Bike 2 Work Day a ‘wheel’ good time for commuters

HANCOCK – For the sixth year, hundreds of people in the Keweenaw passed up a car or bus to travel to school or work under their own power.

Stations were set up in Houghton, Hancock, Calumet and Lake Linden for the annual Keweenaw Bike 2 Work Day.

Ray Sharp, community planning and preparedness manager for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, said this year’s riders are expected to top the 300 who came out last year. The two new sites at Portage Health and Michigan Technological University helped, he said. So did the efforts of volunteers, who did everything from posters to media to social networking.

“I think we had more turn out than last year, and good weather, and a lot of volunteers,” he said. “It was a successful day.”

Riders could stop in to pick up a healthy snack or pick up items such as reflective lights. Experts were also on hand to perform basic bike check-ups and repairs.

Chris Peer stopped by the station across from Portage Health before arriving at work. The Portage Health employee has a quick ride from his home, only blocks away.

In good weather, he’ll bike to work about half the time – “depends on who drives the kids to school in the morning.”

“I ride the trails because it’s fun,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt my knees, which is way more fun than running.”

Heather Kinnunen made a longer commute to Hancock from her home in Laurium.

“I like it just to commute, just for the exercise,” she said. “It makes me feel good. It’s nice to go places self-powered.”

Thursday afternoon, Lorri Oikarinen of Cross Country Sports was handing out granola bars and prizes at the booth outside the store.

Oikarinen estimated more than 100 students had ridden their bicycles to school in Calumet. Students from Calumet Elementary School had also gone to the pump track at Agassiz Park in the afternoon, where Cross Country Sports employee Pete Karinen had done a bicycle demonstration.

“I think it’s a great initiative to get people to find out how much fun it is and how easy it is to commute, get around and ride,” she said.

Even after Bike 2 Work Week finishes, riders can still take part in the National Bike Challenge, in which communities compete for the biggest ridership per capita. So far, Painesdale and Atlantic Mine are in the top 12 nationally, Sharp said. Anyone interested can register at through Sept. 30.

“They log miles every day for their bike trip, whether recreational or commuting,” Sharp said.