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Central Valley slowly embracing bicycling culture

There are plenty of picturesque areas for a bicycle ride in the region – the rolling hills of Knights Ferry immediately spring to mind – but the 209 as a whole is not the friendliest bicycle riding area.

“It has been getting better, but it just takes time,” said Ed Battisfore, store manager at Oakdale Bicycle Shop, OBS, on East F Street in Oakdale. “Nowhere near as good as Davis or the Bay Area. In a place like Davis, for example, they base their development on how to make it better for pedestrians, bicyclists, kids; they have been doing that for years.”

In the Central Valley, cities are slowing coming around to the need for highlighting pedestrian and bicycle safety, but Battisfore said it has been a gradual shift.

“To them, it’s just an obstacle in the road,” he said of the mindset of many motorists in dealing with bicyclists.

But as more people get into the sport for both health and enjoyment, he’s hopeful motorists will be more aware and do their part to keep bicyclists safe on the road.

The OBS serves as the gathering point for regularly scheduled rides, including an early Saturday morning group that often pedals off to Knights Ferry, Waterford, Farmington and more. They have recently started up their Wednesday evening rides as well, designed for all levels, with a 45-minute ride out and another 45 minutes back, easing in to the longer distances. The weekend rides offer varying distances and routes.

Group rides also feature a specific leader and a specific rider to bring up the rear, which helps insure all those that start the ride finish it.

Meanwhile, the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club out of Modesto has also been working with the county to have ‘Share the Road’ signs installed on some of the more heavily traveled cycling routes, encouraging motorists to be extra vigilant when driving in those specially marked areas.

With sunny skies and temperatures reaching into the 70s, a trio of friends was on the road earlier this month, stopping for a breather in Knights Ferry – about 27 miles into their ride – before continuing their route.

“This ride is from Escalon to Knights Ferry, then we wind back around the (Woodward) reservoir,” said rider Richard Schmidig of Escalon. “I also like riding out near Willms Road and throughout Snelling.”

The friends were not riding as part of any specific organized group, just out enjoying the day and the chance for some good exercise.

Modesto resident Tony Le Doux also prefers the country area, noting that “Modesto just has too much traffic” to make it conducive to any substantial rides.

“I like to ride at Corral Hollow, Patterson Pass areas,” added Jeff Qualle of Ripon.

What the 209 lacks in driver etiquette right now when it comes to sharing the road with bicyclists, it makes up for in the scenery.

“I’ve been all over, riding my whole life and it’s pretty hard to beat this area,” Qualle agreed of the many picturesque rides through the region.

This year, especially, with the abundant rainfall of the winter, the lush greenery of spring accompanied by the aroma of blooming flowers, provides the perfect backdrop for those two-wheeled workouts.