The wheels on the bike …

The wheels on the bike …

Cycling Summit rolls into Miami Valley

By Emma Jarman

The Miami Valley Cycling Summit attracts cyclists and bike enthusiasts from all over the Miami Valley to 'ride' their way to a better community.

For those of you fuming over pump prices and greenhouse gasses in the Dayton area; for anyone looking to get in shape while shopping the Miami Valley region; for you who want to help boost the economy and your metabolic rates all in the same breath, pay close attention: the Miami Valley Cycling Summit is upon us.

A regional discussion over becoming bike friendly across the area and how important it is to economic and urban development will be taking place Friday, May 20 at the KROC Center in Dayton. Attendees will bear witness to inspirational keynotes, educational workshops and a series of community group discussions.

The theme this year is “Cycling Sells Cities.” The summit hopes to not only create new ways in which bikes and cycling can be seen as beneficial to the regional economy, but also recognize the ever-present advantages that using bikes as a means of transportation can bring to our community.

Community leaders, area businesses and bike enthusiasts are encouraged to attend and get the information and resources they need to promote bicycling as a productive means of travel and entertainment. The summit expects nearly 400 psyched cyclists to attend the free event and, while anyone and everyone is welcome to attend, local business owners and retailers should take special notice. Organizers hope to see some bike-friendly legislation come out of this summit and local entrepreneurs should be at hand to promote and utilize it.

“Studies show that bicycles on streets increase retail opportunities,” said Nan Whaley, a Dayton city commissioner and member of the MVCS planning team.“Getting on a bike trail is more meaningful than hopping on the interstate.”

When on a bike, cyclists are at eye level and in closer proximity to storefronts than speeding past in a car searching for a parking spot. They’re enjoyably slowed and hopefully intent on absorbing their surroundings. Forget island time, this is bike time.

“Bike paths (especially those that cross county lines) help connect communities and people at street level on bikes are more likely to stop at the store windows they see themselves in as they roll by,” said Whaley.

Sweepingly, the MVCS hopes to “raise awareness of people getting on the road on bikes,” said Whaley. Dayton is well on its way to being bike friendly, and has taken some “really great steps” towards becoming more so. For instance, last year, bike lanes were constructed downtown; there is the upcoming Riverscape bike hub, which will feature locker rooms, showers and bike racks for riders-by; the Bikewalk committee (of which Whaley is a member) hopes to connect Dayton to Centerville through the Southeast Corridor and is trying to get bike lanes that connect to trails, encouraging trail-use as a viable means of navigation and transportation, she said.

Whaley has many hopes for the Cycling Summit with lofty goals and a few pie-in-the-sky ideas about Dayton dropping from four wheels to two. But largely she hopes that, out of the summit, “an advocacy committee really forms and that people get excited about biking.”

As mentioned, there will be a keynote speaker, Bruno Maier, vice president of Bikes Belong. Bikes Belong has both a coalition and foundation that promote increased cycling and also safety for kids on bikes.

Maier’s keynote address, which he will deliver at 9:00 a.m. at the summit, will address how a cycling infrastructure can support economic development in Dayton.

“You can really improve the overall safety of cyclists with a relatively small investment,” Maier admitted. “It’s a jobs creator. It’s more efficient than driving [and] people that do commute tend to save more money.”

Maier was emphatic about bike-friendly cities being attractors for young talent. Young, eager-minded professionals look to contribute to communities that are conscious of how greatly cycling can benefit a city be it environmentally, economically or through general physical health. But even for those who refuse to get on a bike, and Maier admits there are some, cycling majorities will still benefit the 25 to 30 percent that refuse to ride.

“Some people just won’t get on bikes. That’s true. [But] biking has a lot of benefits even for those people who won’t ride. More bikes on trails means less congestion and traffic on roads,” said Maier.

While the decision to ride or not to ride can be made by anyone with a bike and a destination, Maier hopes to attract the attention of government officials and advocates for biking in particular with his message of economic opportunity. In order to become bicycle-friendly, the city must provide a safe infrastructure for cyclists.

“They must provide bikers with dedicated, separated bike paths. People have to feel comfortable and safe when they ride,” Maier said, “and there have to be policies and programs put in place that encourage people to change their habits.”

Maier, too, has a vision for what could come of the 2011 Miami Valley Cycling Summit.

He pointed out, “If you can get six percent of the Dayton population to commute by bike, I think what you’ll have is a healthier city, a cleaner city and a less congested city.”

Reach DCP editorial intern Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@daytoncitypaper.com.

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