For more than 60 years, Americans have celebrated cycling in the month of May.

Bicycles don’t require gas, and they can be a great form of exercise. The League of American Bicyclists started National Bike Month in 1956 to showcase the health, financial and eco-friendly benefits of cycling.

Since then, National Bike to Work Week has become a fixture during the month. This year, it will fall on May 15 to 19 — next week.

Want to give cycling a try, but haven’t been on a bike since grade school? Lodi has a friendly cycling community that is willing to help, or meet up with dedicated cyclists on the city’s Bike to Work Day on May 25.

Lodi has become known as a great spot for cyclists, said Nancy Beckman, president and CEO of Visit Lodi!

Both residents and tourists have been hitting the roads on bikes, she said, especially as more wineries incorporate cycling events.

“They really love riding through the vineyards. It’s very scenic,” Beckman said.

A new sight in Downtown Lodi are six bike racks emblazoned with “BIKE LODI” — donated by the cycling advocacy group of the same name. They join other racks throughout Downtown, including the bookworm outside the Lodi Public Library.

“We’re very excited,” said Mary Pell, who with her husband Jeff is a core member of the group. The group worked with sponsors Dave Kirsten and Sam Rehmke to purchase the racks. The city donated the labor to install them.

Bike Lodi started in 2015 to offer input from a cycling perspective on Lodi city planning and tourism.

“A group of local cyclists were asked to put together some bike routes that could help generate another aspect of tourism on a local level,” Jeff Pell said.

They created a map of 10 routes in the city, which can be found at Visit Lodi! and the city’s bike shops.

They added each of those routes to Ride with GPS, a phone app for cyclists and cycling tourism, plus about 10 more.

“There are many more routes than are published (on the map). We just picked the top 10,” Mary Pell said.

Don’t have a bike? Have a bike, but don’t want to ride alone? Downtown Lodi’s bike shops have you covered.

“We rent cruisers and townies,” said Kai Jon, an employee at Downtown Bicycles.

They go for $40 for an eight-hour day, or $25 for a four-hour half-day.

“We also do it by hourly, which is $15 an hour,” he said.

Renters have no limits on where they can ride, as long as they get the bike back to the shop on time. A lot of people use the Bike Lodi map to decide on a route, or they head to Lodi Lake or Woodbridge, Jon said.

At Lodi’s Bike Shop, rentals of road bikes or tandem bikes are available on a limited basis. Road bikes are $65 per day and tandems are $45, but if the bikes aren’t returned to the shop by closing, riders are charged for an additional day, said Jon Tallerico, the shop’s owner.

However, Lodi’s Bike Shop is more of a family shop than a bike rental destination, Tallerico said.

“In terms of our day-to-day bike shop operations, the majority of our service is maintenance and repair,” he said.

He’ll be offering some guidance and advice on bike maintenance — whether a top-end bike or a department store or yard sale find — at Lodi’s Bike to Work Day event.

Both shops having cycling group events on a regular basis. Tallerico’s shop hosts an “easy-pace road ride” every Monday at 8:30 a.m. and a faster-paced ride on Thursday evenings at 6 p.m.

“The Thursday night ride is geared more toward experienced road cyclists,” Tallerico said.

Downtown Bicycles hosts Saturday morning rides throughout the summer, and this year’s series will kick off sometime in June, Jon said. The rides usually begin around 7 a.m. and go up to 30 miles, he said.

The shop’s owners also offer guided winery tours with a six-person minimum, he said.

“We go out to four or five different wineries,” Jon said.

Riding safely

Before you take your cruiser out on the road, it’s a great idea to review the rules and make sure you’re taking proper safety precautions.

“No. 1: Always wear a helmet. I am a firm believer in always wearing helmets,” City Manager Steve Schwabauer said.

Schwabauer doesn’t ride to work, but he does ride as a hobby. Most of the time, he finds it to be a lot of fun, but in 2012 he was injured during a charity fundraiser ride. If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, he could have been much more badly hurt, he said.

“Be well-lit. Make sure you have a good, strong headlight and a good, strong taillight and that they’re firmly attached to your bike,” he added.

The Pells agreed that cyclists should use headlights and taillights and be sure that drivers on the road can see them.

They also need to be aware of their surroundings, such as not riding too close to parked cars, Jeff Pell said. Someone inside the car might open a door without seeing a bike coming, and the cyclist could ride into it.

If cyclists plan to try riding to work this coming week, they should plan out their route in advance and ride it once or twice without a time fact, Schwabauer said. They way, riders can spot any potential road hazards.

“It’s one thing to hop on a bike and go somewhere when you’re not in a hurry, but when you’re in a hurry, you might not have your eyes on potholes, you might not have your eyes on sewer grates,” he said.

It’s also a good idea to find where bike lanes are — and are not — located in Lodi, the Pells said.

“One of the things we’re working on with the city is what we call connectivity,” Jeff Pell said,

Some streets in Lodi have excellent bike lanes, but they cut off. For example, Church Street has a bike lane between Kettleman Lane and Lodi Avenue, but north of Lodi Avenue it disappears. Elm Street has a bike lane that disappears as cyclists travel east into Downtown Lodi.

Often, casual and less confident cyclists will ride on the sidewalk if no bike lane is available, Jeff Pell said.

While bike lanes don’t prevent all accidents, they do offer a space for cyclists with a buffer against road traffic.

Bike Lodi is working with the city to get more bike lanes and connect existing ones.

They also want to educate cyclists — and drivers — about sharing the road and traveling safely.

“If you’re going to ride, a bicycle has to obey the same rules that an automobile does. You stop at stop signs, you stop at stop lights, you yield to pedestrians,” Jeff Pell said.

Cyclists have the same right to the road, but they have the responsibility of following the laws.

And motorists have the responsibility of keeping an eye out for cyclists and keeping at least three feet of distance, required by state law, he said.

“I really feel like one of the major goals of our group is just to make Lodi a safer cycling place for everyone,” Mary Pell said. “A lot of people would cycle if they felt safer. We have level ground here, it’s easy to cycle, we have great weather, but we really need better infrastructure.”

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