Posted Online: May 04, 2008, 9:03 pm

Q-C bike commuters raise awareness

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Robert Leistra
Jeff Cornelius, who bikes to work on a regular basis, crosses the intersection of Main Street and 2nd Avenue in downtown Davenport in this file photo taken May 1, 2008.

Each weekday morning, Bob Tallitsch hops on a bicycle and pedals five miles from his Moline home to his job as a biology professor at Augustana College in Rock Island.

It's a year-round routine the 32-year prof has enjoyed for three years, since he gave his daughter his car to use at college in Indianapolis.

"It's fun," Mr. Tallitsch said. "It's healthy for me."

He also revels in not having to pay $3.55-plus a gallon for gasoline, or insurance on his old car. He and his wife share one car, and in bad winter weather, she drops him off at work.

"It takes a change in lifestyle," said Mr. Tallitsch, who primarily uses the Butterworth Parkway and other bike trails. He also keeps a week's worth of clothes at Augie, where he changes every morning after showering at the Carver physical education center.

"I think once you get used to a little bit of an inconvenience, it's not bad at all," Mr. Tallitsch said.

He's one of at least a half-dozen Augustana faculty members who bike to work and dozens more area residents who will take part in the second annual local Bike to Work Week (May 10-16).

The purpose of the nationwide event is to encourage people to try bike commuting, increase cycling awareness and promote a healthy alternative form of transportation.

Jeff Cornelius of Davenport, a program manager at River Action, needs only 10 minutes to bike to his office. He also shares one car with his wife, and averages about 100 miles a week on his bike, cycling to shop, visit parks, friends and family.

"I biked to work for years while working in downtown Davenport with an insurance firm," Mr. Cornelius said, noting that he saves $6,500 a year by biking, busing, and walking. "I bike commute year-round, but rely more heavily on the bus in the winter."

He's a member of the Quad-Cities Transportation Advocacy Group (TAG), formed after last year's Bike to Work Week. The group's slogan is "Think outside the car," and the goal is to encourage alternative modes of transport -- to save money and help the environment.

Mr. Cornelius said the goal is to encourage people to use a bicycle for trips of two miles or less. Typically, bike commuters have a trip to work of five miles or less.

"In addition to bike commuting, we use public transit whenever we can and walk when we can," he said of the group. "Not everybody can bike, walk or bus. It's whatever means is best."

According to a 2003 U.S. Department of Transportation survey, just 5 percent of the 21 million regular bike riders reported commuting to work by bicycle during the previous 30 days.

Jeff Abernathy, Augustana's dean and vice president, bikes to campus from east Davenport, usually crossing the Government Bridge. A passionate cyclist who does a few 100-mile rides each summer, he also keeps suits at his office.

"We have so many green initiatives at Augustana ... creating a sustainable campus. This is part of that," Mr. Abernathy said.

Jason Koontz, assistant professor of biology, has a one-mile commute on his bike. "It's exercise for me and an environmental benefit of not having to burn gas in the car."

Mr. Koontz also is adviser for the student environmental group Global Affect, and walking or biking to work serves as a model, he said, adding that Q-C TAG has "done a great job getting the word out, helping figure out the (transportation) options."

A map on the TAG Web site helps show people the preferred safe routes for cycling and commuting in the area, Mr. Koontz said.

Mr. Cornelius expects participation of up to 200 people in Bike to Work activities, organized by TAG.

Q-C Bike to Work Week events

- Saturday, May 10, 9 a.m.: Safe 10-mile bike rides in Davenport and Rock Island. Meet at Freight House lot in Davenport.

- Sunday, May 11: Bike to worship and blessing of the bikes (local churches).

- Monday, May 12, 6:30 to 9 a.m.: Bike commuter breakfast, at park at foot of Government Bridge and 2nd Street in Davenport.

- Wednesday, May 14, 7 p.m.: Ride of silence, to honor killed or injured cyclists. Start at Q-C Botanical Center in Rock Island.

- Friday, May 16, 5 p.m.: Wrap-Up party behind Bier Stube in Moline.

People who log their "B2WW" miles on the Q-C TAG Web site are eligible for one of four $50 gift cards at local bike shops.

The Web site is http://quad.cities.tag.googlepages.com.