by Lee Graves
Given the prospect of a perfect fall day — with sun-kissed skies, balmy temperatures and Virginia’s foliage at its best — James “Jay” Turner Jr. might be
hard-pressed to decide how to enjoy the moment to its fullest.
In years past, the Roanoke native might have gone for a long run on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or paddled some white water in a canoe. Or saddled up a horse and
trotted down some woodland trail.
Now, his outdoor passions have a new spin. Cycling has become Turner’s go-to recreational outlet, giving him plenty of options to savor an autumn jewel. “On
a pretty day, I would probably right now go bicycling because I’m more into that,” says Turner, CEO of J.M. Turner & Co., a second-generation general
contracting firm in Roanoke. “But I think my real choice would be to go out and fish. The Jackson River in the fall, when the leaves are changing, it’s just
a wonderful, wonderful river to fish.”
Active in the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, Turner waxes lyrical about the beauty of fly-fishing such streams as the Jackson, the Roanoke River, the
South Fork of the Holston in Tennessee and a place in British Columbia that, “if I told you, I’d have to shoot you.”
But cycling is where Turner, a former marathoner, now turns for easy access to the outdoors and for his workouts. He takes to the road several times a week,
riding an hour to 90 minutes on weekdays with longer rides on weekends. “Roanoke has got some great places to ride. You can go out of your front door and
just go somewhere, as opposed to having to go to the gym [for a workout],” he says.
Turner traces his love of the outdoors to playing as a youth in the South Roanoke woods. Some of those childhood haunts have been developed, and as a builder
he advocates careful planning and land preservation. (He is a board member and past president of the Western Virginia Land Trust, which helps to establish
conservation easements and other property protections.)
While fly-fishing affords solitude and intimacy with nature, cycling provides a social connection that Turner appreciates just as much. He joins a group of
about 40 cyclists for regular Tuesday rides that routinely end at a local tavern. And his participation in Bike Virginia events, multi-day affairs that draw
thousands of cyclists, has led to some lasting friendships. “I have met some of the nicest people, and I only see them at Bike Virginia,” he says.
With legions of riders and countless stores, bicycling contributes considerable thrust to the wheels of economic development.
According to a 2005 study by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, cycling contributes $133 billion to the U.S. economy. In the South Atlantic area — made up of
Virginia, seven other states and the District of Columbia — bicycling contributes $11.3 billion to the regional economy. The South Atlantic is home to more
than 10 million bicyclists, more than a quarter of the adult population, according to the foundation.
The Old Dominion, with cycling assets such as the Virginia Capital Trail and more than 830 miles of the U.S. Bicycle Route System (more than any other
state), was ranked 23rd among “bike-friendly” states in a survey released this year by the League of American Cyclists.
Nearly every locality in Virginia has a cycling organization eager to welcome new riders, from the Peninsula Bicycling Association in Tidewater to the Reston
Bicycle Club in Northern Virginia, from the Richmond Area Bicycling Association in the state’s capital to the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition in the
western reaches. The ranks range from nonprofits such as the Charlottesville Community Bike Shop, dedicated to recycling used bikes, to Babes on Bikes, a
group exclusively for female riders in Northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.
Statewide players include:
The Virginia Bicycling Federation: Formed in the early 1990s, this group promotes cycling in the state through education and public policy initiatives.
BikeWalk Virginia: Also devoted to education and advocacy, BikeWalk Virginia coordinates the annual Bike Virginia tours, which attracted a record 2,200
riders in 2007. http://www.bikevirginia.org.
The Virginia Cycling Association: The association represents bicycle racing clubs in Virginia. http://www.vacycling.org.
Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts: This regional group is one of numerous organizations devoted to mountain bikers and other off-road cycling enthusiasts.
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