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Hop on a Bike

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A middle-aged woman who said she had never ridden a bike in her life, climbed onto the saddle of a bicycle bolted to a stationary stand, curious to try pedaling to power the amplified PA system. The watt meter surged and she smiled. The scene was a Bike Rodeo organized last summer by the Arcata Parks and Recreation Department, where I was providing my Bicycle Powered Music rig. I realized many people (especially adults) may be interested in cycling and just need a reminder of how simple and enjoyable the experience can be. Once started, you may just find yourself biking more and taking on bigger challenges.

Next month is Bike Month, and everyone is invited to participate in fun and free activities and reward programs.

For example, Arcata will have a noon rally on the plaza for cyclists on May 11 and Fortuna will host a Youth Bike Rodeo at Newburg Park on May 13. On Saturday, May 20, come to the Jefferson Community Park (1000 A St., Eureka) Bicycle Celebration and Expo, where you can try an electric bike, chat with experts about upcoming trail and bike projects, test your skills on an obstacle course, practice putting your bike on a bus rack, make a pedal-powered smoothie and contribute to the pedal-powered music. Find the details for these and other programs by Bike Month Humboldt Coalition at BikeMonthHumboldt.org.

"Why bike?" you ask.

• It's a great way to get outside, exercise and refresh your mind.

• Transportation accounts for more than half of Humboldt County's greenhouse gas pollution. Replacing a car trip with a bicycle trip lowers your carbon footprint.

• You will see your neighborhood from a different perspective.

• If you have baskets, panniers or a child's seat, you can easily carry cargo.

• Calorie for calorie, a person on a bicycle is the most efficient form of mobility ever devised. You can be proud of traveling a long distance under your own power. (But electric assist is OK if you want it.)

• You can feel the rush of the wind on your face or — even better — on your back.

Could you could use better bike skills? At noon Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, you can attend a Bike Teach-In and Easy Ride in the Arcata Bottoms co-hosted by the Northcoast Environmental Center. The group meets at Moon Cycles (1905 Alliance Road, about a half mile north from where K Street becomes Alliance Road, or the same distance south of Murphy's Market). Snap a selfie while you're out there and use hashtag #bike4theplanet to enter Bike Month Humboldt's special eight-day Earth Week Challenge.

The Humboldt Bay Bicycle Commuters Association offers free BikeSmart training for adults and children in two-hour on-street sessions. For locations or to request a small group training, contact Rick Knapp, president and lead instructor of HBBCA, at info@humbike.org" info@humbike.org. Visit the learning website of the League of American Bicyclists, the nation's oldest and largest organization for promoting bicycling, learn.bikeleague.org, for online video courses and to contact league-certified instructors.

Along with a number of adult Humboldt bicycle organizations, local schools and community centers, like Alice Birney Elementary School and Jefferson Community Center, have kid-friendly bicycle activities.

The ultimate expression of human power in Humboldt is our world-famous Kinetic Grand Championship. Still primarily a pedaling and paddling Party, a more serious side of the witty and exuberant event has emerged. Last year, winners Team Pineapple Red Herrings of the Holocene made a direct connection between human power and a reduction in CO2 emissions with warnings about sea level rise. Their Humpbacks of Notre Dame vehicle displayed whales sporting in the flooded basements of the Notre Dame Cathedral in the not-too-distant future. They handed out mock newspapers declaring the melting of the last glacier in 2069, with a plea for contributions to the California Bicycle Coalition. Team Pineapple's ringleader chose the platform of their victory to write on the KineticGrandChampionship.com website, "We desperately need to stop burning fossil fuels traveling to work, school and vacation. We from the world of kinetics and human powered fun have a responsibility to the rest of the world."

Are you ready to join the burgeoning bicycle movement? Be sure to check out BikeMonthHumboldt.org, where you'll find extra rewards and discounts, especially the event calendar and the Pledge to Pedal.

Human power feels good!

Bruce Maxwell (he/him) is a member of Bike Month Humboldt Coalition.

Stephen Luther (he/him) is associate regional planner for the Humboldt County Association of Governments.

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