Hit the road with Bike Walk Cleveland

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 2/6/19

As of 2017, Tennessee had the 15th highest obesity rate in the nation, and the 20th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17. Bike Walk Cleveland is an organization striving to share knowledge …

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Hit the road with Bike Walk Cleveland

Posted

As of 2017, Tennessee had the 15th highest obesity rate in the nation, and the 20th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17.

Bike Walk Cleveland is an organization striving to share knowledge about walking, running and biking in our community along with these activities’ health benefits in an effort to not only get residents off the couch, but also get them to connect with the natural beauty that surrounds them.

Bike Walk Cleveland is a local chapter of the statewide organization known as Bike Walk Tennessee.

Gina Simpson is the Cleveland chapter’s chairman. The 37-year-old is a mother of three and includes biking in her family’s day-to-day activities, using it as her family’s main source of transportation.

“We want to turn back the clock and get back to the time when people walked to their neighbor’s house or walked or biked to school,” Simpson said.

She explained how people must first consider what destinations near their home they can reasonably access by walking or biking. For Simpson and her family, downtown Cleveland is nearby, including the Museum Center, library and restaurants and shops. The Greenway is also a close site, so on sunny days, the family rides all over town.

Due to the conveniences of the day, stationary living is becoming commonplace, and Simpson says that she aims to keep her family away from lethargic life while also raising awareness of the importance of physical activity with the community.

Bike Walk Cleveland has four pillars it strives for, which include education, service, connectivity and advocacy. Sharing knowledge about the health benefits of this type of lifestyle is key, and the organization’s representatives aim to partner with others to improve walking/biking corridors in local neighborhoods so they are better connected to schools, shops and businesses.

“We’ve shifted technology into our lives and exercise out of them,” Simpson stressed.

She explained Cleveland, despite what some may believe, is very bike-friendly. She believes the more cyclists on the road, the better the conditions will be, as seeing more cyclists on the road at all times ensures vehicle drivers remain vigilant and careful.

Simpson believes  teaching children rules of the road on bikes at a young age will prepare them early to be a vehicle driver later in life, and thus, will make them safer as a result. Her kids, through biking, have improved their awareness on the road and know the names of nearly every street in town.

Another benefit of biking is knowing the quickest ways around town, because if you’ve biked it, you’ll know the route which requires the least amount of work.

One thing Simpson believes could be improved are the sidewalks, as some end abruptly due to an apprehension about sidewalks going through private property. She says sidewalks actually improve the property value of homes, and allow the homes’ residents to get to know their neighbors more thoroughly.

“You don’t rob your neighbors or shoot them,” Simpson said. “A sidewalk going by houses can lead to friendships, too. One day you’ll wave at the neighbors sitting on their porch, then that wave turns into a conversation and before you know it you’ve made some new friends.”

Bike Walk Cleveland formed in October 2017, and Simpson joked  she’s the single, volunteer staff member of the organization, although she does have several community partners. She also home-schools her children, chairs Friends of the Greenway and works at the YMCA. Her husband works as an engineer.

Simpson is currently rolling out Bike Walk Cleveland’s Smart Cycle class program through the League of American Cyclists, which focuses on teaching people to ride their bikes and treat them like cars. One thing she’s noticed in Cleveland is how bikes are seen on sidewalks, which she says isn’t the proper place for bikes. Instead, they should be on the roads.

“It’s actually more dangerous for you to bike on sidewalks than in the road, because you could run over some walkers or runners. Most people don’t realize that bikes have the same rights on the road as cars do,” Simpson said.

She also praised the two bike stores in town, Scott’s and Trailhead, as being incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.

The first Smart Cycle class takes place on March 16 at the YMCA. If anyone cannot make the event, Simpson encourages families or entire neighborhoods to contact her, as she’s happy to teach a class for a large group at a later date.

Simpson is preparing to present the benefits of Bike Walk Cleveland in Washington, D.C., to the National Convention for the League of American Cyclists in March.

“Biking connects everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. If you can’t afford a car, you can afford a bike. It’s really a universal movement that we hope more people join in,” she added.

For more information on Bike Walk Cleveland, check out its website at www.bikewalktn.org/cleveland. You can also go to its Facebook or Instagram pages, or call 931-544-2982. 

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