Promoting healthy living and bicycle safety, “Bikes On Rice” brings together cyclists of all ages and abilities.

On Tuesday afternoon, nearly 50 people gathered at Lihue Civic Center with helmets, bright-colored clothes, and all the necessary safety gear.

Briggs Knott, owner of Lihue bike shop Briggs Bicycles, was there to double check that equipment was functioning and tires were pumped full of air before getting started.

“The more we’re out there, the more they expect to see us, and the safer we all are,” said event organizer, Jim Benkert. “If there’s a lot of cyclists out there on the road all the time, they expect to see us and we’re all better off.”

The slow-paced, hour-long ride cruised throughout surrounding Lihue neighborhoods and even stopped at Regency at Puakea Retirement &Assisted Living to have surprise birthday cake for Get Fit Kauai Director, Bev Brody.

“If both motorists and cyclists are looking out for each other, we can share the road,” said squad leader, Jennifer Jones-Patulli.

The social biking event includes trained team members throughout the course for anyone who needs assistance. Event coordinators recommend bringing flat tire repair kits and safety helmets; since state law requires helmets for kids under 16.

“The first most important thing is to always be aware of your surroundings,” Jones-Patulli said. “Be in visual contact with the cars around you. If a car stops at an intersection, look at them in the eye, wave to them, make a signal, say you’re there, be present, wear bright clothes, get lights on your bike. Simple things that make you get noticed are really important.”

California’s Remy Wakefield took part in the bicycle ride while visiting on vacation from Los Angeles with her mom and auntie.

“We just wanted to get some good old-fashioned exercise but not do any sort of running. So this was accommodating to us,” Wakefield said. “We’re wearing helmets and just being cautious looking out for cars.”

Cloudy skies, cool tradewinds and plenty of water kept riders safe from overheating and exhaustion.

“We thought it would be something fun to do,” said Wakefield’s auntie, Diane Stutchman. “And it’s good exercise.”

While bikers enjoyed pedaling alongside each other during the fun ride, they watched carefully for traffic and used hand signals to make motorists aware of their intentions.

One Kauai motorist, Kit Ellison, was concerned about the dangers of having bikes riding next to traffic. “It is nice of the County to give riders a lane to ride on next to hurtling traffic, but if traffic doesn’t know they are there (it could be) tragedy,” she said. Ellison knows one person whose insurance had to pay medical claims and replace the bicycle after hitting a rider without reflectors and lights.

“It could have been worse, so we all thanked God the rider lived to try suicide again another day,” she said.

After the smooth ride, the brightly colored group returned safely to the Civic Center with laughter and music for snacks and talk story. Bikes on Rice takes place the second Tuesday of every month; the next ride is scheduled for June 12. Be sure to wear bright clothes, make sure you have lights and reflectors, get a helmet and join the fun next month.

John Steinhorst/The Garden Island