Summit seeks to promote cycling

About 350 cyclists converged on downtown Springfield on Friday for the third Miami Valley Cycling Summit.

The free event, held at the Hollenbeck-Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center, is designed to promote and educate cyclists, business owners and local leaders throughout the region, featuring speakers from across the nation.

The local organizing committee raised about $19,000 for the event. Some of the money will stay in the community as part of a local project to commemorate the event after expenses are paid.

A Springfield action planning session was included to allow cyclists to discuss improvements to signage and safety on local trails and roadways.

A new group, Bike Springfield, will decide how to best use the leftover money. The group’s focus will be to promote Springfield as a destination for cyclists and improve infrastructure. The group will hold its inaugural meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Center City Association office, 225 N. Fountain Ave.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens moving forward,” Agresta said.

Another group, Ambassadors of Clark County Trails, formed to provide a welcoming presence and assist trail users, and will hold meeting at 7 p.m. June 10 and noon June 11.

The event’s keynote speaker, Bill Nesper, the vice president of programs for the League of American Bicyclists, spoke about the economic impact cycling can have on communities.

Nesper also spoke at the first cycling summit in Dayton in 2009. He was impressed by the region’s 300 miles of trails connecting communities across the Miami Valley.

“It was a big surprise,” Nesper said. “You should be very proud of that network that you have.”

The next step, Nesper said, is to connect those bike paths to bike lanes on neighborhood streets and arterial roads to help them ride to those paths.

“You’ve got a ton of things to capitalize,” Nesper said. “If you take those next steps, you’re going to get a lot of bang for your buck.”

In 2010, the Broad Avenue district in Memphis added a bike lane and temporary cross walks to become more friendly to cyclists. The improvements led to $12 million in private investments, 19 new businesses, and 29 new construction and renovation projects, Nesper said.

“It’s just paint on not a very long stretch of roadway, but it’s made a big impact,” Nesper said.

The League’s Bicycle Friendly Community program recognizes communities for bicycle friendliness. Five cities in Ohio made the list, including Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton and Westerville.

Nesper said the biggest bang for a city’s buck comes from installing bike parking around town.

“People want to know when they get on their bike, that’s there’s going to be somewhere safe to put it,” Nesper said. “It’s a really great way to get people going.”

Adam Reel of the Adventure Cycling Association spoke of the keys to attracting cycling tourism to the community.

Reel said branding, promotion and facilities work together to attract cyclists. The region already has the facilities, he said.

“The infrastructure is there,” Reel said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The next step, he said is to promote and brand the bike paths with things like way-finding signs, maps and partnerships with other businesses and tourism boards. The word of places to stop will spread, Reel said.

“People will stop and they’ll say ‘You gotta stop here,’” Reel said.