Break The Cycle
Dr. Randy Blake might be one of Kaua‘i’s busiest people. He fills his days not only working as a urologist and teaching lectures about medical terminology and body systems at Kaua‘i Community College, but also spends his “free” time volunteering for various causes. He’s American Red Cross of Hawai‘i’s voluntary government liaison who heads into the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency office anytime a major incident occurs, which ties into his voluntary work as a hand radio instructor. But one of the largest hats this volunteer extraordinaire wears pertains to his enthusiasm as a bicyclist.
“I just love it,” he says. “It’s good exercise and you get to be outdoors. You can smell flowers a lot when you’re not immersed inside a car.”
His love for the healthy outdoor activity was ignited during his childhood when he rode his bicycle as a newspaper delivery boy in Indiana. Blake continued to ride throughout college but let the hobby slide until moving to Kaua‘i in 2008, when he decided to reactivate his passion for the sake of fitness.
His desire to give back to his new community also began soon after his arrival on island when he met Tommy Noyes, Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, as well as Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., who was director of the County of Kaua‘i’s Parks and Recreation at the time. Blake immediately connected with the concept of Kaua‘i Path and started volunteering for the organization, which is responsible for initiating multi-modal platforms like Ke Ala Hele Makalae — the Eastside path that “goes by the coast.”
When Blake started helping with the project, the path hadn’t yet been paved north of Keālia, and only some 2.5 miles at Lydgate Beach Park were open for use. Since he jumped on board, several more miles have been added, including from Kapa‘a to Ahihi Point. The idea is to eventually link Anahola to Līhu‘e, and to create paths in other areas, ultimately linking the North Shore to the Westside. It’s gratifying to Blake, however, to see what’s already come to fruition, and he likes to watch how many people use the path every day for activities like walking, running and, of course, bicycling.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see,” says the Kaua‘i Path board president. “It’s become a meeting place and a place for families to recreate.”
Prompted by his enthusiasm for the path, Blake extended his volunteerism even further by becoming the island’s first certified bicycle instructor and launching educational classes for keiki and adults to encourage them to use spaces like Ke Ala Hele Makalae.
“We thought there was a severe need. Most Americans don’t have formalized bicycle education,” says Blake.
Blake regularly instructs a Bicycling Skills for Adults course. He teaches participants important safety elements, like wearing bright clothing for high visibility, and following traffic rules such as stopping at red lights and signaling to drivers.
“It’s surprising how much people don’t know about bicycling,” says Blake.
He also facilitates lessons for fourthand fifth-grade students around the island at various schools, including Waimea Elementary, Island School and Kīlauea Elementary. He brings a fleet of around 40 bikes and hosts an interactive day with lessons like how to properly handle a bike, as well as traffic safety.
Blake even holds what he calls bicycle “rodeos” for younger keiki, where he teaches aspects like riding without training wheels and how to move in a straight line. He also helps parents learn how to make sure a bicycle is mechanically sound.
One of the biggest hurdles he has to overcome while training people, however, is dispelling their fear of riding in traffic. It’s the reason for his safety skills courses and also why he helps facilitate activities like Bike to Work Day, which is happening May 18 in conjunction with National Bike Month. The purpose of the event is to show the community that they can easily ride their bikes to work at least one to three times a week. By doing so, money is saved, health is maintained and even the environment benefits.
“A lot of people have bicycles, and this is a time they can take them in and get them tuned up and get them riding again,” says Blake. “A lot of bikes sit in garages with flat tires.”
The upcoming adventure also ties into Bikes on Rice, which is held the second Tuesday of every month. Community members get together, ride at a leisurely pace and “experience the joy of bicycling” after work in Līhu‘e.
“We’re not racing; we’re just having a nice afternoon ride,” says Blake. “We also want to demonstrate to people that we are developing infrastructure on the island that promotes bicycling.”
After shedding some 50 pounds bicycling on Kaua‘i and (joyfully) getting away from the sleet and snow of Indiana, Blake has no plans to return to the Mainland and won’t be halting his volunteerism any time soon.
“I enjoy teaching. I just get a lot of satisfaction from it,” he says.
And his friend and bicycling comrade Noyes is thrilled to have him.
“Dr. Blake has dedicated countless hours to influencing Kaua‘i’s wellness through improved opportunities for physical activity,” says Noyes, Kaua‘i Path’s executive director. “For the past 10 years, Randy has been at the forefront of collective action efforts to build facilities like paths, sidewalks and bike lanes, where people feel safe and comfortable walking and bicycling in their communities. We owe Randy thanks and gratitude for his clear vision and strong voice for a healthier, happier island home.”
Bike to Work Day on May 18 begins at 5:45 a.m. at Kapa‘a Neighborhood Center and ends at 7:15 a.m. at Līhu‘e Civic Center Rotunda. An easier ride will meet in Puhi at the county park across from the KCC campus at 6:30 a.m. and finish at the same time and place.
The next Bicycling Skills for Adults class will be May 19 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Kapa‘a Public Library. Visit kauaipath.org for more information.