Exposing cyclists to the River to Sea route is the continued purpose of the 25th annual River to Sea Bike Ride, a free community ride that also promotes bicycle safety.
The event, scheduled for Saturday, May 3, has grown to include more than 300 cyclists in recent years. In 2013, the ride transformed into a group ride, with more experienced riders staying as part of the pack for safety.
“It started as a bike route awareness ride. We wanted to make sure that people in the community understood that there are places that you can ride a bike relatively safely,” said Chris O’Keefe, county planning director who has participated in the River to Sea Bike Ride for 24 years. “For the last 10 or 12 years, it’s been a police escorted very safe kind of family ride that features that great route between downtown and the beach and has been a lot of fun.”
The River to Sea Bikeway is 11 miles, with portions of the route on and off the road. The route follows the Historic Beach Car Line, where a trolley ran from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach.
Katie Ryan, Wrightsville Beach parks and recreation program supervisor, said the ride allows participants to experience the River to Sea route if they never have before, riding through Forest Hills and other new areas.
A couple of tricky portions of the ride are crossing the Bradley Creek Bridge and the new grating on the Heide Trask Drawbridge to Wrightsville Beach. Cyclists must walk their bikes across the sidewalks of the Heide Trask Drawbridge.
“We also thought it was a good opportunity to teach people about bicycle safety, about rules of the road and how you’re supposed to ride when you’re on the road,” O’Keefe said. “… You have to be responsible for your own safety. We go through some safe riding practices; that you ride on the right side of the road, you don’t take up the vehicle lanes, you stop at all of the intersections and look both ways before you proceed.”
Participants will meet in downtown Wilmington on Front Street in front of Bailey Theater Park at 8 a.m. to register. The ride begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at Wrightsville Beach Park, where there will be refreshments, door prizes and T-shirts for sale.
“When you get onto Park Avenue on the eastside of College, it’s just a really long, nice stretch of roadway with not a lot of intersections or traffic,” O’Keefe said.
Helmets are required, and there will be some extra helmets available.
From May 12-18, the Cape Fear Region is celebrating Bike to Work week, promoting bicycling as a mode of transportation.
Several local entities submitted a collaborative grant application Thursday, April 17 to fund the Watch For Me NC campaign. If approved, the grant would pay for law enforcement training and educational materials, said Karyn Crichton, New Hanover County long range planner.
The grant is a collaborative effort between the New Hanover County Sheriff’s, City of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach and Carolina Beach Police departments and the North Carolina Department of Transportation State Highway Patrol.
“I feel like somebody knows somebody who’s gotten hit while they were on their bike, it seems. It does happen all too frequently,” Crichton said. “We’ve mapped out some of the hotspot areas.”
Many crashes happen at least 50 feet or more away from intersections, she said.
NCDOT will select grant recipients by the end of May. If chosen, law enforcement training would begin this summer with the campaign launched in conjunction with the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.