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Group seeks to promote area as bicycle-friendly

CONYERS - Cyclists in Conyers are picking up the pace to make the area a biker's destination.

"We feel Conyers has some unique things going on that has potential of raising us up," said Eddie Shirey, an active member of the Covington-Conyers Cycling Club and member of the Olde Town Trail Committee.

Shirey will make a presentation to the Conyers City Council at 7 p.m. Wednesday that will pitch the idea that Conyers could be the cycling center for metro Atlanta. He said the historic setting and the lack of major thoroughfares in Olde Town make the area ideal for bicyclists.

Furthermore, the Georgia International Horse Park (or what avid cyclists dub the Georgia International Mountain Bike Park) consistently draws large crowds of mountain bike enthusiasts from within and outside Georgia.

Shirey said the Cycling Club, also referred to as C4, meets most Saturdays at the Horse Park to ride the mountain bike trails.

"I'm always surprised by how many people meet there from out of state who come to use those same mountain bike trails used in the (1996) Olympics," Shirey said. "That's a real draw to the county that many, particularly noncyclists, underestimate."

The C4 group also organizes monthly bike rides through Olde Town Conyers. Beginning at 4 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of each month, families are invited to meet at The Depot and then join in for a leisurely 45-minute ride, ending up at The Whistle Post Tavern on Railroad Street. Shirey said as many as 80 people have participated in the Sunday rides.

On March 3, members of C4 will participate in the Ride to the Capitol, where riders will leave Covington at 7 a.m. and meet at Conte's Bicycles and Fitness on Ga. Highway 138 in Conyers. From there, the group will ride into Olde Town before heading to the Capitol.

Shirey said the Olde Town Trail Committee, which is part of the Downtown Development Authority, will once again host a 10K road race and a fun run in May. Last year he said the road race, held on the Rockdale County portion of the Arabia Mountain Trail, raised approximately $3,000.

Shirey, who owns Shirey's Cabinets Inc. on Sigman Road, helped organize the Olde Town Trail Committee after wanting to learn more about the multiuse trails that will be constructed in Conyers. That trail will connect The Depot in Olde Town to the Rockdale Career Academy off Parker Road. Eventually, it will run to Johnson Park and link up with the South Rockdale Trail.

"When those links are made and the trail is complete from Lithonia, it will make The Depot, for a time, the eastern terminus of the longest paved bicycle path in the nation," Shirey said. "All these things taken together really could put Conyers on the map as a cycling mecca."

With that in mind, Shirey is also helping to head up efforts to make Conyers a Bicycle-Friendly Community. The Bicycle Friendly Community designation is a nationwide campaign that recognizes municipalities that actively support bicycling and provides safe accommodation for cycling and encourages residents to bike for transportation and recreation.

Fifty-eight communities across the country have Bicycle-Friendly status and Roswell is the only city in Georgia that has achieved this designation, according to the Bicycle Friendly Community Web site.

"This would put Conyers in some pretty heady company if the community gets behind this," Shirey said. "This will be, we believe, a driver of economic development."

A Bicycle Friendly Community workshop is scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 26 at the Conyers City Council Chambers and will led by a member of the League of American Cyclists.

Achieving this designation will help attract "more forward-thinking, greener, sustainable, successful businesses that might be engaged in the type of industries for the new economy that is probably about to evolve," Shirey said.

Shirey said that people tend to have a narrow view of cycling - either as a mode of transportation or as a recreational activity - but it really has a broader scope and a wider potential for local communities.

"What it means for the people in the community is increased opportunities and choices how to get to work, how to go to the store or to school," he said. "So it's about increased choices."

For more information on the Covington-Conyers Cycling Club, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CCCycling/ or call Eddie Shirey at 770-365-0480. For more on Bicycle Friendly Communities, visit www.bicyclefriendlycommunity.org.