Challenge spans May, encourages alternative means of transportation

Three years ago, Jessica Pelz and Ryan Howard decided to start something new — the May Commute Challenge encouraging biking and walking as alternate forms of transportation in Newberg.

“I’ve worked a lot trying to encourage people to walk and bike,” said Howard, a Newberg City Councilor. “It’s easier on wear on the road, better for personal health, good for the environment, all those reasons. I like the idea of encouraging people to walk and bike.”by: FILE PHOTO - Alternate transportation - Newberg City Council member Ryan Howard is an advocate for alternative transportation, including biking. To encourage others to try the same, he and Planner Jessica Pelz have held the May Commute Challenge two years running. The program will continue this year.

He said the trick in doing that is by focusing on encouragement.

“By setting up this fun activity, it’s just a way to encourage people to try walking and biking and hope people will pick it up and stick with it,” Howard said.

The challenge runs the month of May with two commute breakfasts May 7 and 21.

“Commute breakfast events are a way to recognize that people often don’t live close enough to feel comfortable to bike or walk,” said Pelz, associate planner. “They can park downtown at the Second Street parking lot, have coffee and snacks and walk from there.”

There are also tracking sheets for participants to track days they walked or biked in lieu of driving throughout the month.

“In the past, we’ve randomly drawn names for prizes. Based on how many days peo­ple commute is how many times their name is entered into the drawing,” Pelz said.

Offering some form of incentive goes hand in hand with the goal to instill a sense of competition, something Howard said is essential in making the project successful.

“Local businesses really push it (the competition). They create their own teams and internalize it,” he said.

So far, it’s been fairly suc­cessful.

“Last year we had 128 total participants that equaled 1,142 total commutes,” Pelz said. “The first year we had 102 people participate.”

Although there’s not a number goal in mind, both Howard and Pelz said they hope to see participation continue to increase.

“I think as long as people are enjoying it then it’s kind of having its effect,” Howard said, “as long as we’re visible out there riding around. Every year we have a goal of improving the effort and I think we’ve done that the last two years.”

This year the challenge will kick off with First Friday Art Walk May 2 at Rendered Clothing. For more information about the project, visit

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