The Bike to Work committee consisting of campus staff members and community groups is organizing an event to promote healthy and green lifestyle choices.
Bike to Work Week is an event encouraging people to utilize biking as a primary means of transportation and will take place from May 12-16, with a Bike to Work Day community event on May 16 from 3:30 pm to 5:30 p.m.
“This serves as a catalyst for communities to discuss issues regarding safe transportation, biking lanes, and access and barriers to all sorts of modes of transportation, as well as health, wellness and environmental reasons to bike to work or school,” said Derek Bell, the health promotion and wellness consultant at Ministry Medical Group and committee member.
Neil Prendergast, an assistant professor of history and committee member, says that it is a promotion of how easy and comfortable everyday bicycling can be.
“It is actually a well-established event nationwide,” Prendergast said. “The League of American Bicyclists has been promoting it for about 50 years.”
The League of American Bicyclists is an organization that recently awarded Stevens Point a Bronze rating for bicycle friendliness.
“They do not actually run local Bike to Work events. That is up to communities to do on their own,” Prendergast said. “There has been a renewed interest in biking in Portage County recently, partly stemming from a new countywide plan to improve the roads for bicycling. So, with this new energy, some local volunteers decided to put together a Bike to Work event here.”
The committee was formed by a group of people who shared an interest in promoting this type of an event locally and they hope that people will ride their bikes during the week, and see it as another form of transportation.
“I have been a bike advocate for a long time,” said Trevor Roark, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Adventure Tours program manager and committee member. “I essentially bike to work every day, so it’s already running through my veins. To be on the committee was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
Roark mentioned that he would like to see more bicycling and more policies in the city and the county that adhere to a wider use of transportation.
Dave Barbier, campus sustainability coordinator and committee member, decided to get involved for two different reasons.
“Part of my motivation is that the university has adopted a carbon neutrality plan that relates to the development of more sustainable transportation modes on campus and trying to improve the transportation infrastructure,” Barbier said. “So part of me saw this as an opportunity to promote biking on our campus. Another part of my role has been to work on our development and collaborate with the community around sustainability ideals and obviously bicycling is a great example of sustainability when it comes to transportation.”
The Bike to Work Day community event will take place downtown.
“We’re going to have a bike rodeo there for kids, or even adults that want to learn more about basic bicycling, safety and rules of the road,” Roark said. “The Stevens Point police department and the sheriff’s office will be there to help with the bike rodeo.”
The mayor will also speak about the importance of bicycling in the community.
“We are fortunate to have community leaders like Mayor Halverson, County Executive Patty Drier, and Pat from the Pat and AJ morning radio show on 106.5 FM, willing to lead bike rides around the downtown square and adjacent areas in addition to other activities for families and a general celebration to promote biking,” Bell said.
There will be two different bike rides. A family ride lead by the mayor and a city ride which will be a little longer.
“I think we all sort of know that bicycling is fun, but we kind of get away from it,” Prendergast said. “I think, for example, that a lot of college students don’t bike because they don’t know the town in that way, or because we get busy.”
Prendergast thinks that bicycling is worth getting back to.
“It’s good for your health. It saves money. It’s good for the environment,” Prendergast said. “You even end up saying hello to more of your neighbors.”
Bell says they encourage all businesses to consider promoting this event to their employees because it is a fun and healthy way to encourage team building and make wellness a central theme to promoting health.
“The possibilities are great with an event like this and the benefit outweighs the cost,” Bell said. “It is a rare chance for any work group to do something together that has so many health and wellness benefits. It’s one of those rare opportunities to be involved with something that can do so many things for people and the community.”
As a health promotion consultant, Bell wants to help build things that provide people the chance to do something active and fun.
“I also see this event as something people can do together, with their families and friends,” Bell said. “We have such a special community, and this event helps us bring people together in a positive and healthy way, bringing us closer to being the healthiest community in Wisconsin.”
Since this is the first time the committee will be doing this, Barbier said they are trying to stay realistic with their goals.
“We’re going to build on that for next year,” Barbier said. “There are a lot of ideas about how we can grow this opportunity, and everyone on the committee is committed to its growth long term.”