Cyclists on a rural Adams County roadWhen I was a lad, my bicycle was my best friend. On it, I traveled all over the county, and probably into parts of a couple others. There were, indeed, some hills to climb on the old one-speed Western Flyer bicycle, but coasting down them – especially the mile-long 400-foot drop into town – was absolutely exhilarating.

[pullquote]“(Today’s) children probably won’t live as long as our generation.” – Tom Jolin[/pullquote]A Saturday ride might be a 50-mile loop to Kingfield and Eustis, along the Carrabassett River and other places that, in retrospect, sound almost exotic. In my ’tween-hood, they were simply along the way, sure to include a stop at Mr. Richards’ Shell station for a Mars bar, or Proberts’ store for a tube of Necco candy wafers and a Nehi soda, respectively, the latter pulled from the depths of a red Coke cooler filled with water and melting ice.

I was nearing 12 when I got my first bike. Dad, who worked at the Western Auto store – Western Flyer was the store-brand bicycle – in the county seat, brought it home one evening. I don’t remember how I learned to ride, but when dad unloaded that bike from the back of the Pontiac station wagon, I knew what to do with it. Sort of. I had to move it next to a fence or a log to get on and get going. For some inexplicable reason, turning left was easy; but most of the summer passed before I figured out how to go the other direction without stopping the bike, picking it up, and re-pointing it.

I don’t ride nearly as much as I tell myself I should, but I am looking forward to trying out the new bike paths being designed and marked around my hometown. Gettysburg has an excellent mix of relaxation and history, level places and hills.

The new trail system has been in work since 2005, when a group of bike riders of my generation had the idea to create a 501c3 organization that became Healthy Adams Bicycle Pedestrian Inc. The group, with the support of Gettysburg Borough, Adams County, Healthy Adams County and several other local and state sources and resources, has created a set of bike paths – some only, so far, on paper, others built or nearing built.

One example circles Gettysburg Rec Park, then travels out Queen Street to Steinwehr Avenue, then turns on Cyclorama Drive to the Gettysburg National Military Park visitor center. Another section passes the new Gettysburg Middle School; the rec park to the post office; Mummasburg Road to the observation tower; and Springs Avenue. One day, the so-called Gettysburg Area Trail System will attach to paths in York and Hanover, and the 250-mile Grand History Trail to Baltimore and Washington, DC.

The trails offer a safe, attractive means of drawing drivers off four wheels and onto two.

“We know that it’s intrinsically related to health,” said HABPI board member Tom Jolin. “(Today’s) children probably won’t live as long as our generation.”

Computers, video games, and 24-hour news cycles full of reasons to fear going outdoors conspire to keep most of us at our desks or on our couches. On the other hand, bike racks and a new bike trail segment have reportedly enticed more Gettysburg middle-schoolers to ride bikes to school.

And young people of high school and college age increasingly are eschewing cars, taking to bicycles and walking transit. To encourage the activity, HABPI will sponsor bike rides in May and June, ranging from eight to 18 miles. May 10 begins Bike to Work Week, and May 6 is Bike to School Day.

Visit the HABPI website for maps, bike rack locations, and updates on the progress of new bicycle and pedestrian paths.

And take along a camera. No one will ever know whether you’re taking a break or making photographic art.