Bike Month: Advocates say ‘go with traffic’Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) has a simple mantra during Bike Month this May: Go with the flow.
“A high incidence for accidents is wrong-way bicycle driving,” said Keith Webb, who sits on TMACOG’s Pedestrian & Bikeways Committee. Cyclists should go with the direction of traffic, he advised.
Webb and Ed O’Reilly, chairman of TMACOG’s Pedestrian & Bikeways Committee, are avid cyclists in the Toledo area.
“Bike Month is very much a promotion of alternative transportation and my position and my opinions on all these things is for us to have a well-rounded, great functioning community, we need all forms of transportation,” said O’Reilly, who cycles between 125-150 miles per week.
O’Reilly stressed that Bike Month is about people of all skill and commitment levels getting out on a bike. Since kids spend more time indoors with technology, biking is also a way to expose them to nature, he said.
“Unlike running, which is a little more demanding of a sport, cycling allows for a broader base of participation,” O’Reilly said.
We Are Traffic!
Webb described himself as a utilitarian cyclist. His cargo trailer enables him to ride his bike to pick up a variety of items, from groceries to firewood.
The cyclist/engineer recently founded the group We Are Traffic!
“It’s an advocacy group working to improve infrastructure and promote cycling as an alternative form of transportation,” Webb said. The group also serves to connect the few league-certified cycling instructors in the Toledo area and promote their classes.
“Many times I run into someone and they say, ‘I’d love to ride my bike to work, but I just don’t feel comfortable. I wish there was a place to take a class,’” Webb said.
As his group’s title suggests, Webb is adamant that his bike is a vehicle and is part of traffic. Occasionally, people have yelled at him to get on the sidewalk, which is not permitted in certain areas.
“There are hidden dangers or inherent dangers to riding on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are designed for pedestrians so it’s a slower moving form of traffic where cyclists move faster,” Webb said. He also said that since cars aren’t always used to seeing cyclists on sidewalks, it could be dangerous for cyclists where sidewalks cross driveways.
One part of We Are Traffic!’s website is a map that allows users to mark where bike racks currently are and where they would like one.
“We also try to work to build up that type of infrastructure and identify locations where cyclists want to have that type of infrastructure,” Webb said.
O’Reilly pointed out that bike racks don’t cost much to install and that providing these structures allows people to be flexible with their mode of transportation.
He said there are more cyclists out there than people think.
“Sometimes, we almost become oblivious to the other forms of transportation,” he said.
Not an accessory
Last year’s Bike Month slogan was “Helmets are a necessity, not an accessory,” something O’Reilly and Webb reiterated this year.
“I have zero tolerance for people who don’t ride with helmets,” O’Reilly said.
“When I’m out cycling, I see families where the kids have helmets on and the parents don’t,” he said. “As parents, as cyclists, we need to be role models.”
Webb also advised wearing gloves while cycling.
“Gloves are a good idea because if you do take a fall, usually you’re gonna catch yourself with your hands.”
O’Reilly said that cyclists need to observe traffic laws and also be aware of their surroundings.
Webb said that while biking with traffic, cyclists need to have a plan in case they need to get off the road.
“As you’re going along, you’re looking for your escape strategy. Be aware of what’s on the side of the road,” Webb said.
In addition to the health and energy benefits, Webb said biking is also a form of therapy for him.
“The first thing biking does is, it kind of takes me back and brings the kid out in me,” he said. “For most people, if you had a bicycle as a kid, it was maybe your first touch of freedom.”
For Bike Month, O’Reilly advised taking your bike out around the neighborhood on a nice day.
“Just go out and try it and enjoy the day,” he said.
Ride of Silence
Bike Month also has a serious side. The annual Ride of Silence, honoring those injured or killed in bicycle-related incidents, is set for 6:45 p.m. May 15 beginning at the University of Toledo’s Parking Lot 1 North, located at the corner of Bancroft Street and North Towerview Boulevard. There will be police escorts and the ride is slow-paced and family friendly. Helmets are required.
“It’s a show-and-go event so there’s no infrastructure to it,” Webb said. “It’s truly designed for anyone to participate.”
The 7.8-mile ride specifically honors Robert Brundage, David Larabee and Dr. Stephen Snedden. The group, which was at about 200 cyclists last year, will stop at Ottawa Hills High School to commemorate Larabee, a teacher who died after he was struck by a car while riding his bike. Another stop is set for Toledo Children’s Hospital where Snedden, who died after being hit by a car, worked. To memorialize Brundage, who died from injuries sustained during the theft of his bike, the group will stop at Ottawa Park.
Several other events, including Bike to Work Day on May 17 and Bike Day at the Farmers Market on May 18, are also planned. For more information, visit www.tmacog.org/bikemonth.htm and http://wearetraffic.org.