Ride for Reading, 'Gravel Lot' podcast devote Bike Month Friday to kids

CINCINNATI -- While the nation designates May as National Bike Month, Tri-State advocates have devoted Friday to celebrating kids and their relationship with bikes.

Two Bike Month events scheduled for Friday focus on kids and how to engage them with bike culture. On Friday morning, more than 50 volunteers biked more than 5,500 books from Over-the-Rhine to the Academy of World Languages in Evanston as a part of the national Ride for Reading program. Later today, the local bike-oriented podcast "Gravel Lot" will host its first live event, focused on getting kids engaged with bikes.

"The kids get really pumped," said Judi LoPresti, co-owner of SPUN Bicycles in Northside and co-organizer of Cincinnati's Ride for Reading event, now in its sixth year. "They see the bikes, they see the cyclists and they see the books, and they're like, 'Yeah, I want to ride bikes, and I want to read books.'"

Volunteers hauled roughly 5,500 books from Over-the-Rhine to the 540 students at the Academy of World Languages in Evanston late Friday morning.

"Our goal every year is to get 10 books into the kids' hands for their home libraries," said Libby Hunter, co-organizer of Ride for Reading and executive director of local nonprofit Wordplay Cincy. 

LoPresti approached friend and business neighbor Hunter with the concept in 2012, after LoPresti volunteered in an event in Las Vegas.

"When she came to me with the idea, I was all for it," Hunter told WCPO. "Anything unique and really engaging like this to get books into the hands of kids, to get kids worked up about reading, I'm really all for it."

This is Ride for Reading's biggest year in Cincinnati, LoPresti and Hunter said, and they hope to provide books for students at two inner-city schools next year.

Ride for Reading isn't the only local organization hoping to highlight youth engagement with bikes today. Doug McClintock hosts the Cincinnati-based podcast "Gravel Lot," which engages in discussing bicycle and political advocacy. McClintock and his team will host their first live event at 8 p.m. Friday, May 11, at Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine. Admission is free.

"We're going to be talking about kids on bikes and celebrating the successes we're already having in our community and finding ways to get all of those people in that community room to cross-pollinate," he told WCPO.

"There are a lot of people doing amazing things, but sometimes they don't talk to each other, and we just want to get everybody in a room, celebrate what's going on about new strategies that we can utilize," McClintock said.

McClintock also works as operations manager for Red Bike, Cincinnati's bike share program. Red Bike, which is offering discounted prices for Ride for Reading, sees both events as interconnected.

"I think the overlap is very blatant," he said. "Kids seeing people at Ride for Reading who show up on bikes -- and anyone who has done this knows that when you show up for Ride for Reading, these kids think you're rock stars -- and you're on bikes. What a great mental image to give them.

"If you can give them programming in their communities where they have all these 'rock stars' who came and gave them all these books they just love, and you can give them a way to connect with that -- these things all link up," he told WCPO.

Hunter said local folks should keep an eye on Ride for Reading, as it has only grown over the last six years of operation in Cincinnati.  

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

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