Chapel Hill’s Switching Gears event on the Plaza at 140 West Franklin last week kicked off a month of town events promoting recreational and commuting bicycle use.
The event featured demonstrations of technical expertise, games, laughter and family-friendly music, all under crystal-Carolina Blue skies on an absolutely perfect crisp, clear evening — in short, conditions which avid cyclists believe everyone might enjoy even more often if more local citizens commuted and traveled by bicycle.
“Tonight is for everyone,” said Len Cone, Chapel Hill’s community outreach coordinator for planning and sustainability.
The event offered bicycle enthusiasts and the merely curious a chance to enjoy a night of fun for cyclists of all ages. Events included a bikes-on-bus demonstration and contest, workshops, children’s safety events, giveaways, and informational tables hosted by the Chapel Hill Bike Alliance, Carrboro’s Bicycle Coalition, Chapel Hill Transit, Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, The Bicycle Chain, Back Alley Bikes, and UNC Transportation & Parking.
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“We’ve got a bike rodeo, there are slow races, and we have duck races,” Cone said. “It’s all about people learning more about how to use their bicycles to get to and from work and reduce our carbon footprint.”
“Sandbox,” a local five-piece, family-friendly music band provided bike-topical tunes that added to the fun, whimsical atmosphere.
“Normally, we have Live and Local with a concert here in the plaza every Friday night,” said Amanda Fletcher, Chapel Hill parks and recreation supervisor for community festivals and celebrations. “Plus, every year we have the Switching Gears bike night, so we just decided to combine them so we’d have the live entertainment.”
The event kicked off Bike Month in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Cone explained.
“Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the university are all represented with booths, and we’re promoting all things that have to do with bicycles, whether it’s how to put a bell on your bike, a light on your bike, or how to put your bike on a bus,” Cone said.
In addition to the kick-off event May 1, Chapel Hill hosted its adapted recreation BikeAbility event at Fire Station No. 4, emphasizing the cycling options for youth with disabilities. On May 4, the Mayor issued a Go Chapel Hill Bike Month proclamation, and today marked international Bike to School Day.
In April, Chapel Hill town staff took to the streets on bikes to better understand challenges facing commuting cyclists on town roadways.
“Department heads and staff — anyone involved in our streets and improvements in the area — got on their bicycles,” Cone said.
“The Town Manager rode, the Chief of Police Road, Public Works rode, and we didn’t have a single casualty,” Cone said, laughing.
Carrboro Bicycle Coalition’s Heidi Perov Perry said the community still could benefit from more buy-in.
“Not a single elected official rode, so maybe we could have had more people out, and I know some of them ride,” she said. “I think good infrastructure would even bring out more people than this.”
A recent Chapel Hill release also touted a new wikimap tailored for those to bike and walk in town, offering residents an opportunity to provide comments to the town about problem areas, routes they would like to ride, and to request additional bike parking.
Cone said progress was already evident in the local community.
“We’ve got bike lanes now in Chapel Hill, we’ve got our green ‘Share’ boxes, and we’re resurfacing Rosemary Street in the fall with new bikes lanes,” she said.
Fletcher said the outdoor event on the Plaza at 140 West Franklin begins her busy season.
“We’ve got the Live and Local every week, plus we have movies starting in June on Wallace Plaza with six this summer,” she said. “We’ll have a Farmer’s Market starting in July, we’ve got the Fourth of July coming up, and we’re actually starting to look at plans for FestiFall.”
Perhaps, with more support for bicycling in Chapel Hill, the same clean air and crystal-blue skies that were enjoyed this Friday will preside over all Chapel Hill and Carrboro events in the future.
May is Bike Month in Chapel Hill
Numerous events in may will continue to emphasize Chapel Hill’s promotion of the use bicycles for work, errands or recreation.
Among the events scheduled are:
▪ Thursday, May 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pit Stop: Gearing Up event at the Beach Café, UNC Campus.
▪ Saturday, May 9, 8:30 a.m. to noon. Go Chapel Hill Bike and Bus Workshop at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, next to Town Hall.
▪ Saturday, May 9, 8:30 a.m. Chapel Hill / Carrboro Bike Swap at Back Alley Bikes, located on Boyd Street, Carrboro.
▪ Monday, May 11, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Go Chapel Hill Bike Outreach at Spanky’s Corner, corner of Franklin Street and Columbia Street.
▪ Tuesday, May 12, 7-10 a.m. Pit Stop: Go Chapel Hill / Carrboro Bike Breakfast Workshop in the Carrboro parking lot across from Armadillo Grill.
▪ Wednesday, May 13, 6:30 p.m. Vision Zero – Bike / Pedestrian Community Discussion, location to be determined.
▪ Wednesday, May 13, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Go Chapel Hill Bike Outreach at Spanky’s Corner on Franklin Street.
▪ Saturday, May 16, 2:30 p.m. Kidical Mass Cruiser Ride for Families at Carrboro Elementary School.
▪ Tuesday, May 19, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Go Chapel Hill Bike Outreach at Meadowmont Café, Meadowmont Village Circle.