Ann Fisher Article Highlights WAD's Third Thursday Rides

Dispatch columnist Ann Fisher is quickly becoming one of our best friends, isn't she! Fisher's latest bike-related column not only highlighted the fun and exercise of a bike commute, she also called attention to the need for better-thought-out bike trails and to one of the fine advocacy rides we have in Columbus: the WAD Third Thursday Ride.

Read the article and send a thank you note to Fisher for bringing some positive attention to cycling!
Cyclists pedaling for new bike trail
Friday, October 17, 2008 3:14 AM
By Ann Fisher

We met at a Worthington crossroads. A light but steady rain had turned the early-morning darkness into a glittering collage of reflected headlights, brake lights, street lights, traffic lights and -- just a few -- blinking bicycle lights.

Ours were among them as we pedaled across Rt. 161 to the Olentangy Bikeway and into Downtown on the Third Thursday bicycle-commuter ride in support of the Westerville to Arena District Bikeway.

Brett Allen, a violist for the Columbus Symphony, returns to rehearsals today; but last month, he organized the first Third Thursday ride, the goal being to attract attention to the nonprofit group that is working to create a bikeway on an abandoned rail grade running through the Northeast Side.

Allen said the proposed route is ideal for commuters from the Westerville area, who now are forced to use city streets, for the most part, across the northern reaches of Franklin County before getting to the Olentangy Bikeway.

In September, the Third Thursday riders confronted felled trees and other debris from the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

Yesterday, 49-year-old Allen and I pedaled together the 10 miles from the Worthington checkpoint to Downtown. All along the way, Allen stopped at other checkpoints, looking for latecomers.

But there were no others. Maybe we should have been disappointed, but the weather was almost perfect for the ride.

A half-hour in, the rain changed to a light mist; and by the time we hit the 3rd Street bridge, the damp was gone with the dawn.

When you're riding a bicycle by the Olentangy River, you can hear the lapping waves and smell the particular aroma of autumn in the trees and the earth. And as we traveled the path around the Ohio State University campus, we were lucky enough to come upon an ROTC training exercise. (At least, I felt lucky when I realized that they were holding imaginary rifles.)

And I had some good news to share: Tacked on to the $700 billion (plus pork) bailout bill was a change in the U.S. tax code that will credit companies when they pay a monthly stipend to workers who commute by bicycle.

The Bicycle Commuter Act takes effect Jan. 1.

Dispatch reporter Tim Doulin wrote yesterday that U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, had worked for several years to add bicycle commuting to other voluntary, tax-exempt work benefits, such as parking.

The employer decides who merits the benefit and can offer merchandise vouchers instead of cash.

And before those among you who oppose the bailout get on your high horses, you should know that Blumenauer voted against it, even with the tax change for bicycle commuters that he had championed.

So, it looks like Congress did the right thing in this case regardless.

It must be the bicycle gods.

Let's hope that they also favor the bikeway the Westerville to Arena District group has proposed.

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Ann Fisher is a Dispatch Metro columnist. She can be reached at 614-461-8759 or by e-mail.

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