Visiting state lawmakers from around the country put down their car keys and picked up bicycles for an eight-mile bipartisan ride around the City of Brotherly Love this morning.

For the Atkins family, a group of regular riders, the distance wasn't a problem.

"I'm guessing we won't have any trouble with eight miles we have more trouble with 6:30 in the morning," said Joe Atkins, a state representative from Minnesota. He was here with his wife and their three children.

The estimated 90 riders included lawmakers and their families who are in town for the 35th annual National Conference of State Legislators .

The tour started at the Thomas Paine Plaza north of City Hall and wound up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, down a bike path along the Schuylkill River to Locust Street, passing some of Philadelphia's historic sites along the way.

Bike Texas, a nonprofit advocacy group, organized the race to show how bike riding can reduce a rider's carbon footprint, be an alternative method of transportation, a great way to exercise, and to encourage bike safety. Volunteers from the Bicycle Coaltion of Greater Philadelphia also helped with the event.

For the enviromentally conscious of Philadelphia, the bike ride had another benefit.

Astride his bike fitted with a GPS device, mobile pollution sensors and a digital video camera, Edgar Gil, health program manager of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, collected air pollution data while he rode.

He and his colleagues will use Google Earth to post his findings about the levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide air pollution in the air. The results will be complied in a website called

"Health and the environment go hand-in-hand," said Dr. Jane L. Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health in a press release. "Edgar's participation in this ride will help encourage legislators from across the nation to continue to do their part to enact standards that better protect us all."

The bike ride has become a tradition over the last five years for lawmakers attending the national conference. Last year it was in New Orleans, other locations have included Boston and Seattle.

"I am a big fan of bike riding because not only is it a great way to stay in shape, but an excellent way to see and experience a community as well," said Texas Senator Rodney Ellis, one of the bike ride's founders and host.

"I can't think of better city to do a Bipartisan Bike Ride than in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love."

Contact staff writer Traver Riggins at 215-854-5626 or