Organizers push benefits of Bike to Work Week in Steamboat

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If you bike

For those who decide to bike to work this week, here's a checklist of things that may help you prepare for and enjoy your ride:

- Check the weather forecast and have a rain gear if needed

- Wear a helmet

- Make sure your tires are properly inflated and you have a spare or patch kit

- Carry your work clothing, shoes and personal hygiene items

- Be predictable and visible to drivers

- Be aware of traffic and be assertive, not aggressive

- Share the road or trial with pedestrians and drivers

Bike to Work Week is a national event typically celebrated in May or June. The purpose of Bike to Work Week is to encourage people to try or continue bike commuting, increase cycling awareness and promote a healthy alternative form of transportation.

"Bicycling saves transportation resources by reducing road maintenance costs, decreasing congestion and reducing the need for road expansion," Gov. Bill Ritter said at the Bicycle Colorado Gala Celebration on April 20. "We really believe that cycling is part of our transportation future."

About 17,000 people across the state commute by bike, according to a 2000 U.S. Census Bureau survey. June is Bike to Work Month, culminating during Bike to Work Week from June 25 to 29. Bike to Work Day is June 27. The city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County Riders and numerous local businesses are promoting a series of events during the week (visit routtcountyriders... for details).

- Emmanuelle Vital, the Bicycle Friendly Community coordinator for the city of Steamboat Springs

— Bike to Work Week kicks off today, and event coordinator Emmanuelle Vital urges all residents to "exchange that gas pedal for the bike pedal."

"For people who haven't previously commuted to work (using a bike), we urge them to try just one day," she said. "If you like it, then try the next."

The inaugural event, sponsored by the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County Riders, includes a schedule of events throughout the week to get people excited about commuting to work by two wheels instead of four.

Brock Webster of Orange Peel Bicycle Service is hosting a Commuting 101 and Bike Maintenance Social at 5:30 p.m. today in the courtyard of Eriksen Cycles at 1136 Yampa St. in Steamboat Springs.

"For those who went out riding I wanted to show my support and say, 'Good job for riding,'" he said. "I'll also be giving tips on commuting etiquette, strategies for community bikers as well as tips for riding, tips for equipment and other rules of thumb."

Other events include Tuesday's Group Road Race, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at 12th and Yampa streets. On Wednesday, event organizers will host a free breakfast on the courthouse lawn from 7 to 9 a.m. for all Bike to Work participants, followed by Thursday's Group Mountain Bike Ride, which begins at 6 p.m. at Sunpie's Bistro on Yampa Street.

The week culminates Saturday with Steamboat Springs' first Cruiser Rally from 9 to 10 a.m. The rally begins at the courthouse parking lot and winds through Old Town.

Vital said the rally will be a family-friendly event with an important theme - raising the awareness of cyclists in Steamboat Springs.

"Bicyclists have the same rights in terms of sharing the road," said Vital, who urged first-time bike commuters to find a "bike buddy" to ride to work with.

"I urge all motorists to be courteous to each other," she said. "Most people who have bicycles have a car as well, so they pay taxes for the road just like everyone else. They just choose to use their bicycle rather than a car."

Webster, who regularly bikes to work, said the benefits of riding a bike are numerous.

"Other than the cost of the bike it's free," he said. "I can get anywhere downtown quicker by bike than car."

Webster noted that the health benefits of commuting by bike also are appealing.

"A lot of people say they don't have time to spend an extra hour a day exercising, but if you incorporate exercise into your daily routine, such as biking to work, then you kill two birds with one stone," he said. "I'm also a super-ecological hippie, so there are obviously other reasons why I do it too."

Vital said employers who allow some flexibility with employees who commute by bike also would see the rewards of not using a car.

"When people feel like they are being backed up by their employers on their lifestyle, they are more inclined to stay with that company," she said. "Also, the added health benefits mean lower health care costs and a more energized work place."

Vital noted that as traffic slows through the downtown corridor due to construction, biking to work becomes a more resourceful way to commute.

Vital said bicyclists should travel through downtown on Oak Street to avoid small shoulders and congestion on Lincoln Avenue.

For more information on Bike to Work Week, contact Vital at 846-1063.

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