For Some, It's Always Bike to Work Week
This is National Bike to Work Week, but some folks don't need the incentive of a holiday - or the town of Southern Pines' proposed bike plan - to leave their cars at home.
Attorneys Doug Gill and Marsh Smith are both among those who leave a car at work to accommodate their biking on a regular basis.
Gill figures he bikes to work an average of three times a week. More impressive is how long he has been doing it.
"I've probably ridden a bike to work for 40 years, except for when I lived in Southern Pines and my office was in Pinehurst," he says.
Gill is pragmatic in his reasons for biking to work, emphasizing that the convenience of living close is the most important factor. But he adds, "To me it's just more refreshing to go home in the open air than to go in a car." Gill downplays the environmental impact of biking to work.
More enthusiastic about his contribution to Mother Nature is Smith, who averages biking to work about once a week.
"I figure it's good exercise and I cut down on traffic congestion," he says. "And I'm not burning fossil fuels."
Initiatives intended to encourage biking as both a form of recreation and transportation around the town are deep in development, says Robert Reeve, director of parks and recreation for Southern Pines. About a year and a half ago, the town applied to the N.C. Department of Transportation for a grant toward developing a bike plan, and it was awarded last summer.
The next step was to hire a consulting firm to develop the plan.
"We interviewed several firms and hired Greenways Inc. in Durham," Reeve says. "Since January, we have started to work on our bike plan."
The town has heavily solicited input on the plan, including two public input meetings and a questionnaire.
"Our entire efforts the last several months have been trying to gather input from our citizens and people who ride bikes," Reeve says.
The town is using the feedback to generate an idea of where bike paths are most sought to increase convenience and encourage more people to use their bikes.
"People can identify potential areas where they'd like to get to, from their house, to a park or to a school or something like that," he says.
Rainbow Cycles owner John Mueller, who rides his bike to work about once a week, commends the town's efforts.
"A lot of communities don't spend enough time planning their infrastructure well and they don't receive a lot of the input," he says. "So I think it's a very good move in the right direction for the town, and it will help develop a much better outcome."
Mueller stresses that the intrinsic satisfaction of helping the environment also comes with an economic gain.
"Just riding your bike once a week can save you hundreds of dollars in gas costs a year," he says.
Besides identifying optimal bike routes, promoting bicycle safety is another key goal of the plan.
"That's what we're trying to do - promote bicycle safety," Reeve says. "This will help us identify more opportunities for people, encourage people to ride a bike rather than drive a car."
Smith, who has ridden off and on for 20 years, says he's fairly satisfied with safety conditions for bikers in Southern Pines.
"I have found the traffic, or drivers, to be be really polite over here," he says. "I've found them to be more rude in Pinehurst, but they're pretty polite over here."
While he likes the idea of improving bicycle riding conditions in general, Gill is skeptical about the effectiveness the town's bike plan might have in increasing bike riding.
"I cannot imagine how it's going to have any effect on people riding to work as opposed to riding recreationally," he says. "I think the only thing that's going to make people ride a bike to work is to have gasoline prices go sky-high."
Reeve says that the town of Southern Pines was one of the first government agencies in Moore County to receive the NCDOT-supported bike plan. However, there will be a special interest in identifying bike routes that could integrate connectivity within the rest of the county.
"That's vitally important for what were trying to do," he says. "We're not just doing this for Southern Pines."
Contact Emma Witman at (910) 693-2493.
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