A community bicycle ride will take place at Hargraves Community Center on Friday at 6 p.m. The event, called "Vets on the Move – The Jim Huegerich Ride," is free to the public.
There will be two rides — a short one around the neighborhood and a longer one around local streets and greenways. Tickets, which will be used for a raffle, can be found at local bike shops and will be available at the event.
The rides honor James “Jim” Huegerich, who died in February at the age of 73.
Huegerich served as an officer in the United States Air Force, and later worked to develop the Chapel Hill Police Department Crisis Unit and establish an ombuds office for the Town of Chapel Hill.
“He was a town employee who worked with the town for over 40 years and bicycled to work every single day,” Go Chapel Hill Transportation Demand Community Manager Len Cone said.
The event is hosted by Vets on the Move, a local program that helps veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life find alternative transportation.
Vets on the Move began a year and a half ago and is volunteer-run. Cone said Huegerich was instrumental in creating the program, which is composed of both veterans and Town of Chapel Hill employees.
Vets on the Move offers a ride-along buddy system, where a volunteer rides with a veteran on public transportation for up to three sessions until they are comfortable doing so alone. It also provides veterans with information about alternative transportation methods in the community, such as walking, biking or taking the bus.
Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said the Chapel Hill Town Council has expressed a strong interest in finding ways to invest in creating safer infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Personally, I wouldn't even call it alternative forms of transportation,” Litchfield said. “If you look at the town's strategic plan and interest, it really talks about transportation and helping people get to where they need to go and providing options for folks to do that in different ways.”
Litchfield said the town is putting separated bike paths along Estes Drive, and that there will soon be curb-running bike lanes on Franklin Street.
Additionally, he said that the North-South Bus Rapid Transit project, a planned 8.2-mile line running between Eubanks Road and Southern Village, is planning for multi-use paths along the corridor.
He added that this type of infrastructure is something the town needs to continue to invest in.
Cone said that Go Chapel Hill aims to keep the environment clean, keep carbon reduction down and reduce traffic congestion by assisting people with bus routes and carpooling.
"We’re part of a bigger regional program, and we all work together, and then Vets on the Move is just one component of that larger commute option program," she said.
Along with biking, Vets on the Move also celebrates community.
“I think that a lot of people who aren't familiar in any way with the military have certain preconceived notions of who veterans are and what they're like, and don't really perceive them as a particularly diverse group of people," Rob Palermo, program director for the Carolina Veterans Resource Center, said.
He said visibility is important for veterans, and when the veteran population can interact with the community and meet people, it allows them to show who they really are.
“I think that's an important thing for any type of support or academic success that they're going to have," Palermo said. "That they have those relationships with folks out in the community and on campus.”
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