Welcome to May, in which we celebrate all things bicycling.

This year Austin cyclists have plenty to rejoice about, although anyone on two leg-powered wheels knows our city still has a way to go before it ranks as high as Portland, Ore.; Boulder, Colo.; or Madison, Wis., on the bike friendliness-o-meter.

Still, we have a brand-new cycle track on Rio Grande Street, between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 24th Street, where cyclists can pedal a two-way path buffered from motor traffic. The heavily marked route includes a green-painted box of pavement where cyclists can wait for the light at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and painted strips of pavement where driveways cross it. Bike along it, and you actually feel like you belong.

New bike lanes and bike parking corrals are popping up around town, too.

Activities are planned across the city to celebrate Bike Month in May.

Topping the list is the city's first ciclovia, a trend that started in Colombia that will temporarily shut down a two-mile stretch of Sixth Street to motor traffic and hand it over to bicycles and pedestrians.

The Bike Month schedule includes a bicycle fashion show, a bike-in book exchange, restaurant discounts for cyclists, and, of course, free breakfast at stations across town on Bike to Work Day.

While you contemplate all that, consider some reasons to bike instead of drive: Cycling helps keep you fit. It makes your legs look sexy; it cuts your gasoline bill; it reduces your carbon footprint; it eases road congestion; it lets you see the world on a more human level; and it's easier on streets than motor vehicles, which wear away pavement and create potholes.

Most importantly, though, it's hoot-out-loud, who-cares-what-they-think-of-you fun. And if you don't believe us, just try coasting down the hill on Rollingwood Drive, zipping over rocks and roots at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park or pedaling to dinner with your neighbors.

Contact Pam LeBlanc at pleblanc@statesman.com or 445-3994 Twitter: @fitcityleblanc

No more excuses

Commuting by bike is easier than you think. Not convinced? Bicycle Sports Shop responds to the top five excuses for not riding to work.

1. It's too far and I don't have the time. Look closely and you might find that pedaling is possible — even practical. By avoiding stop-and-go traffic you can make excellent time on a bicycle. Consider driving part way to work, parking and biking the rest of the way, or pingponging by driving one way and cycling the other.

2. I need to wear dress clothes. Leave a spare change of clothes at the office.

3. I don't have a place to shower. A hand towel packs easily for freshening up. A nearby health club might let you use its shower, too.

4. There's no place to park my bike. There should be, and if there isn't, maybe it's time to ask management why they're not encouraging something as healthy as cycling. Still no luck? Look for a utility room, closet or garage. Wherever you leave your rig, be sure to lock it.

5. The weather's too rotten to ride. The key is dressing in layers, because there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Besides, we live in Texas, where it's warm (hot even) nine months out of the year.

What's going on:

Bike-in Book Swap: Grab an old book and pedal to the Twin Oaks Library Branch, 1800 S. Fifth St., where you can trade it for a new one at this free gathering from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Learn how to make your own saddle cover, panniers, handmade reflector or bicycle pennant; watch a BMX demo; get a free bike tuneup courtesy of Bicycle Sports Shop; take a bicycle maintenance classes from Yellow Bike Project; register your bike with the Austin Police Department; and enjoy a Kid's Kup Bike Rodeo. For more information call 974-7400 or go to library.austintexas.gov.

Bike to School Day: Students are encouraged to ride their bicycles to school on May 9. Check with your school for details.

Armadillo Hill Country Classic: Choose from routes of 14 to 105 miles that wander through the Texas Hill Country and The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge during the annual fundraiser for the Austin Cycling Association on May 12. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit's Bicyclist Education Programs. All rides start and finish at Liberty Hill High School, 13125 W. Texas 29. Registration is $40 for ACA members; $55 for nonmembers (they increase by $5 on May 9). For more information, go to http://armadilloclassic. net.

Bike to Work Day: May 18 may also be Visit Your Relatives Day and National Cheese Souffle Day, but we have it highlighted because it's Bike to Work Day, the one day of the year when cycling commuters are treated like royalty — at least at the free breakfast stations set up by the Austin Cycling Association. Bicyclists on their way to work get free grub between 7 and 9 a.m. Check the nonprofit organization's website at www. austincycling.org and www.biketoworkaustin.org for specific locations.

Bikebot Fash Bash: A fashion show on two wheels is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 19 at the Pine Street Station, 1101 E. Fifth St. Models will ride bikes down the runway in a fundraiser for this summer's 1Love Bicycle Tour. Admission includes open bar, dancing and designer looks by SoLa, the Psychlis and more. Tickets are $20 at http://on.fb.me/KbljTW.

Viva Streets! Officials will close a two-mile stretch of Sixth Street between Brazos Street and Robert T. Martinez Jr. Street to all motor traffic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 20. You're invited to bicycle, play, run, skateboard, skate, walk or just plain people watch. Test yourself on a bike skills course, cool off in a water slide or baby pools, watch a hula hoop performance and stop by food vendor booths. Austin Cycling Association, Bike Texas, Austin Bike Zoo and Austin Parks and Recreation Department officials will be on hand. Free bike rentals and helmet checks available. For more information, go to www.vivastreetsaustin.org.

Commuter challenge: Both Bicycle Sport Shop and Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop are participating in a national commuter challenge May 1 through Aug. 31. You can join at www.endomondo.com/campaign/challenge. Fair warning: A similar challenge converted this reporter into a slightly compulsive, nearly full-time bike commuter two years ago.

Bike Month map: Riders who need help finding the best route to get to Bike Month activities can get help from a website created by Ghisallo Foundation, an Austin nonprofit dedicated to improving cycling in Central Texas. Click on events, and the site gives you directions on how to best get there by bike. It also shows locations of bike shops and bike parking corrals. Go to www.bikemonthmap.org.

Bike-To-Eat Week: Cyclists who pedal to restaurants including Tacodeli at 4200 N. Lamar Blvd, 1500 Spyglass Drive and 12001 N. Burnet Road; and Juice Box/Soup Peddler at 2801 S. Lamar Blvd. between May 27 and 31 will get a 10 percent discount on their food. A list of participating restaurants will be posted May 14 at www.biketoeatweek.org.

Bike Ambassadors: The city's newly developed Bicycle Ambassador Team is available for outreach and educational activities. To schedule a visit to your office, school or other organization, contact sara.krause@austintexas.gov.

Austin Bright Cyclists: The city of Austin's Public Works Department has partnered with the Austin Police Department and the Texas Department of Transportation to give away more than 1,400 sets of bicycle lights to cyclists who need them, starting May 1.

Commuting classes: Want to learn more about bike commuting? At 6:30 p.m. May 29, the downtown location of REI, 601 N. Lamar Blvd., will host a free class to help you learn the benefits, essential gear, safety, responsibility and proper attire to start bicycling to work.

More cycling classes: The Austin Cycling Association offers an array of bike training, including Traffic Skills 101, with classroom and on-the-road components; a defensive cycling class that may be used as part of a deferral for dismissal of certain bicycle citations; a youth instructor certification course; a Ride the Shoulders class; one-hour cycling skills workshops; and community bike rodeos. Check www.austincycling.org to register.