Bike to Work Day recap

Gosia Konwerska of Champaign began biking to work two years ago, after her car broke down.

For six weeks, her bicycle was her only form of transportation.

She found that she enjoyed the fresh air and exercise in the mornings, saying that it helps wake her up.

“You enjoy the weather more than from the window of a car,” she added.

Now Konwerska bikes the two miles to her job at Wolfram Research nearly every day in the summer. She doesn’t ride in pouring rain, or in really cold weather in the winter.

“I prefer it to be a nice experience rather than survival,” she said. “But I try not to be discouraged with small showers.”

She was one of hundreds of cyclists in Champaign-Urbana who biked to work or school on Tuesday, for the second C-U Bike to Work Day.

Nearly 750 cyclists were pre-registered for the event, said Rebecca Bird, a planner with the city of Urbana. More than 15 percent had never biked to work before, or had done so only in preparation for the event, she said.

That’s the group the event organizers are trying to reach.

Bird said many people heard about the event through word-of-mouth.

“A lot of it is, ‘I’m going to do it and I talked to my friends about it and they’re going to do it, and I talked to my spouse and my colleagues.’ — that kind of ripple effect,” she said.

The organizers did an email and Facebook campaign and also held some evening classes on bike commuting and bike handling skills. Bird said the evening classes haven’t attracted a large number of people.

But a brownbag talk at Carle Hospital drew a good crowd. She said the strategy for publicizing the event next year will likely include targeting large employers — including the University of Illinois. More than half the participants in this year’s C-U Bike to Work Day were affiliated in some way with the UI.

Bird said the organizers will also talk about sponsoring some smaller, more frequent events during the summer months, or finding other ways to encourage people to continue using bicycles for transportation.

In an effort to make Bike to Work Day more convenient, the number of bike stations on Tuesday morning was increased from four to 10. The bike stations provided coffee, treats and gifts.

It’s hard for the organizers to know exactly how many people commute by bicycle. Bird said there are more people cycling to work in Champaign-Urbana than those who formally participated on Tuesday.

“There are a lot of people who don’t necessarily register and stop by bike station, but that heard about the event and biked,” she said. “It’s fantastic if there are people still participating, even if we don’t know that.”

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