News: A Mettle for the Pedal

Two-wheeled commuting has benefits beyond the environment

For Kevin Reynolds, the second shift at the Cincinnati Water Works Miller Treatment Plant ends at midnight. Strolling into the parking lot, keys jingling in his pocket, he walks up to a bike rack and unchains his Joe Breeze road bike for the 18-mile ride home.

Reynolds, like many Cincinnatians, has given up his car three, four, maybe five times a week to find a more eco-friendly mode of transportation. From this love for the environment and the desire to make the city more accessible to bikers and pedestrians, the Cincinnati Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (Bike/PAC) formed in 1991.

Volunteers began attending meetings at City Hall to get bike paths and pedestrian walkways on the agenda. Twelve years ago the group hosted its first Bicycle, Bus or Car Pool and Pedestrian (B-BOPP) to Work Week, observed this year from Friday through Tuesday.

The kick-off rally is from noon-1 p.m. Friday at Fountain Square. Glen Brand of the Sierra Club will talk about the implications of urban sprawl. Former City Councilwoman Minette Cooper, who played an instrumental role in the city's new youth helmet law, will also speak.

Bike/PAC hopes the event promotes awareness of the health, financial and environmental benefits of alternative modes of transportation.

Fear of spandex
Jim Coppock, unofficial bike coordinator for the city and a Bike/PAC member, rides the bus a couple times a week.

"Riding the bus allows me to catch some Zs, read CityBeat or talk to my neighbors," he says. "It takes a little time out of my day, but I'm trying to remember to slow down and feel groovy."

Reynolds, who is also a Bike/PAC member, bikes 36 miles round-trip to the Miller Treatment Plant and home. It takes two hours and 15 minutes.

As a kid, Reynolds lived on a busy street and never biked. It wasn't until high school that he road his bike to school for the first time.

"I was so tired I slept in class, but I was bitten by the bug," he says.

On that ride, he saw parts of his town in new ways. It was the 1970s. Reynolds was becoming environmentally conscious and made a decision he was going to start riding.

Reynolds doesn't use the Metro bike racks and doesn't follow bike trails; he likes to veer off the beaten path.

"If you stick with the trails, you limit what you can see," he says.

One afternoon he rode to Sharon Woods on an errand and noticed a fossil park in the distance. He steered off the road and eventually ditched his bike entirely to go searching for trilobites.

On his bike, Reynolds has many sensory experiences.

"In the morning, you see the world waking up," he says. "You'll pick up a lot of interesting smells: baking bread, the brewery."

Kathryn Bunthoff is another morning cyclist. She rides her bike to the University of Cincinnati campus, where she's in her second year of doctoral study in English. Bunthoff has been riding and walking to school for the past four years.

"I couldn't handle the ethical implications of driving a car when I could easily ride a bicycle for the same trip," she says.

Bunthoff has anticipated every counter-argument to biking: bad weather, dangerous traffic, time constraints and those embarrassing spandex shorts. But she just can't justify driving every day, using up fuel and allowing her lifestyle to revolve around a car.

She likes not having to sit in traffic on a hot day, and she never has to feel trapped. Cold rain tests her patience, but it's nothing a raincoat can't fix.

'Feel the world'
Every morning Bunthoff takes Ludlow Avenue. She passes boutiques, an ice cream parlor and a theater that give the Gaslight District its Old World eclecticism. Instead of taking the busy path of Clifton Avenue, she rides through Burnet Woods, past the duck pond, around the curving, car-free roads, to campus.

Bunthoff grew up in Greensboro, N.C., where it was hard to get anywhere by bike or foot.

"I know my hometown largely through the windshield of a car," she says.

Nowadays you can see Bunthoff gliding by on a hodgepodge mountain bike. It has a specialized S-Works frame, slick tires and a rear pannier rack. She likes her bike. It's comfortable, sturdy and has no frills.

Ask Bike/PAC members what they ride and they'll give you a very exacting answer. Reynolds, for example, has a Breezer — a mountain bike set up with fenders and bald Kevlar belted tires. Joe Breeze made some of the first mountain bikes before deciding what the world needed was a road bike with mountain bike features.

"I'm proud to own one of Joe Breeze's road bikes," Reynolds says.

This sense of pride has nothing to do with superiority. Bike/PAC members don't want to make people feel bad for driving cars. Reynolds, Bunthoff and Coppock all have cars.

"I don't commute by bicycle to make an 'I'm better than you' statement," Bunthoff says.

She bikes because she loves it and because it lessens the impact on the environment by reducing her use of non-renewable resources.

Coppock says the rally will "recognize and thank the folks who don't use single occupancy vehicles to commute and encourage folks to shake the SUV habit, even once a week."

Some B-BOPP participants are competing for miles. Bikers, walkers and bus passengers keep a log of how many miles they travel using these forms of transportation. Last year participants logged more than 11,401 total miles.

Getting more people to ride their bikes in Cincinnati might be a challenge, according to Bunthoff. Cincinnati residents rely heavily on their cars and bicycling is considered a recreational activity, she says.

Meanwhile, Bike/PAC members hop on their bikes and take it all in.

"I can hear the world, feel the world," Bunthoff says. "I'm much more in the world. I don't cut a swath through it in an insular pod."

Instead she rides with the wind in her face. ©