Today is May Day, the official start of The National Bike Challenge, a nationwide effort to increase bicycle ridership through camaraderie and friendly competition. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) is the organizing advocacy group for the Philadelphia region, returning to the role it served last year, which was the National Bike Challenge's inaugural year.
Participants use the event website to log the miles they ride from May 1 until September 30 and it automatically tracks miles ridden, calories burned, and CO2 emissions saved. The competition part comes from ranking participants individually, by team, workplace, community and state. Bicycling-related prizes are awarded monthly. All bicycle trips, both commuting and recreational, count towards a user's totals.
"The National Bike Challenge is a great opportunity for workplaces to foster a new or growing organizational culture of bicycle commuting," said BCGP Communications Coordinator Nicholas Mirra. "Some people perceive high barriers to riding their bike to work, and never try it. Trying it once with a friend or colleague, in the context of this contest, can help people realize that it's not as complicated as they think. The Challenge's ability to create teams and show summer-long progress is an easy entry point into teambuilding and healthy competition."
So far more than 400 riders have registered in the Philadelphia region, representing 90 employers. In 2012, more than 1,000 Philadelphia area residents biked more than 352,000 miles. Pennsylvania placed 7th in the nation and Philadelphia was the 71st-most-bicycling community (ranked per capita). Nationally, 30,000 participants rode 12 million miles.
"Someone from Bike Pittsburgh wrote on our Facebook wall at 1:00 AM asking if Pittsburgh was 'gonna have to carry the state again' this year. So we're hoping Philly responds vigorously to that nonsense," said Mirra. More information about the National Bike Challenge can be found at www.nationalbikechallenge.org.