Bike Miami Valley a force for good

By Marla Boone - Contributing Columnist

A person doesn’t have to spend 15 hours a week pedaling to appreciate just what a gem we have in our bike path. Our 350 miles of paved bike trails, which connect us to points south, are an enormous asset and enormously positive reflection on our communities. Bike Piqua, the local chapter of Bike Miami Valley, met two weeks ago to explain just what they do for the biking public.

Bike Piqua’s mission is two-fold: (1) to advocate cycling and active living in the community and (2) to promote cycling and create opportunities for economic development linked to cycling. Jim Hemmert is the current president of Bike Piqua. Vice-president is Jeff Lange. Secretary is Joe Hinds. Treasurer is Susan Curtis. Elizabeth and Mike Gutmann act as members of the regional advocacy committee and it was Elizabeth who emceed this night’s program.

Piqua holds a somewhat unique spot in the world of recreational trails because, due to the trail’s location, it qualifies as a Bike/Recreational Trail Town on the Great Miami Recreational Trail, a Hiking Trail Town on the Buckeye and North Country Hiking Trail, and a River Way Trail Town on the Great Miami River.

In 2015, Piqua City Planner Chris Schmiesing suggested that a local chapter of Bike Miami Valley be formed to give a larger voice to promoting cycling. This notion arose out of the Active Living Committee which has been a force in Piqua since 2010. Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds, a charter member of Bike Piqua, was immediately on board. Bike Piqua has not let any grass grow under their spokes. In 2015 Piqua attained its current status as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community. Bike Piqua played a key role in the community’s earning the designation from the Bicycle Friendly America program, which is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). LAB is a non-profit organization which promotes cycling for fun, fitness, and transportation. Bike Piqua’s ranks include three league-certified instructors (Jeff Lange, Jim Hemmert, and Chris Schmiesing) who teach bike safety, specifically how to ride safely on surface streets. Bike Piqua is also responsible for the merchant-branded bike racks located throughout the city. They advocate with the city commission to make improvements to the bike trail. They work to update zoning codes for bike lanes and sponsor a Bike-To-Work day. Recently, Piqua received a grant to build a new bridge across the Miami River. They also plan to modernize the current bridge at Lock Nine Park. 51,000 people used the local bike trails in 2016. It has become a destination. The evolution of bicycling in the area has benefited the exercising public at large as well as local merchants. Those merchants expressed their gratitude by donating door prizes. J and D Bike shop (Troy, OH), Main Street Piqua, Unity National Bank, 311 Draft House, the Piqua Chamber of Commerce, Mike Gutmann and Elizabeth Gutmann all donated prizes. Beppo Uno’s of Piqua donated the silent auction item, a stunning fixed gear bike.

It’s difficult here to convey the energy palpable at that meeting. Elizabeth Gutmann, who acted as a Miami County municipal judge for 18 years, is still serving her community. She is now president of the Miami County YMCA and is on the Miami County Park Board, both of which perform outstandingly for our county. She is quick to give credit to the entire committee, especially to Piqua City Planner Chris Schmiesing who enjoys a stellar reputation among his peers and among the citizens of Piqua. Elizabeth contacted Michael Check, a local cyclist to give a talk about his bike trip across America. In his 59-day journey he rode 3,200 miles. Mike obviously does not ride in a straight line or we’d be plucking him out of the Pacific Ocean. But he gave a riveting, funny talk about what is clearly his passion. It isn’t the distance so much, he explains, although the sheer number of miles he racked up is impressive. Meeting western good ol’ boys while wearing bike shorts makes for the development of either good people skills or speedy getaway talent. Mike has both. As he told us, “Never discuss world politics with a retired truck driver when wearing Spandex.” Comments from his trip are appropriately heralded under the banner “The Curmudgeon Speaks.” His website says it all:

Upcoming events promoted by Bike Piqua include Slow Roll Piqua, a slow-paced community ride, family friendly. Helmets are encouraged. The dates are June 11 (Northpark), July 9 (Candlewood), Aug. 13 (Parkridge), and Sept. 10 (Southview). Rides begin at 6 p.m. Bike Piqua will provide a bike corral, a safe place to park bikes, at Taste of Piqua (May 11) and at a Chautauqua being put on by the Ohio Historical Society in Fountain Park (Piqua) in June. (Confession: I had to Google Chautauqua. Chautauqua is a movement that brings entertainment and culture to the whole community with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, and specialists of the day. The name arises from the site, Chautauqua Lake in New York, of the first event in 1874.)

In the words of the late, great Freddie Mercury, get on your bikes and ride.

By Marla Boone

Contributing Columnist

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.