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Posted on Tue, Apr. 12, 2005 --

Car-free riders to pedal across the country

Bicyclists are cycling to metropolitan areas all across the nation in the National Mayors' Ride.

Concetta Curtis sold her car in February and she's gearing up to pedal from Miami to D.C. to San Francisco starting Friday. William Gum will join her, but he's riding only as far as Tampa.

They're part of a team of about 100 cyclists in the National Mayors' Ride, a 51-city tour to show how bicycles can improve the health of cities as well as commuters. Some will pedal fewer than 100 miles while others will ride more than 5,000 miles.

The ride is one of the programs created by the National Bicycle Greenway, which promotes safe roads and the concept of a national bicycle highway.

NBG founder Martin Krieg, 51, of Palo Alto, Calif., used cycling as rehab after a car accident put him in a coma 30 years ago. From rehab, he rode across America twice on a bicycle, and he shares his story in Awake Again (WRS Publishing, 1994). Today, he owns 18 bikes and he has been car-free since '89.

Gum, 22, doesn't rely too much on a car, but he will use one to drive to Miami from his home near Orlando. After biking to Tampa, the math teacher will have someone meet him there and drive him back home. He has been cycling about five years, commuting 20 miles round trip to work four days a week. The 280-mile ride to Tampa will be his farthest.

Curtis, 27, has more than 4,000 miles ahead of her. She predicts her journey will end July 31.

She met Krieg in 2003 at a garage sale in Palo Alto. Krieg rode up on his bicycle, paid for a couch and said he'd be back with a trailer. He returned on his bicycle with a trailer attached.

''Amazed, I watched him and my friend Michael load the couch up,'' said Curtis, who was recovering from a broken back. ''The three of us began talking and Martin was quick to offer his inspiration, telling me the story of his accident and all he had accomplished . . . .'' '

Back at home in Katy, Texas, Curtis became obsessed about working out. She hired a trainer who was an avid cyclist, and soon Curtis was spending less time at the gym and more time riding.

She toured Florida last year, and she's starting her tour here because ``somewhere along A1A I fell in love with the smell of the ocean and the warm air.

''The depth and personality of the Floridian landscape was too beautiful to pass up,'' she says. ''Somewhere along the way I hope to overcome the attachment I have to the pain in my spine and inspire others to never give up. If everyone would just ride a bicycle or walk everywhere they go, the world would be full of trees and healthy people.''

While the cyclists are taking in the sights and sounds of the country, Krieg will be working on pod-cast technology. Cyclists will phone in and he will record their conversations, convert them to MP3 format and put them on his website ( www.nationalbicyclegreenwaycom) for visitors to download.

''Bicycling is not about how fit I am,'' Krieg says. ''It's a lifestyle. Once you start doing it, you can't help but want better food and to be around healthier circumstances.''

If you're interested in participating in the 2006 National Mayors' Ride, write to Krieg at