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Cycling through celebration choices

Florida Bicycle Month – a holiday that commemorates cycling within the Sunshine State – starts today.

Though National Bike Month is recognized in May, in 2008 then-Gov. Charlie Crist declared that the state would hold its own observance two months earlier.

Students who want to celebrate the holiday can already start planning, as biking events in the Tampa Bay area are slowly announced.

The Oracle offers five ways to participate in the pedaling pastime.

Campus

One of Florida Bicycle Month’s earliest events takes place on campus Saturday with USF’s Amazing Race, a bicycle scavenger hunt that stretches across USF’s Tampa campus.

Teams of two start outside the Campus Recreation Center at noon and, after solving clues, ride across the college to take photos of checkpoints before pedaling towards the finish line.

Students may have already seen fliers advertising it hanging on the handlebars of bicycles around campus, and the free food and safety fair following the event may prove enticing, even to non-bikers.

Anyone interested in participating must pre-register by Friday at 9 a.m. either online at healthybulls.wordpress.com or by calling 813-974-4936.

Festivals

Toward the month’s end March 26 is the third annual Tampa Twilight Criterium & Festival, which consists of a circuit cycling race on closed downtown Tampa city streets.

Though students may not want to participate in the actual athletic event – which requires a USA Cycling Permit – the spectacle of Ashley and Franklin streets overrun with bikes for a day should be hard to beat.

The race’s center in Lykes Park will also host a community festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a bicycle decoration station and food and beer garden.

Since many students spend their Saturdays in the downtown nightlife area anyways, the Tampa Twilight Criterium & Festival offers a fun and easy way to finish Florida Bike Month.

Trails

If solitary cycling is more your speed, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of bike trails.

Lettuce Lake Park lays right off campus at 6290 E. Fletcher Ave. and has a gentle bicycle path – plus riders can view the park’s cypress trees and Florida flora without paying for $2 parking.

Further north at 16400 E. Morris Bridge Road is Flatwoods Park, which has both a seven-mile paved loop and a Wilderness Park Off Road Trails System for adventurous off-road cyclists.

Truly dedicated bicyclists can even try conquering the Suncoast Trail, which stretches for 41 miles through Tampa, Odessa and Brooksville.

Shops

If you’re not familiar with Tampa’s numerous bike shops, Florida Bicycle Month offers the perfect opportunity to visit, especially as some set up events and deals.

Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium at 14407 N. Dale Mabry Highway holds grand opening festivities for their new Grand Plaza location March 19 and 20.

On March 20, the store will offer two 7:30 a.m. “Tour de CBE” rides starting from the parking lot and spanning either 27 or 42 miles.

Other cycling shops include University Bicycle Center at 1220 E. Fletcher Ave. and City Bike Tampa at 212 E. Cass St., which promises specials during March on its Facebook.

Films

Seminole Heights Bicycle Club celebrates the holiday with a movie night and potluck March 19 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 1203 E. Powhatan Ave. The group will show “Bicycle Dreams,” a 2009 documentary about riders’ attempts to pedal across America in 10 days.

If the idea of sitting at a film screening with strangers makes you uneasy, however, try cycling-themed cinema at home with friends.

Tim Burton’s offbeat comedy “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” offers an accessible choice, with a plot set into motion by Pee-Wee Herman’s search for his stolen Schwinn cruiser.

Another documentary called “B.I.K.E.” follows the Black Label Bicycle Club – a subculture that rides “tall bikes” fashioned from stacked metal frames and holds bike jousting tournaments.