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  • Regional Impact: Biking Benefits Cities & Citizens

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    With multiple riding-route options for both road and mountain bikers, the River Region appeals to cyclists of all stripes, and recent and ongoing bike-friendly initiatives are boosting the area’s image.
    Biking has a lot to offer those seeking an afternoon of exercise. “It’s low-impact,” said Robert Traphan, who serves as president of the Montgomery Bike Club. “It doesn’t quite have the strain on the body like running does.”
    If you’re looking for a place to bike, it’s easy to leave an urban setting and head for rural roads in Montgomery County, such as Hope Hull and Pintlala or Pike Road and Cecil. Or you can opt for a public trail. 
    Rolling along, riders can take in the sights of the countryside. “You can see more of your surroundings. It’s a more enjoyable form of exercise than some of the others that are available,” Traphan added.
    Biking is also a practical form of exercise that can get you to work and back. “The bicycle can be a viable source of transportation,” Traphan said.
    The Montgomery Bike Club, which has about 250 members of all ages, is an active organization that creates opportunities for bikers at various levels to enjoy group rides. For example, the club offers a relaxed-pace ride on Sundays geared to the slowest and newest rider.
    The club also organizes an annual bicycle ride known as the Glassner Autumn Challenge. The 2019 ride, scheduled for October 12, starts at Alabama State University and offers a variety of routes ranging from a 7-mile ride through historic sites in downtown Montgomery to the River Region 200K.
    The club educates its members on bike safety as well and takes an active role in advocating for bicycle-friendly transportation policies. These efforts include supporting the work of the Montgomery Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and participating in the steering committee for Walk Bike River Region. “Walk Bike River Region is the Montgomery Metropolitan Planning Organization’s action-oriented Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan that plans for needed bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the City and the three-county region,” said Robert Smith, Director of Planning for the City of Montgomery. “The main goal is to provide connectivity of existing bicycle facilities and desired destinations for bicycle travel citywide and regionwide.”
    The plan envisions 190 miles of biking facilities within the city limits and 422 miles of planned biking facilities in the MPO area, which covers parts of Montgomery, Autauga and Elmore counties. “By improving biking capabilities for our citizens, we can improve the environment, health and well-being of our citizens,” Smith said.
    One improvement in recent years is the addition of the Lagoon Park Trail. Bicycle enthusiast Will O’Connor was enlisted to help build a 5.5-mile trail on 176 acres of land owned by Lagoon Park. He and other volunteers built the trail in pieces for about four years. “This is the first trail of its kind in Montgomery,” O’Connor said. “There is a similar project called Swayback Bridge just north of Wetumpka. Out at AUM’s campus there are some walking trails that are open to bikers.” 
    The City also supports share-the-road initiatives. “The most prominent share-the-road project was a joint City of Montgomery-Montgom ery County funded project where 148 miles of Bicycle Share the Road signage was placed in east Montgomery and various southeast Montgomery County Roadways outside of the city limits,” Smith said. 
    Other bike-friendly programs the City has put in place include the Hall Street Bicycle Lanes project, which converted a four-lane road into a two-lane, quarter-mile route that connects Centennial Hill, Alabama State University and Oak Park. And Maxwell Boulevard Bike Path, which connects Maxwell Air Force Base to Wright Brothers Park, Cottage Hill and downtown.
    Thanks to these efforts, Montgomery has received an “Honorable Mention” as a Bicycle Friendly Community, a designation made by The League of American Bicyclists, and bicycling enthusiasts like Traphan would like to see this rating improve. He believes the key is encouraging businesses to add their support by seeking this designation. If businesses want free advice in applying to become a bike-friendly business, visit mgmbike-club.org for more information.
    Montgomery has received an “Honorable Mention” as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
    This past summer, The Montgomery City Council voted to approve an ordinance with provisions that will allow bike-share vendors to locate in Montgomery. Bike shares make bicycles available for shared use to individuals on a short-term basis for a low price. Many systems allow people to borrow a bike from a dock and return it at another station in the same system.  According to City officials, bike sharing ideas are currently still being evaluated.
    If you’re just beginning as a biker, the first step is to find a bike that fits, Robert Traphan advised. Discount stores may have a good starter bike, though options may be limited for those who are taller or shorter than average. In that case, going to a bike shop becomes the next option. “A bike shop fits you and measures you,” Traphan said.
    Bikes should also be appropriate for the type of riding – whether road riding on paved roads, cross riding on dirt roads or mountain bike riding on mountain bike trails.
    Helmets are required safety gear for riders 16 and under, though many adult riders choose to wear them as well. Cycling gloves help protect hands from getting scrapes during an accident. In addition, blinking taillights and head-lights are also used as safety features.
    If you’re looking for place to ride, public trails in the area include:
    • Swayback Bridge Trail in Wetumpka is a 4.6 miles loop trail for mountain bike riding.
    • Lagoon Park Trail in Montgomery offers 5.5 miles with single-track and double-track paths.
    • Auburn University at Montgomery offers 4 miles of easy off-road trails behind its campus.
    • Tuskegee National Forest in Macon County and Chewacla State Park in Auburn also have mountain biking trails.
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