Bike enthusiasts peddle info, encouragement to Brunswick commuters

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BRUNSWICK — The words “commute” and “fun” typically don’t go together.

But on Friday, May 18, commuters who chose to ride their bikes to work were rewarded with free breakfast, bike repairs, information – and lots of cowbell.

From 7-9 a.m., the Brunswick Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee hosted a Bike to Work Day event on the Town Mall in honor of the League of American Bicyclists’  National Bike to Work Day.

According to the organization’s website, May is National Bike Month, and the week of May 14-18 was National Bike Week, ending with the commuter-themed festivities.

“We just wanted to do something to celebrate people who bike to work here in Brunswick,” said Victor Langelo, ride director for the Brunswick-based bicycle club Merrymeeting Wheelers. 

“It’s done all over the country and many places in the state too, so we just thought we’d start something here – we haven’t done this for years,” he added. 

Riders on their way to work Friday could stop by a table stocked with fresh fruit, bagels, pastries, stickers, and informational material, as well as get any necessary bike tune-ups courtesy of Lee Huston, owner of Center Street Cycles.

Alicia Heyburn, Brunswick’s “community spoke” for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and one of the event organizers, said about 20 riders stopped by.

For each rider that came by the station, Heyburn rang one of two cowbells enthusiastically. She said May 18 was also “bike to school” day in Brunswick, but her group was positioned to be near the “maximum traffic headed downtown,” which meant it was not as well suited for students biking to school.

One rider that stopped by was Andrew Lardiewho arrived on a tandem bike with his daughter Nora Boyle-Lardie riding in back and her sister Beatrice Boyle-Lardie positioned in a seat in front.

All three seemed happy to be there, but Lardie noted Nora typically likes to ride her own bike.

“She’s a great rider and hates being on the attachment bike,” he said.

Emily Swan, who rode her bike while wearing a dress, said she prefers the term “bike rider” to describe herself.

“These guys, (referring to Langelo, Heyburn, and others), are the cyclists,” she said. “I think of myself, as you can see by my clothes, as a bike rider.”

Swan added she considers herself “a person who uses a bike for practical purposes,” like doing errands around town.

“I do my errands on my bike, and especially in the summer and on Fridays when the traffic is so bad, (I’ll do) anything to avoid getting in the car,” she said. “I find it the best way to do errands, because doing errands in the car is just so endlessly infuriating and frustrating … doing errands on a bike makes it a lot more pleasant and efficient.”

Rob Mueller, event manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, was also present at the event, and pointed out some other benefits to riding a bike instead of driving in a car.

“You’re outside and you’re human-powered,” he said. “It’s great to see people out on bikes. Most trips that people take in cars are under 2 miles; that’s like over 50 percent of the trips you take annually.”

Replacing those car trips with riding a bicycle, he added, is good for many reasons.

“You’re getting exercise, you’d be getting outside, you’d be reducing carbon emissions; there’s all kind of benefits to doing it,” he said.

Mueller also talked about Brunswick’s history of promoting bicycling, which includes becoming Maine’s first nationally recognized Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists in 2005.

Bike to Work Day wasn’t the only bike-related event to be held in Brunswick this month.

On May 19, the annual Brunswick Bike Rodeo Family Safety Day was held at the Brunswick Walmart on Bath Road. On May 15 at Bowdoin College, officials from Trek Across Maine and the American Lung Association announced that beginning in June 2019, the annual bike ride will follow a new course beginning and ending at Brunswick Landing.

Huston, who was on hand at the event with a special cargo bike designed to carry his bike repair supplies, said his store typically supports some of the local bike events, such as the bike rodeo, where a representative usually does safety checks on kids’ bikes.  

When asked what sparked his interest in cycling, Huston said he’s “always ridden,” but also answered the question with a question.

“I’ve pretty much always ridden both (on the road) and in the woods; these days I ride more in the woods and less on roads,” he said. “Who could not love biking?”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Cyclists who participated in Bike to Work Day in Brunswick included commuter Kris Haralson, left, Lee Huston of Center Street Cycles, Victor Langelo of Merrymeeting Wheelers Bike Club, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chairman Bill Wilkoff, Alicia Heyburn of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, and Heyburn’s husband, Henry Heyburn. 

Andrew Lardie, a Brunswick commuter who attended Bike to Work Day, with his daughters Nora Boyle-Lardie, right, and Beatrice Boyle-Lardie.

Cyclists who rolled up for Bike to Work Day were treated to a free breakfast, bike repairs and bicycle-related information. 

Lee Huston, owner of Center Street Cycles, on his cargo bike, which carries his bike repair supplies. Huston performed free minor repairs for commuters on Bike to Work Day on May 18.