Hawaii has some of the best weather in the world year-round, yet we struggle with improving our infrastructure to the point that it would motivate more people to bicycle to their destinations.

The Leeward Bike Path, scheduled for completion in 2003, still has not been started. The Oahu Master Bike Plan, which was released in draft form in July 2009, needs to go through city council for final approval. And at the state level, Hawaii is tied for second to last in the United States for the amount of federal Safe Routes to School funding obligated through June 30, 2012, and is dead last in the amount of awards announced.

On the other side of the world, in a little country that occasionally has snow, the bicycle commute rate is about 50 percent in town and about 33
percent from the suburbs. That country is the home of Copenhagen, where a bike superhighway 14 miles long recently opened. Transportation leaders in that country hope to increase the bicycle commute rate from suburbs to town to 50 percent.

In another country thousands of miles southeast of Hawaii, approximately 75 miles of roadways are closed to motorized traffic each week. Over a million people participate in Bogota, Columbia’s, weekly ciclovias. (Ciclavias translates into English as “bike paths,” and are often referred to as “car-free days” or “open streets” on the Mainland.) In addition to providing bicyclists and pedestrians usage of the roads free of motorized traffic, these events include a variety of physical activities such as aerobics classes, dancing and yoga. The benefits of these events go well beyond improving health and include positive impacts on the environment, the economy and society in general.

In an effort to encourage people to become more physically active on Oahu and to demonstrate how easy it can be to take short trips via bike, several bicyclists and community members have been busy over the past eight months planning Hawaii’s first cyclovia (spelled with a “y” to tie to “cycling”). Hele On Kailua will be held Sunday, August 26, and will be kicked off with the Hele On Kailua 5k run at 10 a.m. Escorted rides will be available from Hekili Street to Enchanted Lake Community Park and the Hawaii Marine Corps Base. Bicycling skills 123 for youth will be taught at the park.

Other activities include zumba, a boot camp class, children’s games, wellness tests, yoga and BMX demonstrations and bike maintenance. Bike shops and various other vendors will provide information on healthy living and active lifestyles. The Cycle On Runway will provide a spotlight for bike shops and clubs as well as race teams to describe their services to the public. Unusual bikes will be highlighted to show the variety of options available to those who might not be interested in the high-tech bikes frequently seen on our roadways.

The timing of this event also provides an opportunity for the public to learn about healthy and active transportation from a national expert. Gary Toth, Director, Transportation Initiatives with the Project for Public Spaces, will be assisting county and state transportation planners with implementation of Complete Streets policies the week of August 26 and will give cyclovia participants an overview of ways to integrate transportation and land use.

It took decades for us to move from play-in-the-streets days and a bike- and walk-to-school rate of 48 percent among children 5 to 14 years old to only 13 percent in 2009.1

It will likely take as long to return to those levels. In order to help hasten that change, we need to provide a variety of opportunities to promote and encourage biking and other physical activities. I therefore encourage others to join us for Hawaii’s first cyclovia and take a test ride in one of the many activities available on that day.

More information on Hele On Kailua can be found at HawaiiCyclovia.org or on Facebook at Cyclovia-Hawaii.

About the author: Natalie Iwasa, aka Bike Mom, lives in Honolulu. She is a certified public accountant, president of Cycle On Hawaii, League Cycling Instructor and member of the Hawaii Bicycling League and has been advocating on behalf of bicyclists for more than five years.

  1. The National Center for Safe Routes to School (2011). How Children Get to School: School Travel Patterns from 1969 to 2009.