COLUMBIA — Written in the dirt next to a big smiley face along the side of a Chevrolet Malibu was the message: “Ride a bike please.”
The car was parked between the temporary bike racks and the sign-in table at Shiloh Bar and Grill on Friday morning as part of the 10th annual Bike, Walk and Wheel Week. The week's event began May 14.
The PedNet Coalition started the program in 2002 to celebrate active transportation and includes a free breakfast on the way to school or work. The stations were located at 11 sites throughout Columbia and were open from 7 to 9 a.m., with two “early bird” stations starting at 6:30 a.m.
By 7 a.m., about 15 people had been to the station at the MKT Trail at Forum Boulevard, said Ian Thomas, executive director of PedNet.
Thomas said registration would continue through the weekend, so the numbers are unknown. He said he expected a decline in registration this year because of a decreased budget and, namely, no free T-shirts.
“We didn’t get swamped because we didn’t have T-shirts to give away,” Thomas said. “The huge draw was the shirts.”
This year, funding fell from $108,000 to $5,000 because of the loss of the GetAbout Columbia federal grant. The budget for T-shirts last year was $15,192.
Thomas was riding to different breakfast stations with the Smithton Middle School Bike Brigade, a PedNet program that encourages students to bike to school together. He said many participants had special permission to arrive at school up to 90 minutes late.
Nick Orazio, a seventh-grader at Smithton, said he has biked to school with the brigade every Friday for three years, and he always looks forward to the free breakfasts.
Nick’s father, Carl Orazio, was also riding with the brigade on Friday morning.
“This always inspires me to get on the trail and ride to work,” he said.