Over two recent weekends more than 5,000 cyclists have enjoyed riding through the Bluegrass area and around Lexington.
More than 2,000 cyclists, including many visitors from other U.S. regions and Canada, chose to spend Memorial Day weekend here to ride the Bluegrass byways as guests of the Bluegrass Cycling Club's annual Horsey Hundred. Many calories and dollars were spent between Georgetown, Midway, Frankfort and Versailles during the event.
While that ride was more for the Spandex set, the next weekend brought the annual Bike Lexington enthusiasts the opportunity to ride 10 miles through our city without worrying about car traffic. More than 3,000 of our friends and neighbors pumped up tires and joined the ride around town.
It's not surprising that cycling has gained significant enthusiasm in Lexington, as the cycling wave has spread across the nation.
In New York City, for example, 32,000 riders joined the Five Boro Bike Tour through the city a few weeks ago. Of course — as Mark Twain taught us and we all know from experience — ideas get here a bit later than other places, but we are on the wave.
How do we know? There are numerous cycling projects and programs in Lexington. The development of mountain bike trails in our parks, the introduction of bike polo in Coolavin Park and the continued work on linking neighborhoods with trail markers are signs of real progress.
We are very proud of the recent completion and continued enhancement of the Legacy Trail from downtown to the Horse Park. Georgetown is now conducting a feasibility study to see how to extend the trail from the Horse Park to Georgetown. What a great idea. Paris is also paying attention. Imagine an eventual triangle trail linking all three towns. Oh, and don't forget Versailles and Midway, where cycling supporters have mapped and marked the Bourbon Trail through Woodford County and where scenic byways attract cyclists from near and far.
During the past several years, with funds provided by citizen supporters who bought Share the Road license plates, the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeway Commission has awarded grants to several Lexington organizations for cycling education and encouragement projects. Fayette County schools received a major grant for a program that will teach every kid proper cycling safety skills.
The High Street YMCA has received a grant for a course on commuter road skills. The North Lexington Y received a grant for teaching kids in that neighborhood how to ride safely. All classes are taught by certified instructors.
How about those folks over at Broke Spoke community bike shop, now nestled in the back part of West Sixth Brewing Co. at Jefferson and Sixth streets? The Bicycle Commission loved the shop's pro-bono vision, all motivated by a dream and volunteer hours (lots of them), which is to fix bikes and give them to people who need them and teach cycling safety along the way. They also teach bike maintenance at six work stations.
The shop's back door opens on the part of the Legacy Trail where the almost-abandoned CSX rail line slides into downtown. When considered with the new Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus, this little corner of town will be cycling-centric. I can imagine a trailside café and bike shop right there.
We know that public funds are sparse, but local government officials see the public health and economic benefits of being designated a Bicycle Friendly Community.
The types of programs and projects that allow a city to be recognized as bike-friendly illustrate that "this is a great community to live in" to people we would like to keep and attract. Think of Boulder, Colo.
Rather than ask for lots of dollars, the cycling community is supporting our officials in keeping up the good work of recognizing the cumulative effect of good cycling-friendly infrastructure like signs and lane markers when working on our streets.
We cyclists know that the time is ripe in surrounding communities and ask Fayette County officials to be part of the dialogue, perhaps even to lead it.
What better way to integrate a regional economic concept than through the healthy concept of cycling routes and trails throughout the Bluegrass region.
Thank-yous go to all of the volunteers in the county and to local officials who see the benefits and support bringing Fayette County and the Bluegrass region to the crest of the wave.