The gasps were audible over the Ironweed Bluegrass Band as Mike Bowman rolled up on his gleaming Schwinn Black Phantom replica. The wheel inserts mesmerized those gathered, gyring in the spiderweb of spokes.
The sight attracted Rocky Isaac, evoking memories from a boyhood of endless cycling. “If you had one of these, you were the toast of the town,” Isaac said.
The Phantom appeared at the concert as the sixth annual Bike, Walk and Wheel Week wrapped up Saturday at Stephens Lake Park, with an unprecedented 3,400 Columbians pledging to decrease car use by incorporating more walking and cycling into their week.
Organizers are hoping to create a host of memories analogous to Isaac’s as they encourage Columbians to think of walking or cycling before hopping in the car for shorter journeys around town.
“We are targeting people who are making journeys of two miles or less, journeys that could easily be biked or walked in a city like Columbia,’ said Ian Thomas, executive director of the PedNet Coalition. “Bike, Walk and Wheel Week is truly the one event in Columbia that is open to everybody.”
The peak of this year’s record participation was on Friday morning when 10 breakfast stations around town saw a total of 1,150 visits by Columbians. Walkers and cyclists took part in the complimentary nourishment provided by local restaurants and grocers and took time to get to know their fellow cycling and walking enthusiasts. The Colosseum Bistro saw the largest crowd, with 400 people stopping by between 6 and 9 a.m. for biscuits and gravy, bagels, scones, eggs and coffee.
Elementary school students participated in record numbers through school sponsored events, including the schoolwide walk at Lee Elementary School.
The week also included a bike giveaway, health and fitness expo, road safety classes, a downtown treasure hunt, poker ride and biking garden tour.
Mayor Hindman, who founded the event in 2002, declared this year’s event, “the most successful Bike, Walk and Wheel Week however you measure it,” during his comments at the wrap-up rally. “This is good for our community, good for the environment, and it saves us money.”