Car Free Day kicks off week of events geared toward transportation solutions

Using a sustainable form of transportation seems like an obvious choice to Karen Wennlund.

The Ashland resident bikes about five miles roundtrip to work every day and said many people in Ashland could make the transition to walking, bicycling and riding the bus.

"To me it seems so basic," Wennlund said. "The effect it's having on the earth, it seems like such a small thing to ride your bike to work."

That's the idea behind international Car Free Day, which is recognized every Sept. 22 and encourages people to get out of their cars and use alternative methods of transportation. Ashland celebrated Monday with a downtown block party sponsored by the city and the Rogue Valley Transportation District.

The event featured informational tables, live music by Biketramp, bicycle demonstrations and a bicycle repair clinic by the Ashland Community Bike Program.

Rio Giancarlo, 5, enjoyed trying to catch some air riding his scooter over a kid-sized bicycle ramp.

He rode his bicycle to school with his dad and twin brother Monday in recognition of Car Free Day.

His mother, Mary Shaffer, also rode to work but said the family normally drives since transporting young children by bicycle can be challenging.

"I think it's a good reminder that we can be creative and not so attached to using our cars," Shaffer said about Car Free Day. "It might take a little extra time or sweat."

Kat Smith, RVTD transportation operations coordinator, said RVTD is aiming to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road.

All RVTD routes were free Monday for all riders, and Smith said the district is offering other car-free incentives throughout the week.

Smith lives in Ashland and combines carpooling, bicycling and riding the bus to commute to her job in Medford. She used her bike with a trailer attached to transport supplies for RVTD's booth at the Car Free Day celebration.

The event was also the kick-off for the Commuter Challenge, where people walk, bike, skateboard, carpool or ride transit for two weeks, keeping track of the miles traveled.

"The purpose of the program is to promote sustainable transportation," said Bicycle and Pedestrian commissioner Steve Ryan, who is heading up the challenge. "This is a city-wide group activity where folks work together to log as many sustainable miles as they can."

Ryan said people don't have to sign up with him to participate. They just have to keep track of their miles and the method of transportation used and e-mail him the results or bring them to the closing celebration on First Friday, Oct. 3, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on A Street.

Ryan will total the results and the City of Ashland and RVTD will use them for transportation planning.

A sixth-grade class at Ashland Middle School is taking part in the challenge, Ryan said, and other participants include City of Ashland employees, local businesses and individuals.

"It's real easy, real simple and it doesn't cost people anything," Ryan said. "Actually, it probably saves them money."

For more information, call Ryan at 951-1409 or e-mail

Staff writer Kira Rubenthaler can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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