SHARON – Bicycling enthusiasts should get credit for peddling a project that is nearing completion, said Sharon City Manager Bob Fiscus.
During the past week construction workers have been painting cycling lanes on Sharpsville Avenue in Sharon along with safety signs telling everyone this is a real trail.
“It’s connecting the urban setting of downtown Sharon to neighborhoods and to Buhl Park,’’ Fiscus said.
He credits past city employees for championing the cause and for securing a state grant that allowed the project to become reality.
It also helped that two local state representatives are members of the Bicycle Caucus – Mark Longietti, D-7th District, Hermitage, and Parke Wentling, R-17th District, Greenville. The caucus, a bi-partisan group appointed by legislative leaders, promotes bicycling in the state and supports bike safety laws. Wentling wasn’t immediately available for an interview, but Longietti is a longtime cycling enthusiast.
“Growing up in Sharpsville we used our bikes to go everywhere,’’ he said. “Even when I began to drive, bicycling was still my primary form of transportation.
While attending Boston College, Longietti said he would often use his bike to pedal to classes. Over the years he’s cycled for fun in places like San Antonio, Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.
And it’s not just about transportation. Longietti said he recently took an excursion on part of the Allegheny Passage. The 150-mile trail runs from just outside of Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
“Bicycle trails are a big tourism draw,’’ Longietti said. “It’s not just in Pennsylvania. People all over the country are using the trail systems.’’
Attracting cycling enthusiasts with quality trails gives a boost to the economy, he said.
“The median income of people who use trails is significantly higher than the average person,’’ Longietti said. “When they ride a trail, they stay in places and spend money on food, lodging and entertainment.’’
When it comes time to choosing a location to work, trails and bike lanes are appealing to them, he added.
Mike Kavulla has seen a shifting trend among bike buyers. He and his wife Debbie own and operate The Bicycle Store located in Hermitage.
“When I started in the industry 30 years ago we mainly sold bikes to kids,’’ Kavulla said. “Now it’s empty nesters, older people and retirees who are buying bikes. It’s a more mature audience now.’’
In big college towns, snazzy racing bikes are the rage. But in the local area, 85 percent of bike sales for Kavulla are hybrid or comfort bikes.
Hybrid bikes can be used on roads, dirt and mountain trails. Comfort bikes, Kavulla said, are somewhat similar to 10-speed bikes that were the rage in the 1970s. But there are significant differences.
“The bikes today are made of aluminum instead of steel so they’re lighter,’’ he said. “And people now want to have an upright handle bar with a nice cushiony seat.’’
Bikes now also have more gears than in the past. Kavulla said 21-speed bikes are most common, but can go as high as 27.
Those drawn to cycling often snap up accessories found in the store.
“We sell a lot more accessories now like mirrors, speedometers and light sets,’’ he said.
Fiscus said he wants to add “candlesticks” to the city’s new bike lanes. Candlesticks are thin, roughly three-foot tall reflector posts planted in the road to give a better view of lane boundaries for cyclists and motorists.
This story has been updated to attribute all quotes to City Manager Bob Fiscus.