August 1, 2017

9 Tips to Plan a Preservation Bike Ride

The bike ride rode past Cincinnati's Union Terminal, a National Treasure.

photo by: Cincinnati Preservation Collective

Cincinnati Preservation Collective took their group to Union Terminal, one of the Trust's National Treasures.

What do Preservation Month and Bike Month have in common? They’re both celebrated in May! And what better way than to celebrate saving places and a love of biking with a preservation bike ride? While you get bonus points if you host one in May, you can do one any time of year.

Though you can't go wrong with a standard walking tour around a historic neighborhood, a bike ride offers a unique perspective. Derek Scacchetti, who has organized the Cincinnati Preservation Collective's (CPC) bike rides since 2014, notes that each ride introduces "a new sense of place with every tour that is quite different than you can have in a car, but you can see more in a small time frame than on foot."

Don't worry if you are not a serious biker. A preservation bike ride can be tailored to fit a diverse group of people to make sure that everyone is having a good time—and will learn a few things about preservation in the process. Read below for our tips on how to plan your own preservation bike ride.

1. Safety first.

Before you even sit down to plan the route, make safety a priority. Because people who show up will be an eclectic mix with varying biking experience, it’s imperative to give everyone a refresher on bike safety.

Plan on having a leader and a sweeper. A sweeper is a person who will hang back to make sure that everyone is staying together and that there aren’t any stragglers. It’s a good idea for the leader and sweeper to wear high-visibility safety vests. Not only will this keep motorists aware of the group, but the attendees will easily know who’s in charge.

The leader and sweeper should have working knowledge of bike safety rules and plan on enforcing them. This includes using hand signals, obeying traffic signals, and passing riders on the left after audibly notifying them.

Choose an obvious meeting point, like a town square.

photo by: Cincinnati Preservation Collective

CPC met up in Fountain Square, an easily accessible point.

2. Pick a theme.

The tour will be more cohesive if there is a guiding theme. The Cincinnati Preservation Collective, which has been conducting yearly preservation bike rides since 2014, has thought of a variety of different themes, from downtown historic districts to preservation works in progress. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to contact your local preservation organization to see if they have any suggestions for stops along the way.

3. Decide the route.

Consider a route that loops back to the starting point. That way, if people go off on their own or stop for whatever reason, they know where everyone is going to end up.

You shouldn’t hold the bike ride until you and other people involved in planning it have done a trial run. This will help you know how long it should take, how many hills or physically challenging areas there are, and where people can put their bikes if you’re planning on going inside any buildings.

4. Know the limits.

A preservation bike ride should be a fun experience, not a challenging workout. Keep hills to a minimum and consider that the average pace of a bike ride (10 mph) will be a bit slower with a group.

A good rule of thumb is to limit your bike tour to no more than 15 miles.

Try to keep the stops to five to seven within an hour to avoid tiring people out.

Include buildings with important or personal histories in the tour.

photo by: Cincinnati Preservation Collective

The blue corner building used to be home to the Brighton Bicycle Club in Cincinnati.

5. Prepare information beforehand.

Consider making a PDF with a map, the route, and the stops planned. This will be helpful in case some people hang back or get lost (though hopefully that won’t happen!). A PDF is also a great place to include photos and additional information for people to read on their own time.

6. Consider involving the owners of the buildings.

Depending on the sites you're planning on including in your ride, there may be people who work in or own the buildings. Contact them beforehand to see if they’d be willing to give people a quick tour (your local preservation society can also help with this). Switching up the bike tour with a quick walking tour will keep everyone interested and alert.

7. Partner with a local bike share program.

Not everyone interested in participating in the bike ride will own their own bikes. A local bike share program can help out with that. Additionally, if they advertise the bike ride on their own social channels, there’s a chance people may show up who know little about preservation but love the idea of biking around their neighborhoods. It's a great opportunity to share your love of historic preservation and old buildings to a new crowd.

Grab a spoke card before heading out on the bike ride.

photo by: Cincinnati Preservation Collective

A laminated spoke card.

8. Have fun and be creative.

Before you head out, hand people spoke cards. These laminated cards fit between your spokes and are a fun way to commemorate your bike ride.

You can also make the bike ride more entertaining by attaching a small wireless radio or speaker to your bike with a bungee cord. This way, the group can listen to music in the background while riding around.

9. Meet up when it’s over.

After you conclude your bike route, invite everyone for a drink at a local bar or some place similar. People can get to know each other better, talk about what they liked best on the tour, and you can get a feel for how the bike ride went.

Thanks to Diana Tisue (past coordinator of CPC's bike rides and current National Trust employee), Derek Scacchetti (CPC), Katy Sawyer (Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh), Sarah Masrom (Young Ohio Preservationists), and Michael Panzitta (Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh) for contributing their thoughts to this Toolkit.

Meghan White Headshot

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

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