PRESCOTT ‹ Above all, Bike Month organizers in Prescott want the community to recognize the value of thinking outside the box when it comes to 21st century transportation.
Reducing one's dependence on automobiles by wheeling around on a bicycle can open doors to a time when schoolchildren rode bicycles to class or with their friends on park pathways.
Every day in May, Prescott Alternative Transportation and the Prescott Cycling Club have scheduled events for Bike Month to celebrate outdoor recreation and educate people about the benefits of bicycling.
If more children rode their bikes to school and more adults pedaled their way to work, proponents say, air and noise pollution and congestion on city streets would drop.
Perhaps most important, an increase in active, healthier lifestyles would reduce the number of medical conditions that affect the chronically overweight.
Bike Month celebrates a love for bicycling as well as the lifestyle it encompasses.
"There's a bunch of different facets to it," said Jim Knaup, chairman of the Prescott Alternative Transportation Bike Month Committee. "We really want to raise awareness of bicycling as a valid means of transportation. It's not just recreation. It's about building a stronger Prescott."
Lisa Barnes, associate director of Prescott Alternative Transportation, said her group advocates for pedestrians and bicyclists and children's safety.
"Basically, we're an advocacy organization for bicycle and pedestrian issues region-wide," Barnes said. "Our mission statement is working towards a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly central Yavapai community."
At present, Barnes said PAT's biggest project is the "Safe Routes to School" program, one in which her group works directly with Prescott-area schools to educate students about bicycle and pedestrian safety while encouraging more pupils to walk and bike to school.
"As we work with the schools over time, we ultimately identify the problem areas that are preventing kids from walking and biking safely, including bad sidewalks or missing sidewalks, poorly designed intersections and crosswalks," she said.
Knaup added that the State of Arizona will eventually make money available to fix these infrastructure concerns. However, she said, the first cycle of state dollars will go toward education and encouragement programs.
This past week, PAT received $34,000 from the state to work with four Prescott-based public schools, including Taylor Hicks Elementary and Mile High Middle schools. In August, PAT will recruit two other schools to join the effort.
Knaup submitted an application to the Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee, a committee of the Arizona Department of Transportation to initiate the new program in January.
The State Transportation Board and ADOT eventually approved PAT's application. Knaup said her group will use the money for a series of neighborhood-based workshops to educate parents and teachers about motorists' awareness of young pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as the rules of the road.
"We did a survey of parents at both Taylor Hicks and Mile High, and over and over again, parents are saying people speed through the neighborhoods, they're not obeying the crossing guards and the speed limits," she said. "And that's a big reason why they don't let their kids walk and bike to school."
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