LIHU‘E — Before some 15 cyclists pedal away from Kalena Park bound for Ahukini State Recreational Pier on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Tommy Noyes gives instructions:
• Don’t impede traffic;
• Be mindful of vehicles;
• Pay attention to your surroundings;
• Ride single file;
• And perhaps most important: Enjoy the scenery, the camaraderie, the exercise.
For the next hour, they do.
“It was so fun I can’t wait to do it again,” said Brian Zimmerman, a first-time participant in Bikes on Rice upon their return to a revitalized Kalena Park, where many remain mingling and recounting their short journey.
The program that began six years ago continues rolling along with no signs of slowing down. The monthly rides generally cover about five or six miles.
Saturday, new and old friends traveled 10 miles, averaging a leisurely 9.8 mph. Their route passed over bumpy roads, gravel and dirt, but spectacular scenery near the airport, just beyond The Farm at Hokuala and Ninini Point Lighthouse.
With a nice sunset and cool breeze, the talkative group took a photo break and enjoyed the view at Ahukini.
Zimmerman, who has lived here seven years, generally rides around Kilauea, but decided to try Bikes on Rice.
He was glad he did.
Cycling allows him to cover a lot of ground in good company.
“You see things on a bicycle you just don’t see any other way,” he said.
Bikes on Rice is described as a series of relaxed, free neighborhood rides in and around Lihu‘e intended for people of all abilities and ages to enjoy bicycling. The rides are designed “to promote, educate and encourage advocacy for safe and fun bicycling throughout our community.”
It did just that as folks pedaled along Saturday, some powered by rentals from Eco e-bikes Kaua‘i on Rice Street.
They are part of a wave of a nationwide cycling.
According to Statista, cycling has steadily increased in the U.S. In 2020, more than 52 million people in the U.S. rode bikes, up from 39 million in 2006.
Hot and humid Kaua‘i is not exactly cyclist friendly. It has some designated bike lanes, but not many. To ride on some highway stretches, with a few feet of speeding vehicles, can be risky.
But there is safety out there.
Some popular routes on Kaua‘i are the Ke Ala Hele Makalae in Kapa‘a. There’s the 3.25-mile loop road near The Ocean Course at Hokuala. There are some noncrowded streets around Po‘ipu and Lihu‘e.
Noyes believes cycling is becoming common on Kaua‘i. Drivers are getting used to sharing the roads, and the county has designated bike lanes.
Cyclists know to be alert.
“Car back,” someone shouts as a vehicle approaches the Bikes on Rice group.
Noyes said the inspiration for Bikes on Rice came from what was called the “Slow Roll,” a weekly bike ride in Detroit.
Bikes on Rice is held the second Saturday of each month. It used to be on Tuesdays, but switched to Saturdays to coincide with the nearby Kress Street Night Market off Rice Street, and because it gave more people a chance to join in.
Bikes on Ride coincided with grant-funded efforts to revitalize Rice Street and make it more cyclist and pedestrian friendly.
“Part of this is to hold on to this historic urban core and not have it deteriorate,” Noyes aid. “It’s all part of a pride of place movement.”
Many such programs start with good intentions, but gradually fade away as people find easier things to do. Not Bikes on Rice.
It’s showing it is possible to safely navigate short trips around the island on two wheels. Electric bikes offer ease of pedal-assist or even will do the work for you.
And with the price of gas, cycling makes even more sense. It’s clean, efficient transportation that can easily get people to work, the store or the beach.
A goal is to create a connection between where people live and where they want to go.
“It’s creating more comfort for people interested in biking but nervous about going out,” Noyes said.
Saturday’s ride was one of the better ones for Bikes on Rice, with a jovial, spirited group.
Edoardo and Racquel Segato-Figueroa returned to Bikes on Rices with their 1-year-old dog, Tobi, riding in a basket on the front handlebars with Edoardo.
Racquel said she has lived on Kaua‘i more than 20 years, and with the help of her bike is still discovering new places.
She enjoyed Saturday’s course that included a paved stretch just outside the airport and near the ocean.
“So cool,” she said. “A great adventure.”
Edoardo said the group previously visited the Menehune Fishpond.
“You can drive there, but you don’t experience it in the same way,” he said.
Palmer Hafdahl believes cycling will gain in popularity. He referred to it as “a preview of the path to come.”
Before Dan and Lora Petrak moved to Kaua‘i, Lora raced mountain bikes. So when they heard about Bikes on Rice, they were in.
They have since seen places they would otherwise have not.
“We needed to get out on the island,” Lora Petrak said. “This is a great way to get to know the island.”
Dan Petrak said they met good people on the rides, too.
“We wound up meeting new friends that we hang out with all the time,” Lora said.
The next Bikes on Rice is 4:30 p.m. July 9, starting at Kalena Park.
Zimmerman hopes to be there.
“I can’t wait to ride my bicycle on this island more,” he said.
Source: The Garden Island