The annual Strive Not to Drive campaign runs May 16-23, featuring free local events that aim to encourage modes of transportation other than riding alone in your car.
“We know that using public transportation, walking, bicycling or carpooling to work benefits the environment and our individual health,” says Asheville City Council member Gwen Wisler, who’s volunteered with Strive Not to Drive for more than five years.
The events get going Friday, May 16, with a special bike corral at the year’s first Downtown After 5, a free outdoor concert series on N. Lexington Avenue. Once you park your bike, put on your dancing shoes: The show includes performances from St. Paul And The Broken Bones as well as The Broadcast.
After the sun sets, at 9 p.m. the Asheville on Bikes advocacy organization is hosting the first ever “Bright Light Biker” community ride. Participants are encouraged to adorn themselves and their bicycles in creative lighting as they take to the streets. The two-mile ride twists through downtown Asheville before culminating in an after-party at the Mill Room on Asheland Avenue.
Another highlight is the Monday, May 19, Leadership Community Ride. Hosted by Asheville and Buncombe County officials, the group bike ride will include stops at various locations around town to highlight recent infrastructure successes and upcoming challenges for the cycling community. Those wanting to ride should meet at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center at 5 p.m. The ride starts at 5:30 and should last about an hour.
May 19 is also Transit Rider Appreciation Day. All bus fare will be free for the day, and May monthly transit passes will be sold at a reduced price. Plus, free breakfast will be set up at the downtown Transit Center.
The next day, organizers have put together a competition pitting Asheville City Council members against each other in the “Crosstown Rumbler.” They’ll each start at the bus stop near the Wilma Sherill Center on the campus of UNC Asheville and — taking either a bike, bus, or car — see who arrives in front of City Hall first. Everyone’s welcome to cheer the racers on at the finish line around 8:45 a.m.
On Wednesday, May 21, the community will honor those who have been killed or injured while riding a bicycle. The “Ride of Silence” begins at the Bill Stanley Center parking lot (35 Woodfin St.) at 5:30 p.m. Everyone’s invited to join in the 8.5-mile ride but participants are required to wear a helmet and asked to ride in silence out of respect.
Thursday morning, May 22, two breakfast stations will be open from 7 a.m. through 9:30 a.m. to serve multimodal commuters: downtown at the intersection of Merrimon Avenue under the Interstate 240 overpass and in the River Arts District at the Clingman Avenue roundabout.
Another new event this year is the “Story Slam” at Clingman Cafe on Friday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m. Participants are invited to tell a true personal tale on the theme of “Getting from here to there: stories of transportation.” Prizes will go to the person with the best story.
Throughout the week, participating workplaces will also be competing to see whose employees make the most effort not to drive.
In addition to environmental and health benefits, Wisler says that the week is about building community. “Strive Not to Drive also helps us know our transportation options and better know our community,” she says. “Share a ride or get to know your neighborhood—and neighbors—by taking the bus, walking … The fact that we’re also reducing traffic congestion and decreasing air pollution is an added benefit.”
To register your workplace or find out more information about the Strive Not to Drive campaign, visit strivenottodrive.org.
NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the name of the bands that are playing at the May 16 Downtown After 5 concert. The names have been corrected.