Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pedaling for a purpose

Tour de Belleville will raise money for speed monitor
BY ROGER SCHLUETER
News-Democrat

BELLEVILLE - "Get on your bikes and ride!"

If Phil Elmore times it right, that well-known Queen lyric could have hundreds of cyclists spilling out of the Union United Methodist Church parking lot Friday night to start the first Tour de Belleville bike ride.

The event has a potentially deadly serious purpose: to help raise $13,000 for the purchase of a portable monitor that will clock and display drivers' speeds throughout the city in an effort to keep them under the limit.

But for bike riders, it will be sort of a cross between Belleville's answer to St. Louis' Moonlight Ramble and the world-famous Tour de France -- a family-friendly, noncompetitive trek over a relatively easy course to give riders a scenic view of the city at night.

To add to the fun, Elmore, an insurance agent by day, will crank up his Mobile Music Machine on the church parking lot to provide pre-ride inspiration. The theme? What else -- bicycle-inspired songs, including, of course, the Freddy Mercury staple, "Bicycle Race."

More than 400 riders already have signed up, far exceeding most organizers' hopes. Elmore is hoping for at least 200 more on the night of the ride.

"So far, we have young riders, old riders -- from 15 to 85," Elmore said. "It's not for someone with training wheels, but it's certainly doable for an amateur."

The idea grew from a desire by Belleville's neighborhood associations to purchase a speed monitor that enables city police to let drivers know how fast they are going. The monitor also logs speeds to help police spot areas with speeding problems, Elmore said.

Police will be out in force to provide security. Neighborhood association volunteers as well as members from Sigma Phi Epsilon at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will provide help and directions at many of the 72 intersections that will be barricaded to vehicular traffic.