BROOKSVILLE — H.G. Wells thought pretty highly of bicycles.
"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race," the English author once said.
Even if the future of mankind isn't at stake, bicycle advocates say riding can make life better. Now, Hernando County is dedicating an entire month to the cause.
March is officially Florida Bike Month in the state, a tradition that started in 2009 with a pen stroke from former Gov. Charlie Crist. The National Bicycle League has celebrated National Bike Month in May since 1956, but the Florida Bicycle Association pushed for a March celebration in the Sunshine State to coincide with perfect cycling weather this time of year.
Last week, the Hernando Metropolitan Planning Organization proclaimed this county's participation.
The target audience is just about everyone, even people who have no desire to ever ride a bike, said Steve Diez, a county planner who serves as the county's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator.
"Awareness is the biggest focus," said Diez, an avid cyclist who also serves as secretary for the FBA.
That means making motorists aware of traffic laws that apply to cyclists, Diez said. It means making would-be riders aware of the treasured spots for two-wheeled exploring within Hernando's borders. And it means connecting local cyclists who already share the same interest.
"A lot of people still think bikes don't belong on the road," Diez said. "There are some people who are afraid to ride."
There are community rides slated for the next three Sundays on one of Hernando's cycling havens, the Suncoast Trail.
A bike-to-work week encourages commuters to consider two-wheeled transportation for at least one day. Brooksville Mayor Frankie Burnett will help wrap up the week on March 18 by taking a spin around the Good Neighbor Trail and then heading north to City Hall.
A website launched last week lists the events and includes cycling resources such as a Hernando County bicycle map, safety tips, traffic laws and links to more than a half-dozen other cycling websites. The address is www.hernandocounty.us/mpo/bike.
"Admittedly, it's a minimalist first stab at it, but I think as we pick up steam and people become more aware of it and provide feedback, it will grow," Diez said of the site.
The county is enjoying positive buzz after the inaugural Brooksville Cycling Classic, a two-day racing and healthy living event held last October.
But Bike Month comes this year at a low moment for Tampa Bay cyclists. A dozen have been killed in collisions with vehicles throughout the region since last summer. At the same time, more cyclists are on the road by necessity, relying on two-wheeled transportation in a distressed economy.
While there are plenty of riders in Hernando, there isn't a unified cycling community here, Diez said.
"We're hoping the cycling community that does exist will come out, make itself known and ride with each other," he said.
Zoltan Serfozo sees all kinds of customers in his Extreme Bicycles shop in Spring Hill, from retirees on beach cruisers to riders on $5,000 machines.
Bike Month will tap into what many cyclists have in common no matter the skill level, Serfozo said. "You've got to encourage people to have a cause, and they'll definitely come out and ride," he said. "Every little bit helps."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.