by Denise Cohen
When I was about four-years-old my dad bought me first bicycle. It was not a little bike with sissy bars and a banana seat, a design popular with kids of that era, but a big, blue, hardware store special without training wheels roughly the size of a beach cruiser. I no longer remember if my feet actually reached the pedals. My dad ran alongside at first, and within days I was darting around with the banana seat crew. I took a few spills, suffered skinned knees and elbows, standard injuries for the pint-sized novice rider.
As a kid, biking was little more than transportation to a friend's house or to the corner market to buy a candy bar. It would be decades before I would choose bicycling for exercise and recreation. I discovered Potomac Pedalers in 1991 or maybe ’92. At the time, I was a serious rock climber and biked for aerobic fitness only. I think I found a copy of the Pedal Patter at the Bicycle Place in Silver Spring. (I still have the bike that I bought there in 1992, a 7-speed Trek 1200 that I rode on Pedaler's rides till I got a much nicer custom steel Serotta in 2005. The Trek 1200 has long since been demoted to commuter status. My favorite bike these days is my carbon Madone.)
It was my love of our local rural landscape that inspired me to volunteer for the Pedalers. I love to lead rides in the rural parts of Montgomery County. When I learned that that the Agricultural (or “Ag”) Reserve, one of our most popular places to ride, was in danger of being developed with strip malls, dense housing and traffic, I wondered if cyclists could mobilize to stop it. In 2006, I joined the board of Montgomery Countryside Alliance, a group that advocates to preserve the Ag Reserve’s rural character. With their support and the support of the Pedalers, I launched the first Montgomery County Farm Tour, a ride I created to introduce the concept of the Ag Reserve to the biking community. My hope was that the bike community would agree that the Ag Reserve was a resource worth protecting. Starting with 63 riders in Fall of 2007, the event has now become one of the most popular events in the region. Last year’s Farm Tour attracted more than 550 riders. (Read an article on last year’s Farm Tour in the November 2015 issue of Pedal Patter, available online.) My hope is that when Montgomery Countryside Alliance calls upon us to battle a plan that threatens the Ag Reserve, cyclists will step up and blanket the County Council and the Planning Board with letters of support. Keeping the “Ag in the Ag Reserve” ensures that the biking community with have a beautiful place to ride for generations to come.
Want to lead a ride but not sure what to do? We can pair you with a Ride Leader Mentor or someone to co-lead a ride with you. Contact Martine Palmiter or Linda Kolko for details.