River Festival A Chance To Highlight All Things Greenway And Outdoors

Get out and bike: Ride Solutions’ Jeremy Holmes.

by Gene Marrano

Held in conjunction with the Down By The River concert next door, the annual Roanoke River Greenway Festival turned out to be a rather soggy affair last Saturday. Celebrating the valley’s greenways, multi-use trails and bike paths, the event featured booths from Roanoke City Parks & Recreation, RoanokeOutdoors.com and several local outfitters that cater to outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Rainy weather kept the number of people stopping by down considerably, according to several of those on hand.

Jeremy Holmes, RIDE Solutions Coordinator of Sustainability Programs (Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission) was on hand to promote May as National Bike Month. The Roanoke area kicked off its participation with the Mayor’s Bike Ride several weekends ago.

As part of the Bike Month event, RIDE Solutions has received over 300 pledges to “commute clean” on one or more Fridays in May, resulting in 5,500 miles being taken off the road and 6,500 pounds of greenhouse gases not being emitted into the atmosphere.  Commuters can take the pledge throughout the month, promising to use a clean commute mode every Friday – carpool, bus, bike, walk, or telecommute.

The Clean Commute Challenge, according to Ride Solutions, “is one of the air quality initiatives of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission.  May marks the beginning of the traditional ozone pollution season.  Ground level ozone – or smog – is the Roanoke Valley’s most significant air quality challenge, and vehicle emissions are a significant contributor to this type of air pollution.”

National Bike Month fits the bill nicely: “bicycles are always a huge part of that [challenge],” said Holmes. Partnerships with local businesses like Fork in the City and Tudor’s Biscuit World have helped encourage clean commuters to take part.

That pledge also gives them an entry into a prize drawing, including entries into the BonnaRoanoke contest from 101.5 The Music Place to win tickets to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. (see www.bikeroanoke.com/events) for more information. This is the second year that Ride Solutions has been involved with a Roanoke version of National Bike Month. “Every year we try to get more partnerships [for Bike Month],” noted Holmes.  The website also includes a series of safe bike path maps and the locations of bicycle racks around the valley.

This Saturday (May 21) at 10am in Grandin Village a sculptural bike rack will be dedicated in conjunction with the Roanoke Arts Commission. Following that an “Art By Bike” guided bike tour will cruise by some of the public art pieces now on display at various outdoor venues in the city. All are welcome to join the Art By Bike tour.

“People will ride their bikes and learn a little bit about each piece,” said Holmes. “This [event] reinforces the idea that cycling is fun and interesting. We’re all excited about it.” There is also a film festival on May 28 at the Shadowbox (Kirk Avenue Music Hall), featuring biking-related short pieces produced by local amateur filmmakers.

Holmes was philosophical about the rainy weather that held down attendance at the Greenway Festival booths, and at other events that took place in Wasena and Smith Parks (Wiley Drive.) “When you are an outside community you have to accept that. The weather doesn’t always cooperate.” Several hundred runners also braved that weather to take part in the Gallop for the Greenways 5K run, which started and ended at the River’s Edge complex.