Bike Month puts cyclists in the spotlight

National Bike Month is kicking into its final gear, and Solana Beach’s cycling advocacy group is doing everything it can to get people out of their cars.

BikeWalkSolana is heading up the city’s “Go By Bike Solana Beach!” campaign to convince people of all the reasons to use their bicycles to commute, shop, ride to school — or just go for a leisurely spin. The advocacy group secured its first-ever grant from the San Diego Association of Governments and turned that $2,000 into its most robust National Bike Month since the group came together in 2010.

The group members opened the month by teaching a session of the League of American Bicyclists’ “Smart Cycling” program. Next came National Bike to School day on May 10. Then on May 13, they hosted a commuter “warm-up” ride. May 18 brings the hubbub of National Bike to Work Day, which will scatter 100 pit stops throughout the San Diego region for the morning commute. Solana Beach’s pit stop will be at Revolution Bike Shop, 235 S. Hwy. 101. The Del Mar pit stop will be at the Del Mar Village Association, 1104 Camino Del Mar.

It all culminates on May 21 with a “Community Joy Ride” around town led by certified instructors.

The Solana Beach City Council issued a proclamation last week in recognition of BikeWalkSolana’s efforts to advocate for the benefits of cutting emissions, reducing traffic and promoting healthier lifestyles. The ultimate goal is getting people to reconsider which of their trips can be done without having to get into a car.

“Solana Beach is four square miles; you can get anywhere on a bike pretty easily,” said Douglas Alden, BikeWalkSolana’s chairman. “People often are daunted by the hills, but modern bikes have lots of gears. And all four of our bike shops here sell electric bikes.”

The Smart Cycling class was the first time it was offered in Solana Beach. Karl Rudnick of BikeWalkSolana led the dozen participants through a three-hour class followed by a six-hour road session focused on negotiating roadways and handling emergency situations.

Among those who seized the opportunity: Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito. Once upon a time, Zito was a far more avid cyclist, but fatherhood caught up to him. Getting back behind the handlebars proved more valuable than he would have guessed.

“Most people just go out and ride a bike. You never really practice what to do in certain situations,” Zito said. “It was an interesting and useful class to take. When I started riding in the ’80s, your primary goal was to stay out of the way of the cars. The cars ruled the road. The rules have changed a bunch since then.”

The class was free thanks to the SANDAG grant. BikeWalkSolana would be interested in teaching the course again if funding can be found.

This past Saturday, BikeWalkSolana’s warm-up ride around Solana Beach stopped at the city’s four bike shops to learn about bike maintenance. The group also went over best practices for using buses and the Coaster to extend a bike’s reach.

“You drive as far as you can, park where you hit the most traffic, hop on your bike and ride the rest of the way,” said Alden, who bikes to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography almost every workday. “You get to work faster and you’re happier for it in the long run.”

Past years of the May 21 joy ride have drawn between 20 and 40 riders. This year, riders will depart from La Colonia Park at 10 a.m., and will focus on the east side of the city in order to avoid the crowds of Fiesta del Sol.

National Bike Month comes at an opportune juncture for Solana Beach’s bicycling future. The overhaul of the Highway 101 corridor has improved bicycling and pedestrian access. Construction is underway along Stevens Avenue to create a bike lane between the Boys & Girls Club, Earl Warren Middle School and La Colonia Park. And the planning process for improvements to Lomas Santa Fe Drive are now underway.

“Hopefully, all that will encourage more cycling,” Zito said.

Those improvements will build on Solana Beach’s reputation as a leader among San Diego bike activists, Alden said. But there’s still have a ways to go.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Alden said. “Part of the effort is not just bike lanes; it’s reducing the stress of riding a bike, and reducing the stress of a driver who has a cyclist next to them.”

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