With the weather warming up, it's time to pull the bike out of the garage, pump up the tires and head out for a ride. Finding places to ride, run and walk in Fayette County is getting easier since Lexington has doubled its miles of trails during the past 10 years.
"We've averaged adding five miles a year in our network of biking trails," said Kenzie Gleason, city senior transportation planner.
The city has 24 miles of 10-foot wide asphalt, shared-use trails designed for biking, skating, running and walking.
In addition, cyclists have 28 miles of bike lanes designated with white lines on the sides of city streets, up from eight miles in 2007.
An additional six miles are designated bike routes on streets too narrow for lanes. Bike routes are on less busy roads and have signs posted to remind cyclists and motorists to drive and cycle with care.
"We started working on trails in 1998," said Keith Lovan, project manager in the city's Division of Engineering. "The first eight years were really hard, getting people to agree to have a bike trail through their neighborhood. It's much more acceptable, even desirable, now."
But the trails have been constructed in a somewhat scattershot manner. "When you look at a map of where we have shared-used trails, it looks like someone threw a handful of spaghetti up there," Lovan said. Many are a mile or shorter in distance.
"We build where we can and hope, in the future, to connect the trails," he said.
The longer the trail, the more likely it is to connect to someplace a person really wants to go, and the greater the usage, Lovan said. "The goal now is to connect trails to create transportation corridors to help cyclists get around the city and out into the rural area."
Bike trails encourage people to ride to work, to school and for recreation, he said.
Jay McChord, a former Urban County Council member who now has a consulting firm called HealthWay, said, "We need to be diligent about connecting the pieces of our trail system to encourage more people to get out and use them."
He called Lexington's trail system "the city's unfinished business."
Second Sunday, the brainchild of McChord and others, has for the past three years given several thousand people the chance to ride and exercise on a runway at Blue Grass Airport.
"Physical activity is the silver bullet," McChord said. "The more active we are, the more the good things go up and bad things go down."
The city is focused on building trails in the Hamburg area and on completing the Legacy Trail.
One mile of Brighton East Trail is completed and a second is under construction. Partial funding has been secured for a bike and pedestrian bridge over Man o' War Boulevard to connect Brighton East Trail with Liberty Park Trail, next to Liberty Park Elementary School. When completed, the Brighton East-Liberty Park Trail will be four miles.
The city has $500,000 to put toward the bridge project, and the design portion is finished.
A warm sun Friday morning brought people out to the Brighton East Trail to walk, run, push baby strollers or walk their dogs. Brenda Spillman, who lives on Shaker Oaks Court, walks a mile every day on the trail. "I've been doing it eight years. I love it. It's good for my health," Spillman said.
David Kjelby, a homeowner in Andover Forest, remembers when city officials held a neighborhood meeting several years ago to announce the Brighton East Trail. "Not everybody was enthusiastic. At the beginning, a few people were apprehensive," he said.
Now, the trail is well used, especially in the spring, summer and fall. "It's a tremendous asset. I know people who live in the Polo Club Boulevard area who want to know when will the trail be extended over there," said Kjelby, who bikes on the trail and on designated bike lanes in his area.
The state also has committed $2.7 million to complete the Legacy Trail, a bike and pedestrian trail that goes eight miles from North Lexington Family YMCA on Loudon Avenue to the Kentucky Horse Park. The next phase will bring the trail to Jefferson and Fourth streets. Construction is expected to start during the summer.
The last section of the trail will be a bike lane from the YMCA to the trail head at the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, at East Third Street and Winchester Road. When completed, the Legacy Trail will be 10 miles.
"Funds to finish the Legacy Trail were appropriated by the state and promised to us in January. Here it is April," Lovan said. "I'm expecting to get the funding this summer." He attributed the delay to the need for an Environmental Protection Agency assessment and "a lot of other paperwork. That takes a while," he said.
Groundbreaking for the Isaac Murphy garden will be this summer, Lovan said.
The Greenway/Trail Master Plan, adopted in 2002, outlines where the city wants trails to be built and bike lanes designated, said Gleason, the city's senior transportation planner.
"Funding for trails is never guaranteed," Lovan said. "Until the recession in 2008, the city was putting funds aside for trails. Now there is no local funding. We have to rely on state and federal funds."
Trails have been embraced by local developer Dennis Anderson, who donated 24 acres of land valued at $1.7 million for a portion of Town Branch Trail that goes beside his McConnell Trace development. Anderson built 100 town houses next to the trail, and called the development Trailside.
"We donated land because we thought the trail would be an amenity people would use. We didn't have to do it," Anderson said. Do people use it? "Tremendously," he said.
Anderson included a trail in his Townley Park development on Leestown Road. He is including a trail through his planned Anderson Orchard development in Scott County. That trail will connect with the Legacy Trail. Plans for the Legacy Trail call for taking it through the Kentucky Horse Park and north to Scott County.
How valuable to public health is a 10-foot wide, asphalt bike-pedestrian trail? "There's not another piece of infrastructure where you can put a grandfather and a grandchild, a world-class athlete and a person in a wheelchair, and they can exercise," McChord said.
TO LEARN MORE
City trails list: Go to http://www.lexingtonky.gov/index.aspx?page=262.
Map: Visit Bike Lexington's resources page, Bikelexington.com, for a map of bike trails and streets with designated bike lanes.
Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010.