Columbus has plans to become a more bike-friendly city

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Messenger photo by John Matuszak

Columbus Mayor "Bikin’ Mike" Coleman tests out one of the Shimano coasting bikes, with automatic gear-shifting, awarded to 30 residents by Bicycling magazine. The mayor also discussed plans for new bike trails in and around the city, as part of the Bicentennial bond package, at the May 22 event at City Hall.

According to Mayor Michael Coleman, Columbus is ready to kick its "transportation revolution" into high gear – and it doesn’t have anything to do with streetcars.

"Columbus is a bike town, and is glad to be a bike town," the mayor, dubbed "Bikin’ Mike" by a representative of Bicycling magazine, declared May 22 at a City Hall rally to award 30 residents new Shimano bikes with automatic gear-shifting.

These residents, selected after submitting essays about how a new bike would change their lives "will start on a new journey, one pedal at a time," the mayor added.

Columbus was chosen by the magazine as one of five cities on its national tour, along with Lincoln, Neb., San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

It was also dubbed a runner-up among the "Five for the Future" for being a bike-friendly town.

Courtney Matthews, with the magazine, explained that Columbus was selected as a tour site because of its current standing among cyclists, and for its potential.

That potential includes the Bicentennial Bikeways Plan, part of the upcoming bond package to be on the ballot in November, Coleman said.

The bond package would designate $20 million for bikeways improvements that would double the number of trails and lanes in the next four years, and create 728 miles of bike paths over the next 20 years, the mayor announced.

The city also has plans to make intersections safer for cyclists, and to open its first downtown bike station, providing a place for those riding to work to change clothes and store their bikes.

The first Tour de Columbus bike rally will be held Aug. 23, to raise money for farmers’ markets throughout the community.

City Council has at least one serious cyclist in Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, the mayor pointed out. "She sleeps with her bike."

"We need to support alternative modes of transportation" and have streets that accommodate pedestrians, mass transit, automobiles and bicycles, O’Shaughnessy said.

She predicted the 30 receiving the new bikes "will set themselves free."

One essayist desired to be free of "traffic jams, extra fat, and anxiety attacks from passing gas stations."

Lauren Mooney, assistant executive editor of Bicycling magazine, noted that 88 percent of those who have won bikes reported losing weight at an average of 15 lbs., and 95 percent said they were happier.

Another entrant rhapsodized "I love where I am when I’m on a bike."

One winner, German Village resident and Ohio State University student Liz Celeste, submitted an essay after her "old clunker bike" and her car were stolen.

Celeste will be riding her new bike to her downtown internship and along the riverfront trails.

Making more of those trails available is the goal of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to turning former railroad lines into bike trails.

When it was founded in 1986, there were 200 miles of rail-trails in the country. Now there are more than 15,000, with another 10,000 being developed.

One of those is the Olentangy Greenway Trail, a 13-mile path running from Confluence Park in downtown Columbus to Worthington along the banks of the Olentangy River.

Shimano representative Eric Doyne explained that the coasting bikes, on the market since last year, are a way "to ride care-free" without having to manually shift gears, and are suited for someone who hasn’t been on a bike for a while as well as the experienced cyclist.

"Bicycling is something that everyone in Columbus can do," Coleman said.

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