Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve North Okaloosa residents’ quality of life.
CRESTVIEW — One group’s bicyclists regularly meet to ride together and raise safety awareness. But it wasn’t always that way.
Many people see traffic on U.S. Highway 90 and State Road 85 and rule out bicycling, according to Crestview Community Cycling Club President Miguel Davila.
"Everybody said the same thing: 'There's nowhere to ride in Crestview,” he said. “Outside the city limits, there are plenty of places to ride. We got everybody together and showed them the routes we do have," he said.
Davila, a disabled veteran and owner of the Chained Concepts bicycle shop in Crestview, is a certified League of American Bicyclists instructor. "They teach you how to route plan, how to conduct a ride, what obstacles to look for on the road … it's basically like going through a driving course," Davila said of the league.
Group riding raises safety awareness for bicyclists and motorists. A group is more visible on roadways and drivers pay more attention than they do to an individual rider, according to Davila.
The club, also called C4, ensures beginner bicyclists learn the rules of the road. Advanced bicyclists learn to take their riding to the next level, whether they're an experienced rider wanting to use their bicycle as transportation to work, or a professional seeking to improve speed and times. They also learn bike maintenance; traffic maneuverability; and increasing and improving personal riding skills.
The club started in 2014 with four members and currently has about 42 at all ages and experience levels. The group has regular meetings, sets group rides, and participates in non-local rides.
Group member Ronnie Austin lists getting out in the countryside, relaxation and physical fitness as some reasons for riding. The other is, "If you have a knee problem and you get properly fitted on your bike, it's one thing to help your knees. Another thing is I can't run anymore. It’s the best thing you can do as far as losing weight and it's not taxing on your body. I started doing triathlons and really like it, but I got to where I couldn't run."
He and his wife, Annie, are regular bicyclists who also take bike-riding excursions in other states. The trips are organized events on set routes that are anywhere from 10 miles to more than 100.
So, what’s the biggest challenge for bicyclists?
"The weather, really; dealing with the elements,” he said. “Wind as a cyclist can be a cyclist's nightmare."
He said the way the weather goes from clear to sudden thunderstorms makes finding immediate shelter a necessity.
However, "People are pretty nice,” he said. “If they see you're a bike rider, they're not going to run you off or anything if you pull up underneath their awning.”
WANT TO JOIN?
C4 membership costs $30 per year for insurance and other club costs. Apply at Chained Concepts, 2500 Ferdon Blvd. S., or at the company’s Facebook page.