Bike Month races toward Williamsburg

With April showers mostly out of the way, May heralds blooming flowers and the arrival of Bike Month. BikeWalk Williamsburg is organizing the month-long affair, which features bike rides scheduled almost every day and various special events, ensuring options for people of all ages and skill levels.

It all launches on May 1 with a bike ride featuring Mayor Paul Freiling and members of city council. BikeWalk Williamsburg Director Allen Turnbull finds is thrilled with this start.

"It really makes a statement," he said. "Our city is about people. It's about health. To see elected officials embrace that vibrancy is very exciting."

It's followed by a gala at the Williamsburg Regional Library, where Bike Month Chair Jim Gullo says they will celebrate "bicycling as an art." Paintings and photographs with bikes as the central theme will be on display and available for sale. Presenters will also offer rapid fire talks on the history and culture surrounding the bicycle, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary in June.

That's just day one.

"There's a lot of different things going on," Gullo said. With the many Bike Month events, he wants to emphasize the bicycle's potential impact on health, transportation and socialization, while offering the opportunity to further explore the Williamsburg area as well.

"We have more activities this year than ever before," Turnbull said. "All abilities are welcome. It's about getting out, enjoying going at your own pace, as far as you want."

Something for everyone

The biggest event planned is Pedal the Parkway, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. This tour of the Colonial Parkway is expected to attract as many as 1,200 cyclists.

"That's a pretty big celebration," Gullo said. "It's a family friendly event to get outside and experience our beautiful parks."

The event closes off the parkway to cars, allowing for an uninhibited ride. Helmets will be available and fitted for free. The route stretches from the Jamestown Settlement entrance to the Williamsburg end on Newport Ave.

"We have that great May weather and beautiful scenery," Turnbull said.

The Blessing of the Bikes on May 21 is a new addition this year. The pastor from St. Steven Lutheran Church will bless the bikes and lead a 7 mile ride beginning and ending at the church.

For those looking for something more intense, the Proclamation Ride on May 4 spans 52 miles from the Bell Tower in Richmond's Capitol Square to the Virginia Capital Trail's stretch in Williamsburg. That event is $10 per person and includes the option of shuttling to Richmond, for those interested in sticking to a double-digit trek.

James City County is working with BikeWalk on many of the events, and it has a couple of its own ideas as well. Pedaling the Past on May 7 and 21 invites cyclists 12 and up on a guided tour of historic sites throughout the county; the Park to Park Ride is a self-guided tour including visits to Veterans Park, Powhatan Creek Trail and more.

"We're going after different types of groups," Gullo said, emphasizing that Bike Month is not just for the hardcore cyclists who battle traffic around the city every morning. It's all-inclusive.

"It's fun and it's a great way to get in some exercise," he said. "It's a great way to be with other people. That socialization part is really important."

When it comes to bicycling, safety is always at the forefront of the discussion. Where to bike, how to do so safely and how to share the road with others, including cars and pedestrians.

The planned bike rodeo is one example of that endeavor.

"For children, it's a good way to come out and be with your family and learn some safety," Gullo said.

BikeWalk Williamsburg is offering information and materials on bike safety throughout the month for all ages.

Turnbull's bike appreciation spawned from his time as a William and Mary grad student during the energy crisis of the 1970s. He relied on biking to get to campus, and it's a habit that stuck.

"It was a great way to get some exercise and save some dollars," he said, and that remains a constant today.

Gullo, who is also the vice president of of Williamsburg Area Bicyclists and a member of BikeWalk Williamsburg's board of directors, dusted off his bike later in life. His son was a Boy Scout, and those related adventures prompted the return to the hobby. He also offered bike lessons at Norge Elementary School.

"It was a joy to see the kids enjoying their bicycles," he said. He hopes that joy will transcend age, skill level and any other possible factor during Bike Month and beyond.

"I hope to see you out there," he said.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

Event highlights

Bicycle Art and Culture Gala: Monday, May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Williamsburg Library. Free. Check out the opening night exhibition of bicycle art and see multimedia presentations on bike history and culture. Preceded by Mayor's Bike Ride at 5:30 p.m.

20th Annual Pedal the Parkway: Saturday, May 6 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Colonial Parkway. Free. Join hundreds of other cyclists on the historic parkway on a ride suitable for all ages.

Pedaling the Past: Sunday, May 7 from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and Sunday, May 21 from noon to 1:45 p.m. Entry is $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents. Find more info on this and the Park to Park Ride at jamescitycountyva.gov/recreation.

Bike to Work Week: Monday, May 15 through Friday, May 19. Save on gas and get some exercise with a two-wheel commute.

Bike Rodeo: Saturday, May 20 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Quarterpath Recreation City. Bring your kids to learn about bike skills and safety tips.

Bike and a Movie: Wednesday, May 31. Ride at 4:30 p.m. Movie at 7:30 p.m. Free. End Bike Month with one last ride and cool off with a screening of the Academy Award-winning "Breaking Away" at the Kimball Theatre.

More information is available at bikewalkwilliamsburg.org.

Friendly bike safety reminders

•Obey all traffic signs, signals, lights and markings

•Ride on the right side, with traffic

•Use hand signals for turns and stops

•Use white headlamps visible 500 feet, rear reflectors, and a red taillight when bicycling between sunset and sunrise

Contact Bike Walk Williamsburg at info@bikewalkwilliamsburg.org for more bike safety info. (courtesy of Sharing the Road in Virginia)

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