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Alison Dewey, Bicycle Friendly Business booster

In celebration of May as National Bike Month, we are asking League staff members why they ride and how they make the most of Bike Month.

Next up is Bicycle Friendly Communities Program Specialist, Alison Dewey.

Alison bike month photo

Hi Alison, how are you celebrating Bike Month this year?

I’m celebrating 2011 Bike Month with a big dose of bike education.  Along with friends from the League, I am volunteering my time to instruct multiple Girl Scout troops on bike safety. We are emphasizing how to safely follow the rules of the road while on a bike and stressing the importance of sharing the road with bicycles when driving a car. The girls are near driving age so even if they are not using a bike for recreation, transportation, or fitness, it is important they know that bikes are also vehicles on the road and that sharing the road is a responsibility of cyclists and drivers.

What’s your favorite Bike Month memory or experience?

Oh so many! But one of my favorites was a day that the League staff rode to the newly opened Woodrow Wilson Bridge Bike Way.  We started out with a very ominous sky above us and of course it wasn’t but five minutes after we had left that the clouds opened up and it poured down.  It should have been miserable. Had we been walking or driving certainly I would have looked around and thought “what a crummy day.” But because we were all on our bikes and because even the most novice bike riders in the group were still smiling, it was loads of fun.   Really, being on a bike gives a totally different perspective; it can turn even the ugliest weather into an enjoyable experience.

Let’s get down to business, Bicycle Friendly Business, that is. As the Bicycle Friendly Business specialist, what are some BFBs that stand out for having great Bike Month events?

I’d love to spend a Bike Month in Anchorage, Alaska with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium! Bike to Work Day is celebrated with morning coffee, treats, prizes and a live two-hour radio broadcast. At lunch they do a blessing of the bikes, then in the evening riders from the community and hospital gather for pizza and a live blue grass music party.

Another standout is National Geographic.  The business provides an elaborate breakfast spread for employees that ride in on Bike to Work Day. Throughout the month they have bike safety seminars and repair classes to get employees ready to ride.  Ameriprise Financial in Minnesota features commuter profiles on their intranet.  Last year rider experiences ranged from the racer whose daily ride to work is 40 miles round trip to the mother who transports her son in a Burley trailer and drops him off/picks him up at daycare midway through her daily commute of less than five miles.

When and why do you ride your bike?

I ride my bike every chance I get and with three small kids, the youngest being three months, the chances don’t come as often as they used to. It’s very hard to find the time to go out to just ride for fitness so these days I have to work it into my daily or weekly errands.  I just found a great bike route to our church where we celebrated Bike Month with a Bike to Church Day, the turn-out was amazing and no one looked the wearier because of it!  I also regularly bike my oldest daughter to pre-school  and ride to the occasional neighborhood meeting at night.

What’s the longest ride you’ve ever done?

My longest ride was not an organized ride but rather a training ride for an event.  I pedaled 120 miles throughout the North Shore of Boston, one of my favorite places to ride, in preparation for competing in Ironman Lake Placid. That was before the three kids!

What tips do you have for new bike commuters?

Bike commuting can be for everyone. It is not limited to avid riders, athletes, or cycling kamakazis. It’s really for anyone who likes a healthy lifestyle.  Even if you live farther than you think is feasible to bike, consider using a bike/bus combination. There are a growing number of cities putting bike racks on buses to accommodate the increased demand in using bikes during a commute. Bike commuting may seem intimidating but if you seek out a co-worker who is already doing it, I bet they will tell you different. Odds are they will even help you on your first few commutes.

What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started to ride frequently?

It’s worth it to pay a little bit more for a good bike. And using your gears makes the ride a lot easier.

What do you typically wear to ride?

It really depends where I am going, how far my destination is, and what my destination is. My ride to work is a good 17 miles so I typically wear a bike jersey and bike shorts and change when I get to work.  You’ll often see me in an awesome pair of bike capris that, I think, look quite fashionable and have a chamois for riding comfort – though looking at them you’d never know it. If I am going to a neighborhood meeting or on a local errand, I wear whatever I am wearing that day.

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