NEWPORT, Ky. — Jason Reser of Park Hills likes to ride his bike to work in Newport, but these days, he doesn't always have the chance.
"I'm back and forth right now because I have a kid that has to go out in the country (for child care), but now he's going to be in preschool in August, and I can't wait. I'll be able to start riding again," he said.
Reser owns his own local bike shop, Reser Bicycle Outfitters, located on Monmouth Street in the heart of Newport. He's also an advocate and organizer for Bike Month, which takes place annually each May.
The flagship Bike Month event each year, Reser said, is Bike to Work Day, which will take place this year on Friday, May 17. For the last 10 years, Reser has organized a "Breakfast on the Bridge" the morning of Bike to Work Day on the Purple People Bridge as a way to entice more would-be riders to dust off their bikes and pedal to work that day.
Last year, for the first time Reser partnered with Taste of Belgium to provide free waffles to riders on their morning commute into work.
"We get more and more riders every year," Reser said. "I think last year, with the waffles, we almost doubled the size of the crowd."
Biking to work brings more benefits than free waffles, Reser said. (Although, let's admit that, for many, that would be enough.)
"It decreases the amount of traffic by quite a bit because bicycles take up a lot less room," he said. "It's healthier for folks, a lot less pollution, and it also helps decrease crime in neighborhoods. More eyes on the street, more people out as they jog or bike: It's good for neighborhoods."
For Reser personally, he said biking to work helps him wake up in the morning.
"I arrive refreshed, and my body's burning some calories, and I'm ready to start the day," he said.
But with the benefits of biking to work also come challenges. For one, people might find the distance between home and work impractical, or they might not know the best route to take. For many, the idea of riding a bike on the road sounds downright dangerous.
Reser said that's a concern he hears often, and he tries to demystify the dangerous aura surrounding biking to work.
"If you look at the overall numbers, it's become safer and safer to ride your bike on the street over the last 20 years," he said. "So as more vehicles become aware of cyclists, and also as the infrastructure improves, we've seen things become safer and safer."
Data back up Reser's claim: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, bicycle crashes have steadily decreased in recent years; although, bike fatalities have been on the rise.
And as for the distance factor, if a bus stop is reachable by bicycle, Cincinnati Metro, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, the Butler County Regional Transit Authority and the Clermont Transportation Connection are all offering free fares to people on bikes. All buses are equipped with fold-down bike racks on their front end.
For Reser, the biggest benefit to Bike to Work Day is getting new bike commuters in the saddle.
"Every year, we seem to get a few new bike commuters with Breakfast on the Bridge, and a lot of times they just keep going for years and years and years afterward," he said.
Breakfast on the Bridge begins at 7 a.m. at the Newport foot of the Purple People Bridge.