Among the multitude of reasons people ride bikes, reducing pollution is, for many of us, at the top of the list.
From the obvious advantages (zero emissions) to the less obvious ones (reduced wear and tear on our roads, and a decrease in traffic congestion), it's hard to argue that the act of pedaling your bike represents a step toward a greener planet.
If you would like to take 308 steps toward a greener planet, you should definitely check out Climate Ride Midwest.
The event, which takes place September 27-30, encompasses a four-day, fully supported 308-mile ride from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Chicago's Grant Park.
The Midwest edition of Climate Ride is one of five annual events. Other events include The Glacier Ride (as in Glacier National Park), The NYC-DC Ride, The Northeast Ride and the California Ride.
For the first three days of The Midwest Ride, the route meanders along Michigan's lake shore, at times venturing inland, and incorporates several chunks of the “Mitten State's” many multi-use trails. Riders will roll past historic lighthouses, blueberry farms, artist villages, wineries, cider houses and craft breweries.
The final day takes participants through what is essentially the Le Tour de Shore charity ride in reverse (which I can personally attest is an excellent route), and finally rolls to a stop downtown.
Each night, participants will stay in “summer camp” style lodging, and all three meals are provided.
While fun is certain to be had by all, this isn’t just a party. Described by organizers as a “green conference on wheels,” there is a purpose behind the pedaling; to educate participants on environmental issues as well as raise money for worthy bike and climate-related causes that complement Climate Ride’s mission.
For starters, after dinner each night, participants will get to enjoy guest speakers and workshops. In addition, funds raised by Climate Ride participants are donated to a selection of climate and bicycle-related advocacy groups.
"Climate Ride supports such a rich diversity of organizations," said Emily Loeks, a participant in last year's event. "However, they all share in championing practices that make communities more resilient."
What’s unique about Climate Ride is that the participants get to choose where the funds are directed. While Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and 350.org serve as examples of national-level organizations which have received donations through Climate Ride, a large portion of the funds from previous rides have been directed toward local and regional groups. Past Climate Rides have benefited, for example, The Spoke Folks, Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Local First Chicago and Active Transportation Alliance.
“Every day we see new environmental crises and challenges, but when Climate Ride participants realize they have the power to take action and change lives, they elevate expectations for their communities and for themselves,” said Caeli Quinn, Climate Ride’s Co-Founder and Executive Director.
Quinn said that 390 people participated in Climate Ride events across the country in 2014, leading to $725,000 in grants to active transportation and environmental groups. A visit to http://www.climateride.org/beneficiaries will provide an overview of organizations that benefit from Climate Ride.
"This year, we anticipate granting more than $1 million to groups that our participants selected,” Quinn said. “It is an incredibly empowering experience to raise funds, ride your bike and see the impact in the areas that you want to support.”
As a means to encourage participation in Climate ride, Active Transportation Alliance is offering additional incentives. If you participate as part of “Team Active Trans,” you get a 1-year Active Trans membership, VIP registration to events like Bike the Drive, and a complementary jersey. On top of that, Active Trans will be organizing training sessions to help team members get in shape for long days in the saddle.
Regardless if you participate as an individual or part of a team, Quinn promised a fulfilling experience.
“It’s amazing to think that something as simple as a bicycle ride can have such an impact and help move the country toward a sustainable future,” Quinn said.
Loeks echoed Quinn's thoughts.
"I loved that participating in the ride made me feel more resilient, more ready to take on challenges, and more connected to the place that I live," Loeks said.
Visit http://www.climateride.org/events/midwest for information on registering.
About the Author
Brett Ratner (firstname.lastname@example.org) began commuting by bike in 2005. Shortly thereafter, his interest in cycling expanded to century rides, bike camping and trail riding. The competition bug bit in 2012 and nowadays he races cyclocross, track, mountain bikes, criteriums and gravel for The Bonebell.