlin Rainwater has spearheaded an initiative called Safe Routes to Health focused on engaging health care facilities and hospitals in making sure patients, visitors and staff can safely and easily walk, bike and take transit to those facilities. Glen Buhlmann started Kirkland Greenways, the first Seattle Neighborhood Greenways affiliate based outside of the city. We’ve been providing ongoing support to these advocates as they’ve continued working toward better bicycling in their communities, thanks in part to funding through this Performance Better Bicycling Community Grant.

“It’s a bit early to gauge increases in bicycling as a result of our January 2013 session, as it has only just begun. However, we succeeded in gathering more than 1,000 petition signatures for a bold and visionary Seattle Bicycle Master Plan update, and more than 5,000 people have responded to our electronic calls to action. The draft network plan includes 523 miles of bicycle facilities to be built or upgraded over the next 20 years – including cycle tracks, bike lanes, trails and family-friendly neighborhood greenways. Several ALI participants have created their own grassroots advocacy groups, engaging more than 250 community members.”

Here at Performance Bicycle, we are proud to support the work of the Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Leadership Institute as they continue to grow this valuable and influential program, and make a real difference to cyclists in the Seattle area.

Community Events: CicLAvia LA

Our Woodland Hills, CA store recently participated in the CicLAvia event in LA – a fantastic community event where cyclists and pedestrians take back downtown city streets for the day to ride, walk, mingle and otherwise enjoy roads that are normally packed with cars. Our team was there helping to fix flats and other minor repairs, and they sent in this report of the CicLAvia experience:

CicLAvia 2012 Los Angeles! This event was HUGE! CicLAvia made the streets safe for people to walk, skate, play and ride a bike. There were many activities along the route, as shop owners and restaurants opened their doors to people along the CicLAvia.

Ciclovías started in Bogotá, Colombia, over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Now it happens throughout Latin America and the United States, connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic.

CicLAvia brought families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space. In Los Angeles we need CicLAvia more than ever. Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options.

CicLAvia created a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It created a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun. It was a fantastic and fun event that should happen in all major cities!

League of American Bicyclists Guest Post: National Bike Month

It’s National Bike to Work Week, so we’re turning our blog over to our friends from the the League of American Bicyclists, the driving force behind National Bike Month.  Read on below to find out more about what they’re doing to build a Bicycle Friendly America, and also find out what communities have been recognized as Bicycle Friendly Communities this year.

Whether you’re a daily bike commuter or just curious about the benefits of bicycling, May is your time to shine.

For the past 50 years, the League of American Bicyclists has hosted and organized National Bike Month to celebrate cycling and encourage new and longtime riders to get back in the saddle. For decades, we’ve designated and promoted Bike to Work Week — this week! — and Bike to Work Day, and the number of bicycle commuters has continued to rise.

How are you celebrating Bike Month this year? Check our website or contact your local advocacy organization to find an event in your area! And, no matter how you’re celebrating, don’t forget to sign up for the National Bike Challenge, a new friendly competition that kicked off May 1, aiming to unite 50,000 Americans to ride 10 million miles this summer!

But, while we’re all fired up about Bike Month, that’s just the beginning of the League’s efforts to make bicycling safe, accessible and enjoyable for all.  All year long, we’re working to protect your rights and make your ride better, wherever you’re going.

Just this morning, for instance, we announced the largest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) in the program’s history. By evaluating and recognizing investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies, the BFC program is revolutionizing the way communities evaluate their quality of life. With this impressive round, there are now 214 BFCs in 47 states — and the program works. While bike commuting rose 40 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2010, it jumped a staggering 77 percent in the largest BFCs.

The BFA program goes beyond cities and counties, too. The League also provides guidance and technical support through our Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University programs, making workplaces and higher education more accommodating and accessible for cyclists. And we work with states, too: On May 22, we’ll release our latest Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, which showcases progress in areas like infrastructure, policies and education.

Beyond the Bicycle Friendly America program, we work with League members and organizations across the country to deliver our Smart Cycling education courses. From the basics of Traffic Skills 101 to targeted training, like Group Riding, the League curricula remains the gold standard for bicycle safety and skills for riders of all ages.

Based in Washington, D.C., the League is also your advocate on Capitol Hill. Each year, we convene the National Bike Summit, drawing hundreds of advocates, enthusiasts, retailers and policymakers to learn about federal transportation issues and lobby their members of Congress for funding and policies that meet the needs and rights of the growing number of bicyclists nationwide. This year we had a record crowd of more than 800 attendees. Mark your calendar now for the 2013 Summit, so you can tell your members of Congress that Bicycling Means Business.

And, of course, the League is committed to building the movement by connecting you to clubs and rides in your community, and sharing stories and innovations on our daily blog. Join the conversation by subscribing to our blog, becoming a fan on Facebook or following us on Twitter. We welcome your energy and ideas — with your help we’ll build a Bicycle Friendly America where every month is National Bike Month!

The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America’s 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information or to support the League, visit www.bikeleague.org.

Rails to Trails Guest Post: National Bike Month

Throughout National Bike Month we are highlighting the efforts of some of our advocacy partners who are making a difference for cyclists throughout the US. Last week we turned our blog over to our friends from People for Bikes, and this week we’re letting the good folks at the Rails to Trails Conservancy lead the train. Read on below to find out what they’re doing to make cycling safer and more accessible, and how you can help.

I bet most of you have a good trail or bike path close by, right? Yeah, I do – the Capital Crescent Trail between Maryland and Washington, D.C. I ride it each day to work, and sometimes on the weekend to meet buddies in the city.

For those of us fortunate enough to have access to a trail, bike lanes or just some wide-open space, riding a bike to get around is a pretty simple, visceral pleasure. The wind in your face, the adrenaline pumping… you save time, save money and generally feel good about things. Simple.

But as basic as this joy seems to those of us who ride regularly, in many parts of America there are significant barriers to this simple activity. In a landscape often designed for cars to the exclusion of walking or biking, millions of Americans lack a safe and convenient place to ride at all, let alone a network of trails, bike lanes and paths that enable others to ride to work, to school, to visit friends or go shopping.

Riding the new Windsor/Ash bicycle boulevard in Columbia, Mo.

That’s what drives us at Rails to Trails Conservancy. We have an ambitious target—referred to here in our office as the Big Hairy Audacious Goal—to put 90 percent of Americans within three miles of a trail system by 2020.

We are working toward that goal by helping communities develop rail-trail projects, by supporting trail-based business and residential development, by working hard on Capitol Hill and with state and local governments for policies and funding that recognize the importance of biking to our transportation system, and by building a movement of people who love their trails and want to spread that love!

Opening day of the Windsor/Ash bicycle boulevard in Columbia, Mo.

National Bike Month this year is a particularly significant one for us, as it marks the release of a report on active transportation we have been eagerly anticipating. Launched by Congress in 2005—and with management support from RTC—the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) dedicated $25 million to each of four communities to invest in biking and walking infrastructure. The idea was to see what this kind of unprecedented, targeted investment could do to change and grow a culture of biking and walking in these communities.

Essentially, it was an experiment into whether Americans were interested in non-motorized transportation – whether, to borrow loosely from a famous baseball movie about a guy in a cornfield, “If we build it, will they come?”

The results came in last week, and just three years into the pilot the change in transportation behavior tells a truly compelling story.

Across the four communities, counts revealed a 49 percent increase in biking. Compared to a national increase of 15 percent from 2001 to 2009, that spike is astounding. In just three years, the pilot communities achieved triple the expansion in biking activity the rest of America took eight years to realize.

Building the Cal Park-Hill Tunnel path to San Francisco in Marin County, Calif.

Although the pilot program did involve education and safety programs, a huge part of this increase was directly tied to infrastructure – physically providing safe, convenient and direct pathways that actually take people where they need to go.

In Columbia, Mo., the new Windsor/Ash bicycle boulevard completed in 2010 resulted in a 124 percent increase in bicycle traffic. In Marin County, Calif., the new Cal Park-Hill Tunnel path to San Francisco—constructed through a hillside and alongside active rail tracks—resulted in a 400 percent increase in weekday bicyclists. Nearby, the new Alameda Del Prado bicycle lanes increased weekday bicycle traffic by 366 percent and weekend bicycle traffic by 540 percent.

No question, if we build it, they will come. Big time.

Heading into the Cal Park-Hill Tunnel path in Marin County, Calif.

So what does this mean for you? Well, right now the U.S. Congress is debating whether to dedicate any transportation funding to biking and walking infrastructure, as part of a new federal transportation bill. Many of our Congressional representatives believe that money spent on enabling biking and walking is “frivolous,” and a waste of taxpayer dollars that should be spent exclusively on roads.

Rails to Trails Conservancy is doing everything we can to make sure our transportation system provides a better balance and gives people the healthier, cheaper, cleaner and greener option to bike and walk. If you have a moment, tell your representative that a car-only landscape isn’t the way you want to roll, and that being able to bike is an important part of your transportation future.

It’s a critical time – every voice and every vote counts.

Happy National Bike Month, everyone!

People for Bikes Guest Post: National Bike Month

Our friends at People for Bikes are always hard at work to improve the future of cycling and are big supporters of National Bike Month. They love events like Bike to Work Week (May 14-18), Bike to Work Day (May 18), and the first Bike to School Day (May 9). So we asked them to put together a few ideas that you could try to make National Bike Month a success in your community.

As many of you already know, May is National Bike Month. With longer, milder days, May is a perfect time to recognize bicycling for the multitude of benefits it provides – improving America’s health, economy, and environment. Here are four ways to make the most of this year’s National Bike Month:

1) Go for a type of bike ride that you normally wouldn’t: If you’re a road rider, try a mountain bike ride. If you’ve never ridden your bike to work, give bike commuting a shot.  If the ride to work isn’t something you can tackle, ride your bike to run an errand you would normally do by car, even if it’s just a trip to the coffee shop or ice cream parlor. Remember—forty percent of trips Americans take are two miles or less, an easy bicycling distance.

2) Sign up for the National Bike Challenge and ride with thousands of Americans from around the country.  This first of its kind challenge is being promoted by the Kimberly Clark Corporation, Bikes Belong, and the League of American Bicyclists to encourage healthier lifestyles and will run from May through August.

3) Introduce one other person to bicycling. Whether it’s your partner, a coworker, a family member, or just a friend, help someone find a bike and go for a fun ride. Bicycling is a pretty amazing thing, right? Why not encourage someone else to discover the activity that brings you so much happiness.

4) Sign the PeopleforBikes.org pledge. PeopleForBikes.org is the movement dedicated to improving the future of bicycling. Already, half a million people have signed the pledge. It is free and only takes a quick minute to sign. Joining PeopleForBikes.org is a way for bicyclists in this country to speak with one powerful, united voice to ask for more safe places to ride a bike. By signing the pledge at www.PeopleForBikes.org, Americans can raise public awareness and demonstrate a commitment to our leaders in Congress and in cities and states throughout the country that bicycling is important and should be protected.

This May and this summer should be an amazing time for bicycling in America. An increasing percentage of our national leaders recognize bicycling as a simple solution for transportation challenges, jobs and economic development, and health and obesity issues. Communities are investing in bike lanes and paths more than ever, helping bicycling to become safer and stress-free. PeopleForBikes.org encourages Americans to take advantage of these new places to ride and to not only participate in National Bike Month, but to also incorporate bicycle trips into their daily routines.

To join 500,000 other Americans in signing the PeopleForBikes.org pledge, visit http://www.peopleforbikes.org/pages/pledge.

To learn more about National Bike Month and find events in your community, check out http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/bikemonth/.

To register for the National Bike Challenge, visit http://www.nationalbikechallenge.org .

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