Cyclists, CEOs finish five-day ride for bike advocacy


Bicyclists deposit their rides and gather near The Capitol building after completing the Ride on Washington on March 20. The 530-mile bike ride from Boston to Washington was an effort to raise funds and awareness for bicycle travel. (Ricky Carioti/THE WASHINGTON POST)
March 20, 2012

For some bicycling advocates, there is no better way to promote the cause than assembling a group and going for a ride — from Boston to Washington.

More than 20 professional cyclists and chief executive officers participated in the second annual Ride on Washington, an invitational 530-mile bike ride that began Friday in Massachusetts and ended Tuesday on Capitol Hill. The trek, a fundraiser for the Bikes Belong Foundation, aimed to protest rising gas prices and promote biking.

Tim Johnson, six-time national cyclocross champion (it’s a form of racing), thought of the idea after attending the 2010 National Bike Summit in Washington. He said bicycles can help solve many national issues.

“If people are worried about health and wellness and obesity, bikes can help,” Johnson said. “If people are worried about finances or job creation in a city or an area that is hard to get into or get around because of congestion, you can help that with a bike.”

Over the next two days, riders will participate in this year’s bike summit, which lasts through Thursday, discussing biking issues with activists and experts before lobbying their members of Congress.

“I hope [the ride] allows people to talk about what advocacy can mean to them,” Johnson said. “They don’t necessarily need to be a hard-core advocate. They don’t need to be a hard-core racer. They don’t need to be a hard-core, spandex-wearing dude. They can be anyone, but if they care about whether or not they’re safe when they’re on their bike, that’s what I like to see.”

The group has raised about $90,000 of its $100,000 goal, according to cyclist Richard Fries. Bikes Belong plans to use the money for grants, outreach and the Safe Routes to School program, which encourages children to walk and bike to school.

After leaving Boston, the group stopped in Hartford, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore before reaching the District. Riders included John Hancock Funds president and chief executive Keith Hartstein and Volkswagen of America chief executive Jon Browning.

Browning, who rode with the group on the last day, said car and bicycle use are complementary.

“The initiatives that Bikes Belong supports in terms of safe routes to school for children, looking to improve the infrastructure in terms of bike riders and the environment, I think those are excellent projects. . . . It’s the idea of finding solutions for personal mobility that are sustainable,” Browning said.

About 100 people joined the cyclists for the last leg of the trip from Baltimore and College Park to the Capitol. Laurie Lemieux of Greenbelt said she is a daily bike commuter who rides more than 100 miles each week to and from Catholic University.

“Having that many people riding bikes, everybody paying attention to the rules of riding their bikes . . . it was beautiful,” Lemieux said.

Despite the physical difficulties of the ride and the common purpose, Johnson said the most important thing is remembering the love of biking.

“It’s not about miles. It’s not about calories. It’s not about your heart rate,” Johnson said. “We’re wearing spandex, but really . . . it’s about the ride.”

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