We met up with friends last weekend in Columbus, Ohio, to participate in the Midwest Tandem Rally.
There were 250 bicycles and 502 cyclists. If you are doing the math, one of the bikes was not a two-person tandem, but a four-person (quad) tandem whose riders included a mom, dad and two sons.
We rode with the group Saturday morning in the cold and rainy remnants of Hurricane Harvey. The “clearing” that was forecast did not occur.
The weather Sunday was perfect and we rode on the Columbus bike trail system.
Having lived in the Columbus area just over a decade ago, we knew of one north/south paved trail network that runs along the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers. It is a beautiful trail that runs through the Ohio State campus, neighborhoods with well-kept homes of varying architecture, and river views on several bridge crossings.
It has been vastly improved since our last ride, especially where it opens in the downtown area with views of the impressive skyline, sidewalk cafés, and an amphitheater style entertainment venue.
One cyclist we met along the way told us that another trail had opened up on the other side of downtown that also runs north/south, but even further into the neighboring suburbs.
We got off the trail and rode the city streets for several miles, some with designated bike lanes.
Columbus is spending a lot of money to make the town more enjoyable and a safer experience for runners and cyclists as well as automobiles. It is not an exaggeration to say that there were thousands of people enjoying the trails and hundreds of them were cyclists.
The various parks connected by the trail contained thousands more people walking (many with their dogs), playing soccer, flag football, roller skate hockey, and fishing in both the rivers and the park lakes.
I often read comments on Sentinel stories from folks who dislike the bike lanes downtown. Change is hard. I get it. But cities that have committed to providing more recreational opportunities for their citizens are thriving.
Searches for the fastest growing cities and most bike-friendly cities reveals a strong correlation with seven of the 10 fastest growing also on the most bike friendly list. Similarly, on a list of the fastest growing small cities six of 10 specifically mention cycling as a reason for their growth.
One other strong correlation to growth is the health of their residents.
Fourteen of Forbes magazine’s top 20 healthiest cities in America are also listed among the top 20 cycling towns in the US.
As communities struggle to find money to fix and replace aging infrastructure, meet stricter guidelines on storm water, etc. putting money toward things like parks and trails and the like is difficult to justify, but communities that make the commitment see it as an investment.
Job and population growth, better health outcomes and improved leisure opportunities is happening in cities large and small and in every region of this country. But it takes visionary leadership and taxpayer support.
Our community has both the vision and committed leaders, but so far the naysayers seem to be drowning out the supporters. It is my opinion that there is no lack of supporters, only a lack of vocal supporters. Please join me in helping change that.