It's cycling season

It's cycling season

It’s biking season -- time to get the bike out of the garage for a ride to a local park, a commute to work or a longer ride on country roads or the Kickapoo Rail Trail.

If you’re a little uncertain about your bike skills or about riding on the roads, some upcoming events can help build your confidence.

Blog PhotoThe Urbana Park District will host a National Bike Month celebration Wednesday evening at Weaver Park, 2205 E. Main St. Local bicycle organizations and bike shops will offer bike safety checkups and information about local rides. The local AMBUCS organization will provide information about its AmTryke, which helps children or adults with physical or developmental challenges be able to ride.

The event will include music from local blues band Sapphire, and it will kick off the park district’s Wednesday evening summer neighborhood concert series. Following the music, cyclists can join a group ride led by Prairie Cycle Club on the Kickapoo Rail Trail, which runs 6.7 miles from east Urbana to St. Joseph.

The park district will end the summer with a similar bike celebration at Meadowbrook Park, with music and a sunset ride to Sidney Dairy Barn on Aug. 15.

The Urbana Park District has been trying to increase the amount of bike-friendly activities it provides following the designation of the city of Urbana as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, said Elsie Hedgspeth, the outreach and wellness manager for the park district.

“It’s such a strong bicycling community,” Hedgspeth said.

Crystal Lake Park and Meadowbrook Park are particularly suited to riding, she said, and the park district is working with the city to designate a green loop of roads that safely connects all the city’s parks for cyclists.

Blog PhotoThe park district has partnered with Champaign County Bikes on summer bike safety camps.

Its summer program guide promotes bike events and local rides such as Prairie Cycle Club’s Saturday morning rides, the monthly full moon rides from Meadowbrook Park in Urbana to the Sidney Dairy Barn, and Champaign County Bikes’ periodic Lunar Cycle Rides through Urbana.

On June 9, MTD, Champaign County Bikes and Neutral Cycle are sponsoring a free Beginners’ Bicycling Class. “Beginners” means those who are beginners at or nervous about riding on roads with traffic.

“It is usually people who are uncomfortable riding on the road -- grandparents who want to bike to the park with the grandkids, people who bought a bike and want to bike to work, a Chinese student who wants to ride” but doesn’t know the rules of the road here, said Cynthia Hoyle, a transportation planning consultant and chair of the C-U Safe Routes to School Project.

The class will teach cyclists the bike skills needed to safely navigate streets alongside cars, including understanding bicycle infrastructure.

For example, many people don’t know how to merge out of a bike lane along the right side of the street in order to make a left turn, Hoyle said.

“They often have no idea how to execute those maneuvers,” she said.

Participants will be asked to take an online bicycle safety quiz before they come to the class to determine how much they know about the rules of the road.

Hoyle can use that information to give them a primer on the basic rules.

Then they practice bike skills that include starting and stopping at intersections without wobbling; making a quick stop in order to avoid a car that is cutting them off by making a turn in front of them; and making a quick turn, another maneuver to avoid getting hit.

The goal is for cyclists to be safe and feel comfortable, Hoyle said.

She’s certified as a League Cycling Instructor with the League of American Bicyclists and has been teaching courses such as this for eight years.

She always does a follow-up survey with the class participants.

“People find it very helpful. They feel much more confident and much more comfortable riding in the roadway,” Hoyle said.

“A number of people have told me beforehand they are just uncomfortable riding on the road. (The class) really tremendously increases their comfort and confidence.”

The Beginners’ Bicycling Class is 9 to 11:30 a.m. June 9 at the Crystal Lake Park Lake House. It is free but space is limited and participants need to pre-register at or by emailing Hoyle at


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at, or follow her at Her blog is at

 Photos: Children learn and practice biking skills Saturday at the C-U Safe Routes to School Project's bike rodeo at Leonhard Center. Photos provided.

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