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Bicyclists take to the road to prove point

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A group of bicyclists took the road Friday evening to prove an important point ­ they have the right to use the road, too.

The ride, spanning about six miles, was a part of a national movement called Critical Mass, a movement to bring bicycle awareness around the country that began in San Francisco.

It started at the fountain at Ritter Park and made a loop around Huntington, passing heavily populated areas such as Pullman Square on Third Avenue. The group will meet every third Friday of the month.

“We want to help the people of Huntington realize the streets are for everybody,” said Jesse Stevens, the owner of Velocity Bicycles. “Hopefully we’ll motivate some people to get on board.”

Stevens said that bike accidents are a growing problem in Huntington. Some bicyclists even claimed that cars have tried to intentionally run them off the road.

“I’m sick of getting purposely ran off the roads in Huntington,” said Alexis Stewart, a local rider. “I’ve seriously had my tire bumped up against at least twice.”

Stevens said that he had broken his neck after a car hit him.

“A lot of people do get hit by cars around here,” he said.

David Mullins, the store manager of Jeff’s Bike Shop, said he attributes the accident problem with a general lack of awareness that bicyclists have a right to the road and a lack of safety consciousness among new riders in the area.

With about 75 riders showing up, Stevens said the turnout was great for a first time effort. Mullins was also thrilled with the amount of people that showed up.

“We were surprised and grateful and amazed at how many citizens came out,” he said, explaining that they had expected between 40 and 50 riders. “We’re anticipating more next time around.”

“This is a growing city and there are a lot of people who would love to ride their bikes,” said Jesse Clark, a Huntington native. He said that he hopes seeing this large of a group riding around, more people will be encouraged to start riding.

“We think it’s a good thing for the community,” Mullins said, speaking on behalf of Jeff’s Bike Shop.

Stevens said that weight is an issue in Huntington, and riding is a great way to combat that. He also said that anyone who has thought about riding should at least give it a try.

“Just come,” he said. “If you were thinking about it and you think it sounds good, just come.”

Mullins also said that residents should not be intimidated by the term “cyclist” and that there is no particular skill level needed to come out.

“It’s not really a cyclist so much as people who have a bike and want to come ride,” he said. “If you have a human powered wheeled vehicle, just come out.”

Anyone interested in finding more information can call Jeff’s Bike Shop at (304) 522-2453 or Velocity Bicycles at (304) 522- 4041.

“It’s just freedom on a bike,” Mullins said.