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Riders quadruple for annual Solvang bike ride to promote safety, need for bicycle lanes

Riders quadruple for annual Solvang bike ride to promote safety, need for bicycle lanes

About four times as many cyclists as last year showed up Wednesday for the annual bicycle ride in Solvang to promote bike safety, call attention to the need for more bicycle lanes and celebrate May as National Bike Month.

Formerly known as the Mayor’s Bike Ride, the excursion from Solvang City Hall to a green space along the Santa Ynez River and back again drew 27 riders last year.

But thanks to a Dunn School student, this year’s ride topped 100 cyclists.

Eighth-grader Aria Riley rallied the entire middle school student body, plus nine teachers and the principal — a total of 81 cyclists — to join the ride that this year was renamed the Two-Wheel Town Hall Ride.

Aria’s efforts prompted 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who also joined the ride, and Frank Peters, president of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition board, to nominate her for the eighth annual Velo Wings Award.

She’s scheduled to receive the award at noon May 11 from the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition at Bicycle Bob’s in Goleta, Peters said.

Hartmann said the Velo Wings Award is presented “to recognize women of exceptional character and achievement.”

Aria chose to rally Dunn students to take the ride at the suggestion of one of her teachers.

“The eighth-grade students are required to do a real-world project that will make a difference in our community,” Aria said in an email to Frank Peters, president of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition board. “Mine is directly involved with raising awareness for the need of safer bike lanes in the Santa Ynez Valley.”

Hartmann said she hoped recognizing Aria with the award would inspire other youths to get their schools and communities involved in important issues.

”Ms. Riley has shown extraordinary initiative in organizing her school to take part in the Two-Wheel Town Hall Ride,” Hartmann said in the nomination letter. “Entirely on her own, she decided to get involved with a local matter of great importance — bike safety — and worked to include her school community in efforts to address the issue.”

Peters, who initially launched the Mayor’s Bike Ride, agreed.

”Perhaps the award will spread the news of this young woman’s efforts and inspire other eighth-graders,” he said. “Our world faces many challenges, perhaps more than any of us will ever cure in our lifetimes; it’s going to take a lot of eighth-graders to finish the job.”

Peters has said he hoped starting the ride would help expand CycleMAYnia — a social network that celebrates National Bike Month with a series of “good clean fun” activities.

Previous rides were hosted by former Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, but this year new Mayor Ryan Toussaint climbed into the saddle, joined by Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra and Kenneth Kahn, chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Toussaint led the cyclists from Solvang City Hall to Alisal Road, then south to Fjord Drive and west to the Rancho Santa Ynez Estates green space.

Riders paused there to hear brief speeches about the need for infrastructure to provide bicyclists with safe riding conditions, not just in the Santa Ynez Valley but also countywide.

Then it was back to City Hall or, for some, on to Fresco Valley Café in Atterdag Square for lunch and to share biking stories.

May is National Bicycle Safety Month, dedicated to encouraging drivers and bicyclists to help reduce deaths and injuries on the state’s streets and roads.

According to the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, preliminary data indicates that during the past five years, 772 bicyclists were killed and more than 59,000 were injured in collisions.

Riding on the wrong side of the roadway and right-of-way violations are the main causes of bicycle-involved collisions, according to the data.


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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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