Get out and start ped­dling

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - NEWS - Regina Gargano (Gargano is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Schuylkill County Vis­i­tors Bureau)

We sur­vived the nearly un­en­durably long win­ter and I think its safe to say spring has fi­nally ar­rived!

Thank good­ness. We can fi­nally get se­ri­ous about head­ing out­side and en­joy­ing our­selves.

So it’s May al­ready and I, for one, am pretty darn busy. Lately my thoughts re­volve around jug­gling my fam­ily, my job, en­joy­ing re­gional ac­tiv­i­ties and up­com­ing events, plant­ing my gar­den and get­ting my out­door liv­ing space ready for sum­mer’s var­i­ous get-to­geth­ers. I’m ex­hausted just think­ing about it! But I di­gress; did you know that May is Na­tional Bike Month? No? Well it is! It’s also Na­tional Bar­be­cue, Ham­burger, Salad and Photo Month? Ap­par­ently May is a heck of a month!

May is usu­ally a month of warm sun­shine and bright skies, which just so hap­pens to make it the per­fect time for bikes. Na­tional Bike Month is spon­sored by the League of Amer­i­can Bi­cy­clists and cel­e­brated in com­mu­ni­ties from coast to coast. Estab­lished in 1956, Na­tional Bike Month is a chance to show­case the many ben­e­fits of bi­cy­cling and en­cour­age more folks to giv­ing bik­ing a try.

There are plenty of good rea­sons to con­sider bik­ing. Plenty! Bi­cy­cling is an ac­ces­si­ble means of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity for all ages and, when used for travel to work or school, can seam­lessly in­cor­po­rate ex­er­cise into your daily life.

Em­ploy­ers in the com­mu­nity ben­e­fit from a healthy, ac­tive work­force, as well. Peo­ple who bike take, on av­er­age, 15 per­cent fewer sick days than non-cy­clists, and gen­er­ally ac­com­plish more work.

Bi­cy­cling is a proven means of ad­dress­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar health, low­ers cer­tain can­cer rates and is avail­able to all ages. What? Wow! Along with the phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits, we can’t for­get the stress re­lief and men­tal health ben­e­fits ei­ther. In fact, of­ten those ben­e­fits have in­cred­i­ble im­pact on our phys­i­cal health, too.

Bi­cy­cle com­mut­ing saves on park­ing fees, park­ing tick­ets, fuel costs, auto main­te­nance costs and tran­sit fares. The av­er­age an­nual op­er­at­ing ex­pense of a bi­cy­cle is just $308, ver­sus more than $8,000 for a car. Talk about mo­ti­va­tion to con­sider bik­ing! And, even if only dur­ing the milder months, we’re still talk­ing con­sid­er­able sav­ings and in­creased ben­e­fits!

Bik­ing is good for busi­ness, too. Na­tional re­search in mul­ti­ple cities has shown that pa­trons ar­riv­ing by bike visit more of­ten, stay longer and spend more money. With the amount of out­door recre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties in Schuylkill County, this eas­ily trans­lates into our econ­omy.

Ad­di­tion­ally, with the grow­ing costs of em­ployee and cus­tomer park­ing sites, many com­pa­nies are look­ing for cheaper al­ter­na­tives. It costs the same amount to build park­ing for 75 bikes as it does for just four cars. More bi­cy­cle use means a smaller car­bon foot­print and less air pol­lu­tion, too. Like I said ear­lier, there truly are plenty of rea­sons to con­sider bik­ing, whether in­cor­po­rat­ing more bik­ing for re­lax­ation and fun or con­sid­er­ing it for your com­mute in our milder months of the year.

You may be think­ing that Schuylkill County doesn’t have enough bike friendly ar­eas but you’d be sur­prised just how much of Schuylkill County can be biked.

The Weiser State For­est is great for moun­tain bik­ing. The Le­high-New Eng­land Rail Trail, the John Bar­tram Trail, the Land­ingville Marsh Trail, Lo­cust Lake State Park, Old­ham Trail Bike & Walk­ing Trail, Schuylkill Val­ley Her­itage Trail and Swatara Creek State Park are just some of the great bik­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in our com­mu­nity.

With the pur­chase of a pass, Fa­mous Read­ing Out­doors has nearly lim­it­less op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to ex­plore and trail ride across spec­tac­u­larly beau­ti­ful scenery.

Whether your think­ing about bik­ing around town, to work or for fun on the offhours, the im­por­tant thing is to just get out­side and start ped­dling! If you go to www. schuylkill.org or stop by the vis­i­tors cen­ter, you’ll find the on­line Schuylkill Trail Direc­tory, the Schuylkill County Out­door Recre­ation Map, the North­east Penn­syl­va­nia Hike & Bike Trails map, Schuylkill River Na­tional & State Her­itage Area Map & Guide, the Weiser State For­est Map & Recre­ation Guide and more. These re­sources will help you with your plans to get out and en­joy our plen­ti­ful out­door recre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties whether on a bi­cy­cle or on foot.

I talk of­ten about the many op­por­tu­ni­ties Schuylkill County of­fers in out­door recre­ation. We’ve got bik­ing, hik­ing, fish­ing, camp­ing, of­froad mo­tor­sports and much more. Our great out­doors is one of our largest tourism as­sets.

This sum­mer, we ex­pect thou­sands of vis­i­tors in our state parks, at our camp­grounds, hik­ing our trails and fish­ing our streams. They’ll also be vis­it­ing our unique cul­tural her­itage at­trac­tions like Pi­o­neer Tun­nel Coal Mine & Steam Train and Yuengling Brew­ery, at our many im­pres­sive events and in our ho­tels and our bed-and-break­fasts.

If you doubt me, all you have to do is visit Lo­cust Lake State Park, any of our seven winer­ies, Kiel­basi Fest, the Folk Art & Culi­nary Fes­ti­val, Hawk Moun­tain, the Schuylkill County Wine Fes­ti­val, Cruisin’ Pottsville, Jerry’s Clas­sic Cars & Col­lectibles Mu­seum and the Schuylkill County Fair to see for your­self.

Schuylkill County is a nat­u­ral cul­tural her­itage des­ti­na­tion un­like any other and trav­el­ers know it. I’m hop­ing that you know it too and that you value the im­por­tant eco­nomic im­pact it makes in our county.

For events of all kinds around the com­mu­nity, go to SkooCal, the of­fi­cial on­line cal­en­dar of events for Schuylkill County at www. skoocal.com and make your plans to get out and about in the beau­ti­ful month of May.

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