Edmond Rides Again

Bicycling: Kids rely on it for transportation, and adults are increasingly doing it for exercise. As a result, bike shops have become more sophisticated, and cities like Edmond are looking for ways to accommodate this growing trend.
Steven Ancik is a 52-year-old landscape architect living in Edmond. He first threw a leg over a two-wheeler as a kid, but returned to bicycling about 15 years ago. Now, he pedals between 1,200 and 1,500 miles per year on various trails around the state.

“It’s good exercise, a time to hang out with friends and ride. There’s a real social aspect to it,” Ancik said.
Ancik is a member of the Oklahoma Earthbike Fellowship, a statewide organization dedicated to enhancing off-road bicycling through trail advocacy, maintenance and cooperation with land managers and users. Ancik does most of his riding on mountain bike trails.

“It’s a great hobby,” he said. “It takes you places you can’t get to any other way. I like to take a camera along and take pictures. These are places you may never see again. It’s also a good challenge. I’m always learning something and hopefully getting better.”

Someone looking to get into cycling doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on the hobby. The biggest expense will be the bike itself.

“Bikes can be expensive, depending on what you ride,” Ancik said. “But you can get into it for $400 to $500. You can go up to spending several thousands of dollars. I probably spend a couple hundred on clothes and parts per year.”
That’s the kind of talk Henry Holasek, owner of Al’s Bicycles in Edmond, likes to hear, though he says the start-up cost can be less.

“The expenditure, like with any other sport, depends on what you want to spend,” Holasek said. “You can spend $250 all the way up to $5,000 or $6,000, depending on the quality and weight of what you buy. Lighter is going to be more expensive.”

But getting people onto bicycles is more than a business proposition for Holasek. He supports schools by providing bikes as prizes for contests, he said, to encourage kids to get away from the computer and do something for exercise. “I like to help out when I can to address the obesity problem in the schools,” he said.

That’s a problem that reaches into adulthood, too. “Baby boomers are getting into cycling for health reasons,” Holasek said. “And people in their 40s and 50s. They go to the doctor for the first time in many years, questions are asked, most of which are answered with no, and they realize they need to do something to get some exercise, so they take up bicycling.”

Organized group rides leave from Holasek’s store Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the spring and summer and Saturday mornings year-round. “It’s not a club,” he said. “You just show up if you want to ride. Helmets are mandatory. We’ll ride 25 to 40 miles and we have riders of all levels, and everyone kind of gets into their own groups, but we stay together. We’re not racers.”

Mountain bikes like those ridden by Ancik are still popular, Holasek said, but he said road bikes are making a comeback, probably because people have been inspired by the success of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner.

Holasek said there are a lot of bicycle riders in Edmond, but cycling is still a hobby or exercise, not something adults do to commute from one place to another. That’s something he would like to see change, though.

“We’re working on bike trails and paths in Edmond, trying to get new trails tied in with existing trails,” he said. “We’re going to have a bike-to-work day on May 19 to encourage people to try it.”

Edmond has some very popular bicycle trails, said Earl London, assistant director for the city’s parks and recreation department. The 1.5-mile trail at Hafer Park was the first one constructed in 1982.

“Hafer Park is a very popular trail with walkers and bicyclists,” he said.

London said city officials have taken note of the popularity and have committed to a long-term plan to accommodate people’s interest in cycling. A new 3.5-mile addition was recently completed at Mitch Park, making what was a 2.5-mile course a 6-mile track.

“It’s very modern, 10 feet wide and striped,” London said.

Edmond is working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for a T-21 federal grant to build more trails, connecting many of Edmond’s parks and offering a bicycle commuter route through the city.

“There has absolutely been a public demand,” London said. “In 1999 we completed a master plan for trails in Edmond based on citizen requests for a trail system. We’ve been implementing different sections as money has become available.

“The public demand is not only for recreational use but for traversing different parts of the city,” London added. “The major corridors will travel though downtown Edmond, linking UCO with parks, going east to Arcadia Lake. We think the trails will be well used by skaters, walkers, bikers and people who are just looking to get out with their pets and families.”

London said the chances of securing the T-21 grant look promising, but the city isn’t waiting for that. The Bickham-Rudkin Park will open soon, offering a new trail, along with paved parking and new playground equipment.
Bicycle trails have become so popular, London said, that developers are coming to the city and offering to help fund trails through new housing developments.

“With private funding, federal grants and city finding, we’re getting a pretty good product,” London said. “And we’ll continue trying to move forward on that.”

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