For the love of cycling

Students with the Shoals Cycling Initiative ride their bikes near Harrison Plaza fountain Nov. 1.

Eero Wilson’s love for cycling formed out of necessity. For his first three semesters as a UNA student, he didn’t have a car to get to and from campus.

“Living without a vehicle sparked my interest in cycling, but, with time, it became a passion,” Wilson said.

Now, in his senior year as a UNA culinary arts major, Wilson devotes much of his time to promoting the Shoals cycling community, with many of his efforts going towards his cycling group, the Shoals Cycling Initiative.

Wilson started the initiative, with the help of UNA student Cameron Kelly-Johnson and UNA graduate Ashton Lance, after Anna Goldstein, U.S. campaigns coordinator for, an organization dedicated to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to end the climate crisis, approached Kelly-Johnson and asked him to organize an event for Moving Planet Day, a worldwide event that encourages people to use fewer fossil fuels.

The result was the Shoals Cycling Initiative. The Initiative hosted a bike ride Sept. 24 for Moving Planet Day. There were more than 2,000 events in more than 175 countries, but the Shoals Cycling Initiative’s event, held on campus, was one of only two in Alabama.

“The point of the ride was to show people that it is possible to ride bikes around Florence,” Kelly-Johnson said. “The idea behind the Initiative is to form consensus-based goals on what the Shoals needs to do to promote the cycling community in the future.”

Wilson said the Initiative is relevant for UNA commuters because of crowded parking lots and high gas prices.

“Parking will probably always be a problem (at UNA),” he said. “Cyclists don’t have to worry about parking so much.”

With SGA’s recent addition of bike racks to campus, Wilson thinks the campus is making steps in the right direction, but he hopes to get the Initiative involved with UNA.

“We have yet to make a formal connection with campus, but we’re open,” he said. “I hope the campus is curious.”

Wilson said the Initiative might try to get bike lanes painted on campus.

“It would be nice to have bike lanes on campus to show students there is a place for it,” he said. “Some people don’t want bike lanes because they force them to remain in a designated area, but they are ideal for safety.”

And safety is a big concern for the Initiative, according to Wilson.

“We’re trying to avoid close encounters with cars and pedestrians,” he said. “One limitation is that bikes are technically illegal on sidewalks, but I’ve never had a problem just riding on the road comfortably to the right.”

Wilson said cyclists and drivers need to have a mutual respect.

“As cyclists, if we don’t respect drivers, they’ll have less respect for us,” he said. “We can develop our community in a respectful way. It should be more symbiotic than clashing.”

UNA police Chief Bob Pastula said safety is a concern with increasing bike use on campus, but he encourages students to bike if they can.

Pastula, in conjunction with an idea presented to him by SGA, was behind the addition of bike racks to campus.

“As soon as we put (the racks) in, we saw an increase in bike use,” he said.

Pastula supports the Initiative’s goal because he encourages student fitness, better parking and a better college experience.

“Bikes are something you see a lot of on other campuses,” he said. “I want students to have that kind of experience here.”

Wilson said he hopes students will consider the environmental and physical benefits of cycling.

“I feel and see benefits of (cycling),” he said. “The benefits encourage me to be proactive (for the Shoals cycling community).”

Wilson said he has one important piece of advice for students as cycling increases on campus.

“Wear a helmet,” he said, smiling.