Art, Health, Community: Libraries Support Bicycling During Bike Month and Beyond

In celebration of National Bike Month (May in the United States, June in Canada), libraries are offering innovative ways to support bicycling all year round.

In celebration of National Bike Month (May in the United States, June in Canada), libraries are offering innovative ways to support bicycling all year round.

woman with three bikes in library
Bikes in the Mustang Public Library, OK
Photo courtesy Julie Slupe

In Oklahoma, the Mustang Public Library launched a bike checkout program in April, just in time for National Bike Month. Library Director Julie Slupe was inspired by similar programs in other public libraries.

“I found that the Bethlehem Area Public Library [PA] had a bike program that piqued my interest,” said Slupe. She then noticed that the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (via the Institute of Museum and Library Services) was interested in providing funding to public libraries interested in fighting diabetes, she said.

With the funding in hand, Slupe now hopes the library bikes will be used “by families to ride around the 128 acres of the park situated behind our library.” To get them started, the library plans to offer a bike riding program led by library staff.

To help make the new collection a success, Mustang Parks & Recreation supplied the library with bike racks, and has also agreed to store the bikes during the winter months, as well as help with any needed repairs. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will also be offering a bike safety program.



Child's drawing on poster of kid on bike labeled
Black Lives Matter: Bikes to Books Entry by Luna E. Owings, Woodstock Library, submitted in 2021
Photo courtesy the Portland Bureau of Transportation

In Portland, OR, in early 2016, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) approached the Multnomah County Library about a Bike Month partnership. According to Hannah Schafer of PBOT, “the bureau had in the past focused programming on commuters, and was looking for new ways to engage people who hadn’t been included historically. The library was an ideal partner.” The collaboration started small, with the first year consisting of giving away free bike lights to those who biked to a library during the month of May, as well as highlighting books that feature bikes.

Based on the 2016 success, the two partners “wanted a fun way to increase engagement, a way for [everyone] to feel like they have a place biking in our streets, and that is where the idea of the Bike to Books Art Contest emerged,” said Schafer. In this community art initiative, designs submitted and often created at library branches are physically installed in bike lanes by PBOT striping crews.

Due to extensive library renovations taking place in 2024, the program is on pause this year, but Schafer and the library’s Bilingual Spanish Communications Coordinator Paty Rincón hope to bring it back in 2025. In the meantime, thanks to work Rincón and Schafer did spreading the word in a presentation at the national 2022 Safe Routes to School Summit, public libraries in Mesa, AZ, and Seattle have developed similar programs.

In Portland, the partners continue to collaborate around Bike Month Storytimes and book displays, as well as a 10-mile Bike to Books tour route anyone can ride to see all seven winning art designs from past years. “All it took was for someone at PBOT to reach out to the library and see if they were interested in partnering for Bike Month,” Schafer said. “Once we connected and were able to see how well our organizational values aligned, it was easy to move forward with brainstorming programming ideas and opportunities.”

The partnership also builds community. “We’ve seen bike lane art representative of people across the community, including people of color, women in hijab, and so much more,” noted Schafer. “During the racial justice protests of 2020 many of the designs featured Black Lives Matter–related art and messaging. It’s powerful to see our city’s people reflected back, and a privilege to showcase their vision through art on our streets.”



happy woman in sunglasses on yellow book bike with magenta locker on back
Ally Blumenfeld, Community Engagement Manager, Hoboken Public Library
Photo courtesy Ally Blumenfeld

In 2019, Hoboken Public Library (HPL), NJ, commissioned a custom BookBike from Pedal Positive. The goal was “to bring the library to all four corners of our city of 60,000,” according to the library’s Community Engagement Manager Ally Blumenfeld. “The BookBike was the perfect way to introduce the community to the library through programs at parks in communities.” The BookBike’s informal model is “ Your Library on Wheels,” and the library uses the outreach vehicle to deliver many of the engaging programs that take place at the library.

In May 2024, Blumenfeld and the library learned they won an American Library Association (ALA) Core PR Xchange Award from the for best public relations materials in the country, based on the BookBike’s success. To increase visibility, the BookBike also has its own Instagram page.

One of the lessons HPL has learned is that customers want to know just where their BookBike will turn up. Blumenfeld said the library “used to switch up our locations on a rotating basis before realizing that our patrons preferred consistency. It’s taken us three seasons [since 2022], but our service has finally reached a comfortable predictability.” Blumenfeld says “We got out there and tried,” and that’s been the most important factor in their success.

As in Mustang and Portland, HPL’s biking success depends on partnerships. Hoboken City Councilperson Emily Jabbour and Bike Hoboken have been key supporters, and the library joins them in community bike rides. The Hoboken Housing Authority and Community Action nonprofit HOPES CAP, Inc. invite the library to family events, and Main Street ops invites it to be a free vendor at a monthly Artisan Market.



In addition to large-scale initiatives like book bikes, bike check-outs, and bike art, public libraries work with partners to create bike month programming that may seem small but can have large impacts.

In Menlo Park, CA, the library hosted a “Bike to the Library Day” on May 16. Menlo Park Library director Sean Reinhart said the library “has hosted several bicycle events in the past, for example bicycle tours of Little Free Libraries in our community, and bike repair workshops. So we were happy to partner with our local Safe Routes to School group on a Bike to the Library day event.”

Libraries across the country have instituted similar events—some, such as Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault, MN, and Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, IN, over an entire week. Karen Nesius Roeger of Eckhart Public Library said she hopes their Bike to the Library Week celebration will “have local residents find joy in riding, consider the library as a destination, and become more civically engaged in the community.”

Dreaming big, Ohio’s Dayton Metro Library proclaimed May 18 to be National Bike to the Library Day, and celebrated the date with a story time and pizza party.

Other signs of the times include:

  • On February 15, 2023, the New York Timespublished “A Love Letter to Libraries, Long Overdue,” for which NYT photographers were sent to seven states to document them. At Oakland Public Library’s 81st Avenue Branch, Jim Wilson snapped a child working on a scooter at a library bike repair clinic. Librarian Anthony Propernick received a 2024 Bike Champion of the Year Award from Bay Area Bike to Work for his work fixing bikes in collaboration with community partners at the library, which he has been doing since 2013.
  • ALA’s Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services has presented an annual Book Bike Award since 2022 to a “library, department, or an individual who has provided exemplary book bike service to their community.” The 2023 winner was the Gail Borden Public Library District, IL, BookBike.
  • The League of American Bicyclists recognizes five public libraries as “ Bicycle Friendly Businesses,” including Fayetteville Public Library, AK; Simsbury Public Library, CT; Kent District Library, MI; Fergus Falls Public Library, MN; and the Central Library of the Arlington, VA, Public Library System.
  • On April 26, the Spencer Public Library, IA, announced that patrons can now borrow locks for bikes and tricycles from the library.

Is your library offering any programs or services for Bike Month? Let LJ know!

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