Cycling summit coming to Springfield

Biking experts think city could see economic, health benefits.

After the Miami Valley Cycling Summit in Dayton in 2009, the city saw increased activity downtown and near the University of Dayton campus, and Dayton was designated a bike friendly community.

The one-day event comes to Springfield for the first time May 31, and organizers say area leaders could get some ideas that could help turn cycling into an economic resource.

“It’s a great showcase for the city of Springfield. It’s not only a chance to show some of our new infrastructure and amenities, it’s also an opportunity to draw a line so people can see the value of cycling,” said Chris Schutte, director of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The summit is expected to draw about 400 people and will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hollenbeck Bayley Conference Center, 100 S. Fountain Ave.

Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Planner Louis Agresta said the event is expected to attract people from the Miami Valley as well as Columbus and Cincinnati.

“I’m optimistic that this is going to be the most well attended (cycling summit) yet,” Agresta.

Agresta said Springfield currently has about five bike racks downtown, but the Center City Association has discussed adding more.

He said the summit could spur local officials to develop a bikeway plan that would make the community healthier, “bicycle friendly” and increase economic development for downtown businesses.

The summit was held in Dayton in 2009 and 2011 and led Dayton and surrounding communities to establish plans to become more “bike friendly.”

Dayton elected officials created a cycling advocacy group, developed a master plan, added more than 100 bike racks and connected bikeways and bike lanes, said Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley.

“We had the (bike) trails, but the connectivity was not there,” Whaley said. “I think this is a huge opportunity for Springfield.”

Whaley said Dayton is now one of three cities in Ohio that have been designated as a “bike friendly” community by the League of American Bicyclists. Columbus and Cincinnati also have that designation.

Andy Williamson, the Great Lakes regional director of International Mountain Bicycling Association, organized the 2009 event as part of the Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton.

Williamson said Dayton had few bike racks and other amenities before the cycling summit in 2009.

“Dayton was in the same situation a few years ago. They are already impressed with how everything has come together.

“I’m excited. I see great things for Springfield,” Williamson said.

Williamson said studies show that there’s a high correlation between the top livable communities and the top bike friendly communities.

Agresta said Springfield has a ways to go before its seen a bicycle friendly, but he added that the summit could cause some local officials to consider cycling as an option to improve the quality of life, health and economic development in the community.

“The car will always be king. But bicycling and walking are becoming more and more popular,” Agresta said.