Local organizers hoping Bike Month gets new riders riding

Posted at 7:00 AM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-07 10:10:19-04

It's been about six months since Tim Jump, a 27-year-old who lives in Covington, owned a car.

He went car-free for a couple months starting in November 2016. Then around the turn of the year, he bought a bicycle.

"I hadn't ridden a bike for years prior to that," he said.

Jump is basically a poster child for who local organizers hope to reach during this year's Bike Month -- traditionally celebrated in May. This year's slogan: "Get Someone Biking."

"It's been very positive. It's been where I'm offered a ride and I just choose to ride my bike, and I usually beat them there," Jump said.

"As we get a little older, we hear that people remember riding their bike, but they've gotten away from it," said Frank Henson, who heads up Queen City Bike and organizes for Bike Month. "We need to help break down the barriers."

Starting last weekend, advocates, riding groups and local businesses have roughly 50 events planned across the region through early June.

"Duckling rides" -- that is, a ride for beginners that a few cycling veterans lead -- are nothing new to Cincinnati's Bike Month. But this year, organizers are offering it up as a challenge.

"We are challenging everyone to find at least one person -- and hopefully more -- in May, and get them on a bike," Henson said.

They're also planning educational events, such as "Urban Bike Riding 101" and the "Bike Safety Rodeo," among others, to go alongside the more traditional slow rides.

It's all about making people feel confident on bikes, Henson said.

"Those are the kind of activities that get people thinking, 'Hey I can ride a bike,'" he said. "People just need a little nudge."

Jump falls under the category of bike commuter, which sits alongside sport riders, road racers, mountain bikers and BMX, among another host of types of cyclists out there. Slightly less than 1 percent of Greater Cincinnati commuters go by bicycle, according to recent census data. But the Tri-State also ranks third nationwide in bike commuting growth.

Jump lives and works in Covington, so his commute is not long. Since beginning to ride, he's also made a hobby of riding to new lunch destinations in the urban basin. He visited Downtown's Cheapside and Over-the-Rhine's B&A Street Kitchen in the past week, two places he'd never tried.

"Even though I've lived here a long time, there are a lot of places I haven't been to," he said. "It's a way to explore the city."

And it's not just the food and drinks that bicycling allows him to explore, Jump said.

"I enjoy architecture," he said. "I have a fascination with maps and roads. Being in Covington or Downtown or Over-the-Rhine, seeing a small side street I would never turn my car down, it's a little more convenient to explore -- things I would never see otherwise."

But the transition from car to bike hasn't been without its challenges, Jump said. The weather was among the first he mentioned.

"In the winter time, with how the weather is in this area, going to bed and not knowing I was going to need extra time to get into work," he said. "Same goes for a rainy morning."

Grocery shopping became a whole new game, as well, he said.

"When you need something from more than just the corner store down the street, it's definitely more of a challenge," Jump said. "You have to plan more accordingly."

His family lives in Florence, so being able to go visit also becomes a bigger endeavor, he said.

All of these challenges can be met, though, Henson said. It just takes veteran riders guiding the beginners.

"Going forward, we need to keep track of the new participants and keep reaching out," he said.

Beyond Bike Month events, Henson suggested helping a friend get an old bike back up to speed, or offering a Red Bike day pass.

The full lineup of Bike Month events can be found here.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur).