By Tommy Noyes

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and County Council Chair Mel Rapozo lead a pack of bicyclists into Vidinha Stadium parking lot last August during the Rice Roll, a slow-paced bicycle ride similar to the upcoming Bikes on Rice rides. Photo by Tommy Noyes

Do you have fond memories of bicycling around your neighborhood? If so, you might enjoy Bikes on Rice.

The first in this year’s series of 10 events will be the Valentines’ Day themed ride on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Current information about the ride series and sponsors is posted at So dust off your bike, pump up your tires, and meet on the Rice Street side of the Lihue Civic Center at 4:45 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month through November for a short, easy-paced group ride.

“Lihu‘e is my community,” said Bikes on Rice coordinator Jim Benkert. “The small town family atmosphere here makes it a great place to live. Riding bikes is something I love to do, so the combination of neighborhood involvement and bike riding is ideally suited for me. I have time to spend on this now, so it works out perfectly for me.”

Benkert said he remembers growing up — and most likely many others his age do as well — riding his bike everywhere.

“My brothers and friends rode to the beach, the pool, the movies, the store. We went to school and Little League practice on bikes. Every day, that’s just what we did. There was always a pile of bikes in front of somebody’s house,” he said.

When asked what motivates him to take on the volunteer ride coordinator role, Benkert said our island has an overabundance of cars, and our country has a health epidemic related to inactivity.

“Some of us don’t know the people around us anymore, and are lonely. We deal with environmental issues like pollution and smog,” he said. “When you think about it, riding bikes around, even a little bit once in awhile has an effect on all those things. There is no downside!”

Benkert is convinced that an opportunity for fun such as Bikes on Rice can also be a catalyst for many wonderful things. Social bicycling increases community awareness, because we get to know our neighbors better and make new friends. Many people associate bicycling with exercise, and it can be an enjoyable way to get a mild cardio workout without the stresses to knees and hips associated with running.

Face-to-face interactions are part of bicycling, and there is ample evidence that bicycle friendly communities help local small businesses thrive. However incremental at this time, bicycling has the potential to reduce Kaua‘i traffic issues, as seen in the Kapa‘a corridor when bicyclists travel on Ke Ala Hele Makalae at about the same pace as the automobiles congesting Kuhio Highway. Bicycling is one way to help reduce emissions and contribute to cleaner air.

One of main incentives to attract people to these rides is that seeing more bicycles on our roads raises motorists’ awareness of other road users, and results in a safer cycling experience for all of us.

Finally, Benkert offered one more reason for helping out with Bikes on Rice, “It’s an excuse to personally have one more bike!”

  • Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.

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