LIHUE — Organizers of this week’s community bike ride could have held it where there is less traffic. Perhaps another time when it wouldn’t be as busy. Maybe just pedal along the path at Lydgate Park where there are no cars.
But that would, in part, defeat the purpose of Bikes on Rice.
“We want people being comfortable riding through town,” said Jim Benkert, chairman of the event that will meet at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lihue Civic Center, with riders rolling out at 4:45.
Benkert, a veteran cyclist, said biking can be challenging around Kauai. Cycling on the highway shoulders isn’t exactly comfortable, not with cars whizzing past at 50 mph.
And even cycling on the main streets can be a bit scarier, due to the ever-increasing traffic and all those turns and curves out there.
But the answer isn’t for cyclists to stay away. It’s for them to become comfortable biking around the island, and for drivers to get used to seeing them — and safely sharing the road.
“Hopefully this will bring more people out there, more exposure and maybe even alleviate some of the traffic issues,” Benkert said. “The more bicycles you see, the more you’ll expect to see them. More safety.”
Bikes on Rice is described as “a series of leisurely, free neighborhood rides in and around Lihue intended for people of all abilities to enjoy bicycling. These rides are designed to encourage and promote safe and fun bicycling throughout our community.”
The rides will be held the second Tuesday of each month, through November. They will be about an hour, six miles, and generally take different routes each time.
They are not races. There are no trophies at stake, no time trials, no ribbons. Bikes on Rice is relaxed, slow and fun, a chance for people to get to know each other, to get some exercise and perhaps see some new part of Lihue.
“It’s not the Spandex bicycle crowd. It’s just regular folks riding bikes around the neighborhood,” Benkert said.
The rides coincide with Rice Street revitalization efforts. Organizers want riders to realize they can access Rice Street businesses by bike.
Larger cities have community bike rides. Detroit has the Slow Roll that attracts a few thousand riders each week.
“We decided, let’s start a little smaller, monthly, and just see how it works,” Benkert said.
As for the bikes, they can be standard cruisers, mountain bikes or 10-speeds. If you have a racing bike, a nice road bike, that’s welcome, too. But remember, slow and steady is the game here.
Benkert rides about 8,000 miles a year and also likes to buy and refurbish old bikes. He said there are many physical benefits to riding. Bikes on Rice offers a chance to maintain and improve health, and also an avenue to meet people in a positive atmosphere.
After Tuesday’s ride, there will be a chance to talk story and some food may be provided, as well, back at the Civic Center where the rides will end each month.
Benkert said the basic goal is to make people more comfortable on two wheels.
“The more exposure to people on bikes, drivers will expect to see bicycles more,” he said.
He recalled the days when kids used to bike all over town, and you would often see bikes strewn about someone’s yard.
“That was a good thing,” he said. “I want to bring that back.”
There will be some bikes available for those who would like to come out but don’t have a bike.
Bikes on Rice is a partnership between Kauai Path, Inc., Get Fit Kauai, County of Kauai, Kauai Cares and Briggs Bicycles.
Volunteers and sponsors are welcome.