Fundraising bike ride/run set for Saturday

CONYERS -- Eddie Shirey, president of the Covington-Conyers Cycling Club and past chairman of Pave the Path in Rockdale County, was busy Wednesday afternoon helping to mark the course of Pave the Path's Metric Century bike ride scheduled this Saturday.

This is the fourth year that Pave the Path, a nonprofit group promoting awareness about transportation alternatives, has hosted the event, and Shirey said it gets bigger each year. About 250 participants are expected this year.

The event actually has three components: a 10K run through Olde Town Conyers; a 2K fun run; and the Metric Century Ride, which is 64 miles long. All three events start at the Welcome Center at the Olde Town Depot at 901 Railroad St., N.W., in Conyers.

"This is the third year we've done this in Olde Town," Shirey said. "It's an usual event in that it includes running and cycling. There are a few people who would do both events, but most people do one or the other."

The event is a fundraiser for Pave the Path. Proceeds are used to promote other events that raise awareness of cycling and other forms of transportation, as well as provide support for construction of the Olde Town Trail and other cycling- and pedestrian-friendly initiatives.

Saturday's 10K starts at 8 a.m., followed by the 2K at 8:15 a.m. Trophies will be given to the top three men and women finishers in the 10K, and awards will be given to the three top finishers in standard age groups. Race day registration for the 10K and 2K is $30 (cash only).

The Metric Century Ride starts around 9 a.m. The race day registration is $40 (cash only). Those who also want to run in one of the races can do so for an additional $10 fee.

The bike ride course is described as hilly, with two loops of about 32 miles each. The first loop courses through north Rockdale, taking advantage of some "low traffic roads," according to Shirey. The course takes riders to Black Shoals Park and the covered bridge before heading south, taking in part of the Arabia Mountain trail.

Shirey said the Metric Century Ride and the road races are helpful in bringing attention to the need for forms of transportation that are not tied to the automobile -- not only to improve quality of life, but also for economic reasons.

"Unless you have a car in our community, it is difficult to get around," he said. "My parents, who are in their mid-80s and who don't drive, have to rely on other people to take them in a car somewhere. If we had a community that made it easier to get around by walking or bicycling, it might be a different story for the elderly in our community, or for people who are working at minimum wage who can't afford to have a car. They need to be able to get back and forth to work without a car."

Shirey said Pave the Path is also working to have Conyers designated as a "Bike Friendly Community," which is a status awarded to communities that have shown that they support bicycling through education, encouragement and enforcement.

Until this year Roswell was the only community in Georgia designated as "Bike Friendly," Shirey said. Tybee Island joined the "Bike Friendly" ranks this year.

"In Conyers we were hoping we were going to be the second, but we haven't put together a comprehensive bike-ped plan as part of the transportation plan," Shirey said. "That's in the works now."

For more information on Saturday's Metric Century Ride and road races visit www.conyerspavethepath.