National Bike Month Kicks Off With Commute Challenge

By Josh Cohen May 3, 2010

May is National Bike Month. All around the country, bike advocacy groups are putting on events to promote biking-as-legitimate transportation and encourage people to commute by bike.

The origins of bike month are surprisingly old. The League of American Bicyclists held a Bike-to-Work day in 1956 as part of a larger Bike-to-Work week campaign. That eventually gave rise to recognition of May as Bike Month.

I'm tempted to say that Bike Month—like Black History Month, Earth Month, or any other special "month"—feels like a token, purely symbolic gesture. In this case, however, my cynicism is unwarranted: Here in Seattle, there are tangible and substantive efforts afoot to get people to start riding in May.

Much of that substantive effort is being headed up by the Cascade Bicycle Club. Technically, the group kicked off Bike Month with its Bike-to-Work fundraiser at the end of April, but the main thrust of their efforts is the Commute Challenge contest , in which teams of four to ten coworkers (or individuals riding as solo participants) compete to log the most miles and percent of trips by bike during the month. (Somewhat depressingly, this year's contest is open to unemployed people, identified in the contest FAQs as folks who "bike 'for' work.") I work from home most days, so unless I start taking a really, really long route to meetings with Erica and Josh F., I probably wouldn't do so well in the contest.

Last year, more than 10,000 cyclists participated; winners get prizes like gift packs, panniers, and Zipcar certificates.  [Editor's note: Erica C. Barnett's cynicism, unlike BikeNerd's, is alive and well. She wonders: Doesn't this contest just reward people who live far from where they work?]

Though the contest is already underway, it isn't too late to form a team and sign up. As of writing, however, the registration page is down so you might have to wait a little bit before you can do anything.

The contest definitely acts as a carrot for people who already commute, but Cascade's commute director John Mauro says the Challenge has been successful in getting new riders on their bikes as well.

"The challenge galvanizes people in their workplace and they want to share in the excitement," said Mauro. "Veteran commuters act as leaders and help bring in new commuters every year."

In addition to the Commute Challenge, Cascade is hosting commute stations and a bike-to-work rally on May 21, the official Bike-To-Work day. They're also hosting several other parties, events, and classes to promote cycling and help new riders feel comfortable with commuting.

In addition to Cascade, the University of Washington is putting forth a significant effort to promote cycling during May. Their month-long campaign, Bike to Campus, consists of several events and workshops (including a particularly relevant one on riding in bad weather) to get students on bikes.
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