Cyclists prepare for National Bike Week

Allen Chen works on a bicycle during Charlottesville Community Bikes' open shop hours. Photo Elli Williams Allen Chen works on a bicycle during Charlottesville Community Bikes’ open shop hours. Photo Elli Williams

Local cycling enthusiasts are gearing up for both warmer weather and National Bike Month in May, when communities across the U.S. will encourage and celebrate bicycling for both recreation and transportation. Organizations like Community Bikes and Bike Charlottesville are hosting several events to get people of all ages excited about hopping onto two wheels.

Charlottesville Community Bikes, a local nonprofit that promotes environmentally sound transportation and recycles bicycles, is partnering with the city to host the annual Children’s Bicycle Rodeo. On Sunday, April 21, volunteers will guide kids and their families through about 10 stations in the IX building parking lot that promote bicycle maintenance, safety, and confidence.

Stations will include a helmet fitting, balance and steering drills, ABC—air, brakes, chains—quick checks, and a bicycle-powered smoothie maker.

“They can practice things that might mirror real-life situations,” said Community Bikes volunteer Shell Bell, one of the event’s coordinators. “It really is a confidence builder.”

Bell said she hopes this year’s bike rodeo will encourage families to get outside together and consider alternate transportation, and to look at biking as more than just weekend recreation. To drive this pointhome, a Charlottesville Area Transit bus will be in attendance, and volunteers will show kids and their parents how to safely load a bicycle onto the front, while discussing with them the importance of healthy,environmentally friendly ways to get around.

“It really validates the activity as a form of transportation,” Bell said.

Because the rodeo is the same day as the Eco Fair, Charlottesville’s annual Downtown Earth Day celebration, Bell said the environmental benefits of biking come out naturally during the event.

“Whatever comes out as the best things about biking for an adult will come out for a kid,” Bell said, including overall health and protecting the environment.

Amanda Poncy, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said this year’s rodeo will have an emphasis on bringing families together, and equipment will be available for parents to test out.

“That way they can see what it’s like to have a tagalong or bike trailer,” Poncy said. “Some of those investments can be pretty high, so this way they can test it out and see if they would be interested in trying to commute with their families.”

According to Poncy, the bike-riding community in Charlottesville is changing.

“It’s not all about physically fit people wearing Lycra anymore,” she said.

Poncy works with the city and local groups to promote the activity to people of all ages and skill levels, and has been researching ways to make Charlottesville more accessible to people who use biking as a regular way of getting from point A to point B.

Beginning Tuesday, April 9, Charlottesville Community Bikes will host Women’s Bike Night every week through May 14. Female bike mechanics will teach drop-in classes on maintenance, and women in attendance will have opportunities to work on one another’s bikes for hands-on experience. Other events coming up include spring social rides hosted by Bike Charlottesville, a bicycle brigade in the April 21 Dogwood Parade, and Bike to Work Week in May.