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Kentucky creating a day for community fitness

On Oct. 12, much of Kentucky will participate in Second Sunday, an event designed to get Kentuckians outside and exercising.

From 2 to 6 p.m., 69 counties plan to close at least one mile of roadway to vehicles so people can walk, bicycle or skate along that route.

"Second Sunday is a day that is going to define Kentucky," said Urban County Councilman Jay McChord, who is spearheading the event. "We're going to change the health of Kentucky physically and environmentally."

Other cities around the country have closed roads for recreational exercise, but no group has tried to do it on a statewide level, McChord said. "It's a chance for Kentucky to lead and something that's a positive not only for our state, but our nation."

In Lexington, Limestone will be closed from Avenue of Champions to Third Street.

Limestone is a major corridor which runs through the heart of downtown while connecting the University of Kentucky to Transylvania University, said Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry.

The city has planned a number of activities along that one-mile stretch, including tai chi, a group cycling workout on stationary bikes, a baby-stroller workout, a dog-bone hunt, a group bike ride to Paris, group exercise and a bike polo demonstration. There also will be live music, face-painting, sidewalk chalk and hula hoops.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

Second Sunday activities around the state are being coordinated by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service.

The hope is that Second Sunday can grow to be an annual statewide event, but each community has the flexibility to close roads on their own, McChord said.

In Lexington, McChord said, his vision is for the city to close streets for recreational use every week.

"It is not so far-fetched to believe that a decade from now, Second Sunday is ... a national holiday that Kentucky authored and led," McChord said.

People from other states already have contacted him about replicating Second Sunday, McChord said.

The idea of closing city streets for recreation came from Gil Penalosa, the former parks director in Bogotá, Columbia, McChord said.

As the keynote speaker at last year's bike summit in Lexington, Penalosa talked about Bogotá's Ciclovia, an event that closes 70 miles of city streets for seven hours each Sunday, McChord said. Bogotá has had a ciclovia since 1976.

Other American cities that have followed Bogotá's lead include Portland, Ore. which closed a 6-mile loop of roads for six hours one Sunday in June. New York City closed nearly 7 miles of Park Avenue to vehicles for five hours on three consecutive Saturdays in August.