by Gary Stubler May is Bike Month in the Grand Valley. This active observance is organized by Mesa County Public Health and includes a variety of events—like FREE breakfast for those who bike to work on May 8th, a mountain bike film festival on May 16th, and a Bike Month celebration at Las Colonias Park on May 22nd (for more details, click here). The other annual Bike Month event is the Commuter Challenge. The idea is to see who can accumulate the most mileage using a bike instead of a car to get from place to place in Mesa County (with the exception of recreational riding) during a three-week period. So, you ask, how many miles does the winner normally log? Joe Nichols, who has won the challenge twice over the last four years, normally logs between 500 and 1000 miles during the challenge! Joe lives near Palisade and has a twenty-two mile round trip each day. On top of that, his job requires him to visit and consult with clients in their homes. Depending upon his work schedule, this work commuting can add another thirty-plus miles a day. His job is such that he is out visiting different locations each day. One of the biggest challenges Joe faces is route finding. “I have to be mindful of my route and timing and figure out a way to look presentable when I get where I am going. Some parts of town are not biker friendly so it is a fun challenge to map out a route that gets me the miles I want and is safe,” Joe says. To help Joe and other commuters, the City of Grand Junction’s Urban Trails Committee is in the process of developing a network map of primary, safe, continuous bike routes (with as few stops as possible) that connect all parts of the city. The goal is to eventually locate one of these designated primary routes within one mile of all residents in the City. In a person’s own neighborhood, they are generally familiar with the layout of streets and with landmarks or other cues that will help them connect safely with one of the primary bike routes. Once a primary route is reached, the wayfinding system will make it more inviting, simple, and intuitive for people in the Grand Valley to commute to work, shop, and exercise on a bike. View a draft of this route map, as well as other local biking maps, here. Bike commuting is about more than just biking to work. Any miles count if you would typically drive there—like going to the store, a friend’s house, or out to eat. An inspiring example of this is another commuter here in the Valley, Kathy Portner. As a kid she grew up biking everywhere and has maintained this positive habit throughout her adult life. When she was in college, she didn’t have a car until she graduated so she moved herself from apartment to apartment carrying loads of stuff on her bike. Kathy has been commuting to work for over thirty years and is married to an avid biker. She said that one of the biggest challenges was when their kids were small and they had to work around their schedules to get them places. “When we could, we commuted with our kids in a trailer or tag-along bike until they graduated to their own bikes,” she says. When you embrace this environmentally friendly form of active transportation you begin to think bike first…car second. With every ride, you become more connected to your local surroundings, the weather, nature, and your neighbors. You will notice benefits physically, mentally, and financially—saving about 10¢ for each mile you ride. Every ten-mile commute you pedal puts another dollar in your pocket. This can really add up! Kathy urges everyone in the Valley to take advantage of the Grand Valley Bike Month energy: “Pump up your bike tires and bike to one of the free breakfasts on May 8th. It’s a great way to try bike commuting out.” As Joe says, “It’s just an amazing way to start and end your day. The health benefits, both physical and emotional, are huge.” Gary Stubler has been biking around the Grand Valley with his wife Patti for the past thirty years. He is currently a member of the City of Grand Junction Urban Trails Committee, which is dedicated to developing an interconnected network of sidewalks, paths, and routes for active transportation and recreation throughout the Grand Junction urbanized area.