PRINCETON — With May being National Bike Month, it’s the perfect time to gear up for a ride with family and friends or consider taking the bike to work a couple times this week, with summer weather well on its way.
National Bike Month was established in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. It showcases the benefits of bicycling, and encourages many to give biking a try.
Princeton resident Dennis Nink is an avid bike rider. During good weather, he’s known to be out and about three to four times a week. A bike ride for him consists of riding anywhere between 20 and 50 miles.
To Nink, who is also a Princeton Park Board member, the positive benefits of biking are endless.
“There’s the cardiovascular benefit, strength benefit and it works the core. To some degree it gets you to enjoy exercise. You can go ahead and do something you enjoy and it gives you a great way to cross train,” he said. “Also, you can go fast, it’s a lot cooler, you get to see a lot more things while riding and you can talk with people if you’re biking in a group.”
The area offers many good places to bike. The area rural roads are a great place, and Zearing Park in Princeton offers a large trail to bike on. For those who are looking to get out to bike, Nink said the I&M Canal is a great place to road bike and Matthiessen State Park offers great trails for mountain biking.
On a different note, the Census Bureau recently reported many U.S. cities are seeing an increase in bicycle commuters. It reported the number of people who traveled to work by bike increased by 60 percent over the last decade. From 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 during the 2008-12 period.
Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau sociologist and author of the report, explained in recent years, many communities have taken steps to support more transportation options, such as bicycling and walking.
Just for the record, Portland, Ore., has the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent, up from 1.8 percent in 2000.
According to Nink, the increase in bikers can be linked to a couple things. One, the population is growing older and biking is a good sport that’s low impact on the joints; and two, the fuel economy.
“It’s cheaper to bike than drive, but you have to look at the other side of coin,” he said. “Are those stats for the urban or rural area? I think there are other stats that show people are driving to work more today than 20 to 30 years ago. If jobs are more scarce than people are traveling more.”
In early April, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider had released the first-ever Illinois Bike Transportation Plan — making bicycles part of Illinois’ long-range transportation vision. The plan provides IDOT with policies, best practices and strategic direction for implementing a sustainable, multi-modal transportation system across the state.
The bike plan provides more than 200 recommendations and action items to enhance IDOT’s ability to provide safe and cost-effective accommodations for cyclists across the state. The complete plan and accompanying technical documents can be found online at www.IllinoisBikePlan.com.
Mark the calendar: The fourth annual ZTour event will take place on July 19. The event welcomes bikers from all over to ride scenic routes through Bureau County. There are several routes, including a 10-mile, 30-mile, 50-mile, 62-mile and 100-mile, to choose from. The event benefits the Zearing Child Enrichment Center. For more information visit Z-Tour.org.
Interesting facts about the bicycle and biking!
1. The first human powered land vehicle was constructed by Giovanni Fontana in 1418.
2. The term “bicycle” first entered into popular usage in France in the 1860s.
3. The prototype of the mountain bike was not developed until 1977.
4. The longest “tandem” bike ever built was almost 67 feet long and could seat 35.
5. The smallest adult bicycle ever created had wheels made from silver dollars.
6. The slow cycling record was set by Tsugunobu Mitsuishi of Japan in 1965 when he stayed stationary for 5 hours, 25 minutes.
7. The fastest speed ever recorded on a bicycle was attained by American Olympic Cyclist and Ironman triathlon competitor John Howard, when he reached 152.2 mph in 1985.
8. There are roughly one billion bicycles in the world —about twice as many as motor vehicles.
9. Anywhere from 6 to 20 bikes can be parked in a single parking space on a paved lot.
10. Bicycles currently displace more than 238 million gallons of gasoline per year, by replacing car trips with bicycle trips.
11. Research has shown that tripling the number of bike riders on the street cuts motorist-bicyclist crashes in half.
Bike Safety Tips
• Know your surroundings.
• Wear light colored clothing in the early morning and late night. Make sure to sport a headlight or taillight and reflective gear.
• Stay to the right side of the road. Remember bikers are smaller than vehicles.
• When planning out a bike route, remember whatever distance you ride out to you will have to ride back from that point.
• Bring enough water and hydrate often. When riding, the wind often times evaporates the sweat, and riders don't realize how much their bodies have perspired.
• Follow the traffic rules. Try to make eye contact with a driver so you know they see you. Signal to drivers when you plan on crossing in an intersection or making a turn. Be cautious when cresting a hill.
• Make sure to have your bike checked by professional service technicians, such as Bike Works in Peru, on a regular basis. A technician will overlook the bike and make sure all parts are working properly.
Source: Princeton resident Dennis Nink