About 700 cyclists in Lincoln logged over 135,000 miles in the month of May as a part of the National Bike Challenge. While Lincoln bicyclists have already ridden equal to five rotations around the earth this May, they only have their own threshold to beat after Lincoln took home the number 1 spot in the international competition in 2016.
“The challenge is an important way to galvanize the cycling community in Lincoln and give us national visibility with what we’re doing in regards to cycling advocacy,” said Sydney Brown, President of BicycLincoln and the Assistant Director of innovative instructional design at NU.
The NBC is aimed to unite current cyclists as well as encourage new riders to try riding their bicycle more often. Participants sign up at the beginning and track their miles using an online platform called STRAVA, which has a variety of features that connect cyclists, shows frequently traveled routes and can also create challenges on those routes between riders.
Brown said Lincoln’s success in the Bike Challenge is critical to a variety of recognition, including the city’s bronze rated bicycle friendly status and UNL’s recognition as a bicycle friendly university. BicycLincoln has increased their social media presence in the past few years to reach out to new participants, and this is in unison with a greater cultural shift towards cycling.
“What this says is that our cycling community is really strong here,” Brown said. “The demographic of companies that Lincoln is really trying to employ want things like a walkable and bikeable city, they want a community to be involved in. And we can show that we have this infrastructure.”
BicycLincoln also works to connect new riders to opportunities to get involved with the cycling community, and they use the NBC data to know who is riding and where at. Community building is as fundamental of a goal as the competition aspect.
“The bike challenge gives something for everyone, we have hardcore racers and people that maybe ride one or two miles a day,” Brown said. “The more people that can easily walk and bike around the city, we know that drives economic factors and improves livability.”
Maria Goller is a Ph.D student in the biology department who has participated in the challenge for the past two years, and she is a regular cyclist as she does not own a car. The bike challenge is a way to engage her passion for sustainability and awareness of everyday impacts on the planet.
“Cycling is one way in which it is really easy to decrease your carbon footprint,” Goller said. “I go everywhere around the city on my bicycle, even to get 30 pounds of groceries. Cycling can be very relaxing and it’s good to be outside.”
As part of Goller’s research this summer, she travels to three different bird nesting colonies in Lincoln to make observations on their development, and this daily journey logs about 30 miles for her challenge.
While Goller is a lifestyle cyclist, there are professional cyclists in the challenge that ride upwards of 200 miles a day, and other participants who cycle for leisure. Regardless of one’s abilities, there is a lot of individual opportunity in pursuing this form of transportation.
“Cycling is extremely empowering, when I first really got into it, I was infinitely more mobile than I was before and not dependent on anybody,” Brown said. “When you ride your bike it turns everyday into an adventure. Instead of idly sitting in traffic, you’re actively navigating, handling and seeing things. You’re seeing the geese grow up and the flowers changing, things that you just wouldn’t see in a car.”