Posted by: Rachel Heckscher | April 4, 2016

Women on a roll!

Safe and fun bicycling on Maui by Sookie Kunst, for Neighbors of Wailea & Makena Magazine, April 2016

MBL article in wailea makena mag

One morning this summer, I joined a group ride organized by the Maui Bicycling League (MBL). We met at Kanaha and split into beginner and intermediate groups. I didn’t know where I would fit in, but I joined the intermediate group. A leader rode in front and another took up the rear. Before we started, they showed us hand signals for turning, slowing down and pointing out debris, reviewed the route and what to expect. They said when we ride into downtown Wailuku, there will be parked cars and no bike lane so we will need to take up the car lane. I didn’t know what that meant at the time but followed the group and learned that in certain conditions, for short distances, it’s safer to ride in the road. Other than the challenge of the oppressive heat that day, I was able to stay with the group and enjoyed conversations with fellow riders. After the ride, the leaders told us we had averaged about 11 miles per hour and rode about 17 miles. I was happy to have experienced riding a route I would not haven undertaken on my own, while meeting new people and learning new skills, not to mention getting great exercise and having fun in a non-competitive setting.

Maui is an ideal place to ride a bike as we have great weather, many roads with paved shoulders, and undeniably breath-taking scenery. It is possible to ride a bike all year-round on Maui. Bicycling is an inexpensive way to travel, exercise, and recreate. However, much more can be done to transform Maui into a place for world-class bicycling.

Advocacy at MBL is literally getting the wheels turning. In partnership with the County of Maui, the State Na Ala Hele Program, and the National Park Service, we are developing a design for a 5.5-mile greenway from Olowalu to Puamana. In addition, a management group is being formed to implement the greenway design, provide stewardship, and continue to pursue the vision for a continuous 25-mile greenway along Maui’s western shore. Regional MBL groups for Central, South and Upcountry Maui have met with the Maui Department of Public Works, and continue to advocate for more protected and safer paths that will eventually all connect. More people will ride bikes if it were safer, but it will become safer as more people ride and become involved.

Additionally, an interesting fact I learned was that nationwide, only 24% of cyclists are women! Biking is an inexpensive tool that carries us toward better health, improved mobility, and a cleaner environment. More can be done to support mainstream transportation and recreation cyclists who don’t necessarily relate to the sporty, athletic side of cycling. Getting more women on bikes is a lynchpin to creating communities of health and actively engaged citizens. Getting around on a bike is incredibly empowering, freeing and better connects us to the land.

Over the next several months, MBL will be training group ride leaders and organizing monthly rides for all levels of riders on different parts of the island. Kim Round, Rachel Heckscher and I are co-chairing the MBL Education and Safety committee and our goal is to get more women and families riding bikes. We plan to hold traffic skills and basic bike maintenance workshops as well as social events and fun group rides.

If you own or can borrow a bike and would like to bike more, please do one or more of the following via www.mauibicyclingleague.org: 1) become an MBL member, 2) sign up for email alerts, 3) participate in group rides, 4) volunteer for a committee, 5) “Like” Maui Bicycling League on Facebook, and 6) share your ideas!

Sookie Kunst is a Wailea resident who bought her first formidable bike in 1985, a Ross 10-speed, when she had a college internship in upstate New York but did not own a car. She now owns a pretty nice Trek road bike with 21-speeds and upright handlebars and would like to ride from her home to the post office, library, grocery store, yoga studio and canoe club on safe bike lanes. Email her at sookie@mykarmayoga.com.

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