So while the 520-mile trek from Boston to Washington he’ll begin Friday may not be his longest, Johnson’s second annual “Ride on Washington” is one of the most important — Johnson and 25 others joining the ride have a goal to raise $100,000 for Bikes Belong, a nonprofit geared toward installing bike education and advocacy programs in cities across the country. According to the organization’s database, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the Anacostia Watershed Society are among groups who have received funding since 1999.
The 34-year-old Middleton, Mass., native and his crew are a little more than halfway to the $100,000 goal, and are hoping to raise funds in time for their arrival at the 2012 National Bike Summit, which starts in the District next Tuesday. You can learn about donating here.
Read our Q&A with him below:
Why organize this event around the National Bike Summit?
I went to National Bike Summit in 2010 and was blown away that there were all of these people who were working so hard on trying to make cycling better. I train on these roads and I travel all around the world and I know that when a bike path goes down or a bike lane gets painted, there is so much work that is involved to [get it done].
You’ve gone back and forth from D.C. for awhile now. Have you noticed anything about how our bike culture here has changed?
I did my first race in D.C. in 2001, in Clarendon. That whole area has been built up so much. In 2001, there was a dedicated bike path there, which was truly unusual because there weren’t that many around the country. But then again, to get on and off that trail was a little bit of chaos. You had to navigate your way through city streets that were made just for cars. So I think that shift is not just [the D.C. area] but it’s happening all over the place, and it’s happening because there is that piecing together of what’s already been established and what works better. In 2001, maybe everybody drove to the path, got their bike off the top of their car and then the rode along the path. But now you can ride to the path because there are these networks of roads where you know they’re safe and it’s saved so much time.
What’s the most surprising benefit of cycling?
Personally bikes have shown me everything from when I was a kid. What’s across the street, what’s on the other side of the hill. I’ve been able to see the world as a pro racer now, but i think the most surprising thing is that when bikes are a part of the culture and a part of the lifestyle, it opens up those things for everybody and in different ways.
And a program that provides safe routes to school makes it okay for kids to ride their bikes to school. After growing up and being on my bike every day, I can’t imagine being a kid now and having your parents say you can’t ride [because of safety concerns]. Is that really what we want to do?
The bike summit, held annually by the League of American Bicyclists, will begin at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington on Tuesday.