SNTD 2012: Community bike ride highlights multimodal progress

Pictured here: Leadership ride organizers unfurled a banner near the Clingman Ave roundabout that celebrates the League of American Bicyclists recent declaration that Asheville is a “Bicycle Friendly Community.” Photos by Jake Frankel.

About 75 people participated in the May 21 Mayor’s Leadership Community Bike Ride, which aims to highlight recent multimodal infrastructure improvements and upcoming challenges.

It was a record turnout for the annual ride, which until this year, was meant exclusively for government officials and other leaders. Now open to the public for the first time, the ride still included a variety of elected representatives, including city council members Cecil Bothwell, Gordon Smith, Marc Hunt and chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, David Gantt.

At the invitation of members of the bicycle advocacy organization Asheville on Bikes, Jennifer Vervier, who serves as the director of sustainability & strategic development for New Belgium Brewing Co., made the trip from Fort Collins, Colo. to participate in the ride.

At a ribbon cutting for the city’s renovated transit system that preceded the ride, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy praised Vervier’s participation as a sign of the company’s growing integration in to the local community as it prepares to make a $175 million investment in to a big new facility in the River Arts District.

However, for the third year in a row, Bellamy chose not to take part in the ride that bears her title.

Strive Not to Drive events continue throughout the week.

Here’s a look at some scenes from the bike ride:

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

The group gathered in Pack Square Park as officials celebrated changes to the transit system designed to grow ridership and improve performance, convenience and safety. Bus fare will be free for the next three weeks.

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

Jennifer Vervier, who serves as the director of sustainability & strategic development for New Belgium Brewing Co. is pictured here (wearing a black t-shirt shirt in the middle) cheering improvements to the transit system. Officials from the company have cited the area’s growing multimodal infrastructure as a key factor in its decision to expand in Asheville, creating an estimated 154 direct jobs. As part of the deal to bring the company here, the city has agreed to build more bike lanes and greenways in the River Arts District.

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

City Manager Gary Jackson rode an honorary “Fat Tire” bike given to him by New Belgium. He managed to complete the nearly 5 mile ride on the single–speed bike, despite the hilly terrain.

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

Claudia Nix, owner of Liberty Bicycles and longtime biking advocate, praised the area’s growing bicycle culture and infrastructure. She also demonstrated how to use a new bicycle repair station at the Clingman Avenue roundabout (below).

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

New green paint on South Lexington Avenue helps mark the bike lane. “If we had all the money in the world, we could paint the whole bike lane green,” noted Asheville Transportation Director Ken Putnam as he explained the development (below).

Ken Putnam

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

Commissioner Holly Jones touted steps the YWCA has taken over the years to encourage multimodal transit, such as offering discounted “multimodal memberships” to folks who agree to ride the bus, bike, or walk to the facility rather than drive a vehicle. The memberships encourage healthy and environmentally sustainable choices, as well as reduce the need for more parking spaces, she explained.

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

Dwayne Stutzman, chair of the Buncombe County Trails and Greenways Commission, showed off his stylish three-wheeler.

SNTD 2012 Mayor's Leadership Community Ride

Asheville on Bikes founder Mike Sule praised new multimodal improvements but said more resources are needed to continue making progress. Noting that the distribution of funding is often determined by who voters put in power, he encouraged the bicycle community to actively participate in the upcoming fall elections.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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