by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – Members of the Strong and Focused Triathlon Club held their first-ever Bike and Vote event at the North Mecklenburg Library early polling station on Oct. 27.

Organizer Chris Boggiano said the non-partisan event, which attracted roughly 15 bikers despite inclement weather, was to promote voter registration and increase awareness of a need for more bike lanes in the area.

“The impetus for this (event) was there’s a large cycling community in the area,” he said.

“So the idea was that everybody (from Strong and Focused) shows up in their bike gear to greet the voters and politicians and raise awareness (for voting) and bike safety. I don’t care whether somebody (registers to vote) Republican, Democrat or Independent, we just wanted more people to be active.”

The cyclists who participated reached a large audience.  The library’s early polling station had a 40-minute wait and a line outside the building as cyclists spoke with politicians and voters.

Local resident Billy Doherty founded Strong and Focused after he was hit by a truck and dragged 50 feet while training for IRONMAN Florida 2010. Doherty suffered serious leg injuries, a torn labrum and cracked ribs from the incident.

“I think a lot more people would go biking if there were more bike lanes,” he said. “We’re not trying to share N.C. 73 with cars. We’d just like to have more lanes in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, so it can be safer to go for a ride.”

Boggiano echoed Doherty’s sentiment.

“If you want to go for a bike ride, it should be safe enough to do so by yourself,” he said. “Our club gives people a chance – regardless of whether they’re training or riding for fun – to go cycling with a group, be safe and have a good time.”

The club’s bike route started at the Jason’s Deli parking lot off Sam Furr Road and ended at the library, a 1.3-mile ride.

“Frankly, it was unsafe to bike (to the library),” Boggiano said. “It was only safe because we traveled in a group. This is a public library. Kids should be able to get here on bikes without there being a major risk involved.”

Dr. Bob Driver, a Strong and Focused member, championed Boggiano’s cause.

“Talking to our club members, we’ve heard stories of motorists running people off the road,” he said. “We have a right to be on the road by state law. But people don’t realize that.”

Boggiano agreed.

“Cyclists don’t want to be the ones blocking traffic,” he said. “If we had some more lanes, we wouldn’t be in the way and it would be a win-win for everyone.”

Boggiano said the group will try to organize the event again for the next election cycle to get more people to the polls and to support bike safety.

“We had a lot of good feedback from local politicians,” he said. “It’s kind of an ongoing process. I don’t expect things to change overnight, but there’s no reason we can’t have a group (of supporters) for every election.” q