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Bicycle Bonanza

Spring is here, and that warm weather chariot, the bicycle, is coming out of its winter hibernation in the garage. An estimated 47.9 million Americans ride bikes annually; it has become a $3.5 billion a year industry. Bicycle use has also broadened, especially for fitness and transportation. Whatever your age, bicycling offers many benefits and May is a good time to learn about them during the 41st Annual National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).

The LAB helps educate bicyclists on safety issues, works for improved road design, and rallies for bicyclists’ rights. Communities are encouraged to promote bicycling at the local level during Bike Month, whether for exercise, commuting, or recreation, while stressing safe and responsible bicycling habits. Educational programs, helmet promotions, tours, trail building and maintenance, and other events are held throughout the month nationwide. To find out about events near you, phone (800) 288-BIKE.

Among the communities taking part in this year’s Bike Month is Davis, California, a town that takes bicycling very seriously (one intersection has a traffic signal just for bicyclists!). Davis’ Cyclebration ’97, a variety of events throughout the month, includes a bike expo, tours, an auction, and a bike parade. Phone (916) 752-BIKE. Salinas, California is holding Bike Week, May 10-17, to celebrate the opening of its Bicycle Education Center. A film festival and bike parade are planned. Phone (408) 758-7919.

Coinciding with Bike Month is the California Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Commute Week, May 19-23. Now in its third year, this statewide event is geared toward getting people to try bicycle commuting. Bicycle commuters are fond of noting that bicycling burns only calories, no gasoline. Prize giveaways, snack stations, and other activities help to encourage participation. To find out about events in your area, call (800) 679-BIKE. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Bike-to-Work Day is set for May 20. Information is available from the regional rideshare agency RIDES at (800) 755-POOL. In the Sacramento area, Bike Commute Day will be May 22.

Cover That Cranium

The three most important words for any bicyclist are: Wear Your Helmet. While there is no sure way to prevent accidents, wearing a helmet is an obvious step to keep them from becoming fatal. Of the roughly 900 cyclists killed annually, between 70 and 80 percent suffer serious head injuries. Though there is no federal law requiring the use of bicycle helmets, several states (including California) and some cities have passed laws requiring helmets for under-age riders and passengers due to their high injury rate.

This high risk to children has prompted some communitites to develop programs to help get helmets to kids for free or at a reduced cost. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Depart-ment’s C.H.I.P.S. (Cops Helping Improve Public Safety) sponsors the "Lids for Kids" Campaign, where children can receive a helmet for a low cost donation. These programs are not confined to large urban cities. The Contra Costa County Health Services Department has launched a three year project in Pittsburg, California to achieve similar goals.

More information on helmet use, and bicycle safety, may be obtained from AAA’s Traffic Safety Department, 150 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102-5279; (415) 565-2305, or the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, 4611 Seventh Street, South Arlington, VA 22204; (703) 486-0100.

Pedaling with a Purpose

Charitable organizations often sponsor cycling events to raise contributions while offering unique and scenic routes to pedal.

The American Diabetes Association offers some 100 rides, of varying distances, nationwide in April and May during Tour de Cure. Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Sacramento are among those in CSAA territory. Phone (800) TOUR-888.

The American Lung Association presents rides throughout California from May to October. Ranging from afternoon family treks to multi-day tours for the more accomplished cyclist, the various routes include Catalina Island, the Sierra Nevada, the Santa Ynez Valley, and Yosemite National Park. Phone (800) LUNG-USA or visit them on the Web. .

Bike-Aid takes the long road, literally. Participants depart in June from Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco and arrive 10 weeks later in Washington D.C. Funds raised help support environmental education and community projects around the world.Phone (415) 431-4480, (800) RIDE-808 or visit them on the Web.

California AIDS Ride benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Held in early June, the 7-day ride travels 525 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Other related AIDS Rides Team include Boston to New York City and Raleigh/Durham to Washington DC. Phone (415) 908-0400, (800) 825-1000.

Greenbelt Alliance’s Go Greenbelt! bicycle tour is a 470-mile, seven day trek through nine San Francisco Bay counties. Money from the ride, held in April to coincide with Earth Day, is used to protect open space in the Bay Area. Phone (415) 543-4291, (800) 543-GREEN.

The Leukemia Society of America sponsors Team in Training,, where participants raise donations to compete in a 100 mile century ride. Events for walkers and marathon runners are also offered. Phone (800) 78-TRAIN.

This article was first published in May 1997. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.