Challenge: 47,000 riders, 23M miles
The 2014 National Bike Challenge saw unprecedented participation from more than 47,000 riders across the country, pedaling more than 23 million miles.
The National Bike Challenge, today wrapping up its third year with a new award-winning website, saw 36% increase in riders and 25% more miles pedaled over last year. Challenge riders burned a collective 500,000 Ilbs. From May to September, riders logged miles, shared personal triumphs and united around bicycling, whether for fun, for work or for health.
Eric Nordgren, of Topeka, Kansas, took the top spot overall for individual male riders, beating out thousands of other competitors.
“I’ve filled 5 notebooks with journal notes. I’ve watched majestic storms, sunrises, sunsets, tornados, hail, high wind, changing seasons, snow, lightning, heat and extreme cold… all in the 5 months,” Nordgren said. “Five months is a LONG time! I never thought we’d get through to this day! But, here it is! I’ve made a lot of local friends and online friends from the Challenge. Certainly, I have ridden at least double the miles I would ordinariy ride, because of the Challenge.”
He continued: “Thank you to all of my Challenge family that has been consistent in encouraging me throughout the season. You guy are all heroes! You’ve all been great! Ride on .. be safe!”
HDR Inc., headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, earned the No. 1 spot for large workplaces (5,000+ employees). Tori Pallas, HDR’s workplace administrator for the Challenge, said an already blossoming bike culture within the business, bolstered by inter-office mini challenges and the company’s focus on sustainability, helped HDR edge out the competition.
“We’ve always known cycling was prominent amongst our staff, but the Challenge has given us a base to build on with our Wellness Program,” she said.
Also in Nebraska, Live Well Omaha ended in the Top 10 of Midwestern Local Challenges. Julie Harris, Live Well Omaha’s Program Manager, said their “secret weapon for keeping our community engaged is really the riders themselves.”
“We’ve seen amazing leadership bubble up from the ranks, and they take great pride in motivating each other and bringing new riders into the fold,” she said. “Our local challenge forum is quite active with updates on trail conditions after storms and other information that is crowd sourced by the group. We have amazing riders, and it makes our lives much easier!”
The data gathering tool of the Challenge is powerful for advocacy organizations such as hers, she said, as well.
“The aggregate information about the number of trips and the mileage is great, but so is just knowing who is riding,” she said. “One summer, the City of Omaha did a road diet and added a bike lane on a popular bike route. Bicyclists were delighted with the change, but the neighbors were not, and their City Council member’s phone got swamped with negative phone calls. When we heard about the “bikelash,” we were able to create a list of people from workplaces along that route, and let them know that their positive voices of thanks were needed to balance the conversation. We were able to create some political cover for the City in a very short amount of time, just by doing a little spreadsheet sorting. Our City Engineer still talks about how grateful he was for that.”
The Midwest showed its dominance in the Challenge this year, with Wisconsin winning the title of No. 1 state. Dave Cieslewicz, director of the Wisconsin Bike Federation, said they got creative this year after losing to Nebraska and Vermont in 2013.
He told us: “A lot of the credit has to go to Rob Gusky, an active Wisconsin Bike Fed member and a recent addition to the League board as well. We did some fun stuff, including a poster that read ‘Last Year Nebraska Biked More Miles Than We Did (Seriously).’ Nothing wrong with a little Big Ten trash talk. We really pushed it among our 4,500 members and we talked about it whenever we did presentations. We must have done a dozen blog posts on the Challenge.”
Beyond the promotion, though, was the real story behind their success, he said.
“But the truth is that it wasn’t just the promotion. Wisconsinites really do love their bikes,” he said. “I like to think that we weren’t just better at recording our miles. I think we really do bike more than most places. Especially Nebraska.”
2014 CHALLENGE WINNERS
Individual Rider, Female: Mary Catterton
Individual Rider, Male: Eric Nordgren
Team (up to 10 riders): Kansas Krank Addicts
Team (11 – 24 riders): Shallow Dog Riders
Team (25 – 49 riders): Henry Street Pirates
Team (50 – 99 riders): MBSC: Mind Brain Social Club
Team (100+ riders): Gainesville Cycling Club
Workplace (Fewer than 10 employees): Gravelcyclist.com
Workplace (10 – 99 employees): League of American Bicyclists
Workplace (100 – 499 employees): Health District of Northern Larimer County
Workplace (500 – 4,999 employees): Sierra Nevada
Workplace (5,000 employees): HDR, Inc.
Workplace (Bike Shop/Industry): Santa Monica Bike Center
School (Elementary): Pinon Valley Elementary
School (Middle): James Madison Middle School
School (High School): Wayne Enrichment Center
School (College/University): University of Minnesota Medical School
Community (Fewer than 500 residents): Lively, VA
Community (500 – 4,999 residents): Atlantic Mine, MI
Community (5,000 – 49,999 residents): Waterloo, WI
Community (50,000 – 199,999 residents): Appleton, WI
Community (200,000+ residents): Madison, WI
Local Challenge (Northeast): Local Motion
Local Challenge (South): Sun City Cyclers
Local Challenge (Midwest): Fox Valley Bike Challenge
Local Challenge (West): Baker Loves Bikes