The League of American Bicyclists is once again sponsoring National Bike Month, an event celebrated across the country every May to showcase the benefits of bicycling.

Be Local means being aware of the many bike trails throughout the district and giving them a try.

“May is perfect riding weather. There are beautiful days, the flowers are coming up, lots of photo ops,’’ said Bryan Perry, executive director, Allegheny Trail Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. “Biking is good for mental health, your heart rate and getting together with family and friends. You can enjoy five miles or 50 – whatever you like.''

Hike/bike trails also bring visitors to the area, helping the local economy.

Daniel Cocks, executive director, Fayette County Cultural Trust, observed many people make use of Amtrak’s Trails & Rails program to bring their bikes into Connellsville to ride the GAP.

Beth Toll, public relations manager, Amtrak, explained, “The Trails & Rails program is a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service that educates travelers on the heritage and natural resources of a specific region while traveling by rail.’’

Toll reported in FY18 (Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2018) Amtrak customers brought 3,053 bikes on board the Capitol Limited, which runs from Washington, D.C., through Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Chicago.

That includes cyclists who stop in this region.

Perry observed, “We have folks coming from the Midwest and Washington, D.C., to ride the Great Allegheny Passage. Locally, people from Pittsburgh will get on Amtrak and ride to Connellsville and hop off.’’

Perry mentioned Pittsburgh bikers also travel by Amtrak to Cumberland and ride back. In both cases, riders may plan a trip that includes eating and staying overnight at Trail Towns, such as Confluence, Ohiopyle, Connellsville and West Newton.

“You take the time to stop and enjoy the towns or wildflowers or the river,’’ said Perry.

Work is also progressing on the Sheepskin Trail in Fayette County with riders already taking advantage of finished portions.

The Sheepskin website explains: “When completed, the trail will pass the following communities: Dunbar, Mount Braddock, Lemont Furnace, Uniontown, Hopwood, Fairchance, Smithfield, Cornish, Outcrop, Gans, Lake Lynn and Point Marion.’’

Plans are for the Sheepskin to eventually link with the GAP to the north and the West Virginia Mon River Rail-Trail System to the south, bringing more people to the area.

In addition, the area is becoming a destination for mountain bikes with the Ohiopyle Biking Club working with officials to design and build rugged trails in Ohiopyle State Park.

"I enjoy riding the trails because it gives me a chance to explore nature at a different pace,'' said Zach Yomboro, vice president, Ohiopyle Biking Club.

For many, riding a bike is more than reaching a destination.

"After awhile,'' said Yomboro, "you start to feel the flow of the trail, all thoughts of real life fade away, and I become fully immersed in the present.''

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Ted Flowers at 724-425-7231 or by email at tflowers@heraldstandard.com. Discount cards are available at the Herald-Standard, 8 E. Church St., Uniontown, and at the Greene County Messenger, 32 Church St., Waynesburg.

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