HANCOCK - Keren Tischler and Curt Webb are strong proponents of bicycle commuting; so much so they even rode from their home near Baltic to their jobs in Houghton and Hancock during this past winter.
Tischler and Webb are taking part in the National Bike Challenge, which involves bicyclists logging online the miles they ride to collect points for the region in which they ride.
Although the National Bike Challenge (nationalbikechallenge.org) official recording period is May to August, Webb said riders can still log their miles during the winter.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Keren Tischler, left, and Curt Webb ride on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recreational trail behind the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock Friday. Tischler and Webb are members of Bike Initiative Keweenaw!, or BIKE!, which is working to develop safer bicycle commuting locally. The group also includes the health department and the cities of Hancock and Houghton.
Webb said riding in winter is challenging because it isn't always certain their route will be clear of snow.
"Sometimes it's just taking a chance," he said.
Tischler said although they think the Bike Challenge is important, she and Webb would be riding even if they weren't part of it.
"The reason (we ride) is not because of the challenge," she said. "We ride because it's the right thing to do."
Tischler and Webb are also part of a new local group called BIKE!, which is an acronym for Bike Initiative Keweenaw (bikeinitiativekeweenaw.org). BIKE! is an advisory group promoting bicycling as commuting.
Sara Salo, health education coordinator with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, said BIKE! is comprised of the health department, local bicycling groups and the bicycling and pedestrian committees of Hancock and Houghton.
"There arose a need for a group that was working more broadly with bike issues," Salo said of the purpose for forming BIKE.
Webb said BIKE! will be focusing on developing the concept of using bicycles as primary transportation in the area.
"We saw a need for the commuter," he said.
The mission of BIKE! is to empower people to ride bikes more often through: Education and community outreach - increase awareness about biking and educate bikers, pedestrians and drivers; Promote biking as a transportation choice; Advocacy and regional development by providing a cycling voice in local and regional public planning and policy development.
Salo said currently BIKE! is working with the local Bike to Work Week, which is today through Friday, and the National Bike Challenge. The group will be conducting biking educational programs for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. They will also be conducting education program in schools.
Salo said there were 695 responses to a survey of pedestrians and bicyclists conducted in October and November by the health department and the bicycling and pedestrian committees of Hancock and Houghton, which she considered to be excellent.
"That indicated there's a lot of interest in biking in our area," she said.
Houghton includes bicycling in its planning process, and Salo said Hancock is working on developing similar planning.
Tischler said an increase in the number of cyclists in the area will produce an added benefit from greater awareness.
"The more people are biking, the safer biking becomes," she said.
Tischler said BIKE! will be looking at developing safe local bicycling routes, which get riders out of motorized traffic as much as possible.
"(We'll be looking for) what's the safest we have now," she said.
Salo said it's hoped more separately-marked bicycling lanes on busy roads can be created locally.
"Bike lanes do provide a much safer ride than not having a lane," she said.
A system of signage, which indicates safe cycling routes through neighborhoods would also increase safety for bicyclists, Salo said.
Tischler said the National Bike Challenge isn't just for athletes or people who ride constantly.
"We're just regular people," she said. "It starts with getting on your bike and making a goal."