Monday, November 22, 2010

LAST WEEK’S MEETINGS RECAPPED…

Last week saw two important bicycle related meetings occur, both of which will hopefully continue our progress in bringing cycling more into the mainstream of our local community. The two meetings consisted of our monthly BicycleHaywoodNC advocacy group and the second was our next full committee gathering for the 2011 Blue Ridge Breakaway….

Our Tuesday night gathering of BicycleHaywoodNC covered three main areas:

  • Our advocacy and education efforts as part of the Blue Ridge Breakaway;
  • Our potential involvement with the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club;
  • Our progress toward getting the first ever COUNTY based bike plan for N.C.

At a recent route planning meeting of the Blue Ridge Breakaway, “brainstorming” on how to increase local ridership resulted in a question as to how to involve local Boy Scouts in the Blue Ridge Breakaway. A short discussion followed that lead to a question as to whether BicycleHaywoodNC might find a way to work with local scouts and get them to participate in the August 2011 ride.

Being a former Boy Scout, I am aware of the various merit badges that scouts earn and the possibility of involvement with the scouts helping to prep them for the Blue Ridge Breakaway came together in my head fairly quickly. I recommended to our group that we offer to work with the local district leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to provide the learning opportunities for local scouts to earn their cycling merit badge. A brief conversation with the local District Council Leader and a local troop leader was positively received so I brought the concept to our group.

This idea was eagerly accepted by the group and eventually morphed into providing the same opportunity for local Girl Scouts should they have a program similar to the Boy Scout merit badges. (Turns out they do…). So,  as part of our advocacy and outreach efforts in calendar year 2011, BicycleHaywoodNC will be working with local boy and girl scouts to become safe and knowledgeable riders with the goal of earning the appropriate merit badge and participating in the Blue Ridge Breakway. I’m in the process of gathering the relevant information regarding the requirements for the Boy Scout merit badge in cycling. I’m also nursing a hope that a young man working toward his Eagle award might find an appropriate cycling – related Eagle project to carry out! If any readers have broached this subject before, I would be interested in your guiding comments!

Our advocacy group, BicycleHaywoodNC is closing out our second year of existence. We are a loosely organized group of community activists with no budget or basic infrastructure. This has been acceptable to this point but, I’ve become acutely aware of the need for an organizational structure with a possible application for 501(C)3 status as a tax exempt organization. It was clear to me when researching possible grants and funding for our county wide bike plan that we really were not in a position to be granted monies from most funding sources.

A conversation ensued at our October meeting regarding this issue. Our local NC Department of Transportation, Bicycle Committee representative Claudia Nix was present and provided some timely suggestions on the matter. She suggested that we have conversation with the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club about affiliating with that organization. Given that it is wanting to be a regional cycling entity and have recently attained their 501(C)3 status, we might be able become their affiliate and operate under their umbrella.

One of our more active members, Jennifer Jacobsen, agreed to be our liaison to the BRBC and to start the initial conversation. In the meantime, an opportunity arose for her to attend a BRBC steering committee meeting resulting in some interesting progress. The BRBC has agreed to consider our funding request for assistance in raising $8,000.00, which is our local match to the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization grant of $40,000.00. It is now posted on their website for public comment. More discussion will be held after the holidays about an affiliation between BicycleHaywoodNC and BRBC.

Finally, George Ivey brought our group up-to-date on our current efforts to obtain the aforementioned $8,000.00 for the bike plan grant. We are lucky to have George’s talents as a grant writer and consultant. He prepared a grant request for $5,000.00 to a local funding group. The grant proposal has been submitted. We hope to hear something positive by the end of the holidays. Other efforts at fund raising are underway including looking for assistance from the local business community. With the national and local economies in such tough shape, it is difficult to successfully raise funds. Hopefully, we will make a case strong enough through education to encourage the business community to invest in their own well being through building cycling infrastructure.

The second meeting of the week was the full committee meeting of the Blue Ridge Breakaway. Next year’s ride is scheduled for August 20th. We were pleased to hear that some rooms have already been reserved for the ride. Registration doesn’t open until March 1st so this was good news indeed.

Our primary task thus far has been on reviewing and changing/adding routes to the ride based upon participant feedback. We had received some feedback stating that beginning riders were surprised at the difficulty of what we had billed as a “beginner’s 25 mile ride.” Some participants were looking for a relatively flat 25 miles. Our route committee took this feedback to heart and tried to find a relatively flat 25 mile route. Unfortunately, short of circling repeatedly the same small loop for 25 miles, we were unable to find a relatively flat route here in the mountains. We will address the concerns via some different marketing and the likely addition of an extra water stop/break area for this group.

We had also discussed adding a 75 mile route that would take in part of the Blue Ridge Parkway as does the Century route. We were unable to find what we felt was a significant route that hit the break point between a metric century and the century marks. We were either too close to a metric century or too close to a century to pull this off. We will not be adding a 75 miler but will do some route work to make the metric century a full ride. Last year, you had to to add a little mileage at the end to get the full metric century distance.

We are also in discussion and seemingly close to making a decision to add timing chips and mats to at least the metric century and century routes. A number of riders wanted more detailed information on their times than we were able to provide this year. The addition of the chips and mats would greatly aid us in this endeavor plus could help us stay aware of any cyclists that might get lost in inclement weather should that happen again this year. This past year a major storm popped up unexpectedly along the Blue Ridge Parkway and dropped temps to the upper 50’s with heavy rains and winds. Most riders were not prepared for the change in weather conditions at the 5500’+ elevation so we had some interesting rescues to be made from the valley below.

If you are looking for a great riding opportunity in late summer 2011, please strongly consider coming to the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina and doing some climbing and sight seeing in some of the oldest mountains in the world! We encourage groups of riders and teams of riders to come enjoy the event together. For more information about the Blue Ridge Breakaway, visit the website. Please feel free to post any questions or comments here and I will see that the proper answer gets to you!

Until later,

- Zeke

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