On The Road To Improve Cycling Safety

Dr. Michael Blake teaches bike safety to children and adults. Coco Zickos photo

Dr. Randy Blake is taking bicycle safety and 40 bikes to schools and adult classes, promoting the healthful benefits of cycling. Then there’s the matter of expanding our bike paths to create a 90-mile bikeway

Riding a bike is not only good for your health, it’s good for the planet and your wallet. So says Dr. Randy Blake, and that’s why the semi-retired physician spends much of his time teaching children and adults the safety aspects of cycling.

Close to 100 people have already attended the adult sessions in Lihu’e, which officially started in 2008. During the eight-hour lesson, individuals learn everything from how to fix a flat tire to positioning themselves in traffic.

“Once we know students are proficient, we take them out on the road,” he says.

Since Kaua’i does not implement bicycle education within its school systems as other islands do, Blake has taken it upon himself to provide classes to as many fourthand fifthgraders as possible.

“We think that having a bicycle is almost part of growing up. And I think all children should experience that freedom and excitement of having a bicycle,” says Blake, executive director of Kaua’i Path.

Because of his association with Kaua’i Path a nonprofit committed to bringing nonmotorized multiuse paths to the island Blake connected with other bicycle advocacy programs and began offering keiki classes through the Summer Fun Program this year.

Through a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, he was able to purchase 40 bicycles, as well as a van to transport them, so the children would have something to practice with.

The classes are designed to help them learn how to properly handle a bike, while at the same time receive instruction on elements such as the proper use of hand signals and the importance of wearing a helmet.

Blake also is currently working with the state Department of Education to bring the bicycle program into elementary schools across the island so that all children will have equal access to the League of American Bicyclists’ curriculum.

The outspoken proponent of bike riding first realized his passion as a boy delivering newspapers in his Indianapolis neighborhood.

But it wasn’t until recently that he reignited what was once a favored childhood activity. His health was one of the reasons Blake started cycling again, and he has lost 50 pounds in the process.

“People say, ‘I’m out of shape,’ but I say, ‘Round is a shape,'” he says with a chuckle, recalling his pre-bike-riding days. “Round is a shape, but I wanted to be fit.”

And if more people chose to ride their bicycles, they would be in better shape.

Some 25 percent of all vehicle trips are within two miles, according to a national trend.

“As a physician, I’m trained to help people get well,” adds Blake, husband of retired doctor Michelle and father of Keith and Carolyn.

His role at Kaua’i Path is another extension of his advocacy for a healthier lifestyle. Blake started as a volunteer with the organization, founded in February of 2008. Now, as its lead advocate, he envisions a 90-mile pathway connecting the island’s North Shore to its West side.

“I see it used for fitness and I see it as a social meeting place,” he says of the East side portion of the path, Ke Ale Hele Makalae, which has already been completed.

“Especially as a physician, it’s great for physical fitness. I also think it’s great as a bicycle educator that we have a safe, protected area for children to bicycle.”

Construction is set to begin this year on the next phase of the path in Wailua. And community meetings are under way on the North Shore and West side to eventually connect those neighborhoods.

Kaua’i Path isn’t the only thing keeping Blake busy. He also teaches hunter education classes with his wife and volunteers for the American Red Cross as a hand radio operator.

“So in the event of a huge natural disaster, I’m one of the Red Cross liaisons for the Emergency Operations Center,” he says.

He also participates in the Kaua’i Amateur Radio Club.

“Civic duty was part of my upbringing,” says Blake. “My personality is best felt in service to others.”

The next Citizen’s Advisory Committee for Kaua’i Path on the West side will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 3 at Waimea Theatre, and from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at Kekaha Neighborhood Center.

The next adult Traffic Skills 101 class is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 and Nov. 19.

Contact Blake at 635-8823 or at news@kauaipath.org for more information.

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