Record’s next Exchange will focus on cycling in Island County

It’s time to oil the bicycle chains, dust off the bicycle shorts and hop on your bike to head down to the Bayview Cash Store.

It’s time to oil the bicycle chains, dust off the bicycle shorts and hop on your bike to head down to the Bayview Cash Store.

“Bikeability” is the topic of The South Whidbey Record’s next Exchange. The Exchange — an informal public forum for sharing ideas and conversation — is 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17 in the Front Room at the Bayview Cash Store.

Record Publisher Sherry Mays has invited a number of experts who will speak on what’s available, what’s needed and what the future holds for cycling as a sport or as means of alternative transportation on the island.

“The Record has encouraged discussions on global warming, reducing one’s carbon footprint and supporting the local economy. Bicycle advocacy is just another step in helping to create a thoughtful process around a healthy community,” Mays said.

Wheels on Whidbey, a new island-wide bicycle advocacy group, leads the panelists from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Island County to talk about how to make Whidbey a bike-friendly environment.

Island County employees Joantha Guthrie and Whitney Webber will be on hand to talk about county mapping projects and the countywide health initiatives that dovetail with Wheels on Whidbey’s work.

Gordon Black of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington will also participate.

He said many people don’t ride their bike because they think it’s too dangerous, but that can change. Black and his organization work with cities, counties and the Legislature to make roads safer.

But he said it’s up to the people to make that push.

“More people need to be cycling, then politicians will take notice,” Black said.

“To get cycling the recognition it deserves, there must be a long-term commitment by city council and county councils,” he said.

Mays said it was the idea of the Wheels on Whidbey organizers that a bikeability forum could be important, for several reasons.

The group believes that there is power in numbers and the group is looking for all individuals interested in alternative transportation to attend and connect at the meeting, she said.

The forum will also focus on what it takes to make the island a better place for bikers.

There is money available for the cause, Mays added.

Island County has already received significant funding to create an island-wide bike map and signage. The county has also received funding toward health initiatives, both for children and adults, that directly correlate with outdoor recreation.

“So there is a desire across the board to create community through bicycle and walking groups, both for recreation and commuting and transportation,” Mays said.

“There is a need to create bicycle safety awareness for children and to encourage healthy lifestyles through cycling with our adults as role models,” she added.

Besides being a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to cars, cycling could also be a booster for the local economy by encouraging bicycling adventures in tourism and travel, Mays said.

“So, The Record, which is a partner with the community in health, safety, tourism and more, is a strong supporter in helping to create this community,” she said.

There will be a conversation café at the conclusion of the forum to help prioritize Wheels on Whidbey’s efforts.

And once audiences are updated on what’s happening on the island for cyclists, they can put the information into practice and participate in the community bike ride on Sunday, April 20. David and Melinda Gardiner of Half Link will organize the ride. For more information, call 331-7980.

For details on the Exchange, call Mays at 221-5300.