Geared up and ready to ride, Mayor Rusty Bailey and dozens of Riversiders did not allow last Saturday’s slick roads and gloomy weather to put the breaks on the long-anticipated and very first Bike with the Mayor event.

The route began at Martha McLean-Anza Narrows Park in Riverside, where Mayor Bailey addressed the crowd about growing the bike culture in Riverside. In creating the Bike with the Mayor tradition, Bailey said that he wants to “lead by example” with hopes to “go viral,” as it were. Bailey envisions Riversiders “riding their bikes to the store or riding with their kids to school.”

“I hope for Riverside to spend more time on bikes, not in cars,” expressed Bailey.

As someone who enjoys riding, Bailey not only recognizes the health benefits of biking but also its impact on economic development, building community and Riverside pride. Taking on a new route every other month, Bailey sees promise in “exposing neighborhoods and [their] assets to let people know what Riverside has to offer and better connect the community.” Bailey’s Bike with the Mayor event also plans to integrate local business like Pedals Bike Shop and by stopping at local coffee shops along routes.

After these inspiring words from Mayor Bailey, the bikers took off. Saturday’s 10 mile route led by the Riverside Bicycle Advisory Committee made its way to Downtown Riverside, where bikers stopped to enjoy the Asian Pacific Lunar Festival, Paramount Theatre and nourishment at the Starbucks on 3rd & Market before they headed back to the park.

As the group passed time during a coffee break at Starbucks, I sat down with Mayor Bailey and talked about the promise of UCR, as well as his personal relationship to the City of Riverside and what he ultimately expects from his Bike with the Mayor event.

“I love UCR. As a kid, I went there for cotillion and to see the baseball tournaments.”

Bailey sees “a lot of promise” in the university and credits it to be a great “economic and intellectual engine” for the city.

Bailey’s family has been in Riverside since 1914 and, as a native to the city, Bailey’s pride for his hometown is greatly evident in how he speaks and cares for it. After attending West Point, serving in the military and attending graduate school at UCLA, Mayor Bailey returned to Riverside, where he now raises a family of his own. Ever since, he has dedicated his time to the public, both as a local high school teacher and as a city councilmember, before being elected mayor in November.

When asked what he sees as the end result of Bike with the Mayor, Bailey responded, “no end.” He followed up, “I hope it continues to build and the culture takes off and becomes viral. Maybe neighborhoods will create bike clubs and eventually these neighborhoods will lead their own bike events.”

Mayor Bailey said that “each neighborhood has a story to tell” and events like Bike with the Mayor will help “connect the community” and promote a great sense of Riverside pride.

The next locations for Bike with the Mayor are still undetermined and Bailey expressed great interest in the UCR area. The next event is scheduled for Mar. 23, 2013.

Mayor Bailey and the growing bike community in Riverside encourage anyone to roll with them. Invest in a bike and save some cash on gas and parking passes. Ride to class, the UV, everywhere. Without my bike, I certainly couldn’t leave Oban at 9:30 and pull into INTN at 9:34:23 every Tuesday and Thursday for lecture. So, bike for the sake of time, bike for fun, bike for exercise, bike with friends, bike with the mayor…but definitely be sure to bike with pride.

For those who wish to participate in the next Bike with the Mayor event:

WHAT: Bike with Mayor Bailey
WHEN: Every other Saturday at 9:00 am (Upcoming ride: March 23, 2013)
WHERE: To be determined
COST: Free