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UK needs biking education without the fee

Many people at the University of Kentucky were surprised — and not especially pleased — when officials Tuesday announced a new $15 fee and registration program for bicycles parked on campus.

With student tuition rising and employee pay stagnant — not to mention all of those millions going to the new basketball coach — it seems like an odd time to be adding another fee, even if it is a small, one-time assessment that wouldn't take effect until 2010.

Besides, if you're wanting to encourage bicycling as an alternative form of transportation, is it a good idea to start charging for it?

After a couple of articles in the Kentucky Kernel student newspaper, officials might be reconsidering the fee. But the rest of the program seems like a good idea, for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's another sign that UK is taking bicycles seriously as an alternative form of transportation.

The plan would require bikes parked on campus to be registered and bear a sticker, beginning in July. The sticker would help with recovery of lost or stolen bikes and make it easier for bicycle owners to get insurance.

Money from the fee would be earmarked for upkeep of bicycle racks and, more important, bicycle education.

Whether or not the fee remains — and I wouldn't be surprised to see it scrapped — UK officials should press forward with the education piece. I see a lot of students riding bicycles around campus who don't seem to know the rules of the road or some basic safety practices. It's dangerous for the cyclists, and it just makes drivers angry.

Yellow bikes update

Yellow bikes will begin reappearing on Lexington streets later this month. It's the third year for the program that provides free loaner bicycles for short trips around downtown.

But the program, which was started by private donors and administered by the Downtown Lexington Corp., could be much better next year.

The city will find out this fall whether it will get a $206,000 federal grant to provide high-tech bike racks and other support for the yellow bike program. The grant would need to be matched by $51,500 in local funding, probably private, in-kind contributions.

"If we get that support, we'll be able to do a world-class shared bike program," said Phil Holoubek, a downtown developer who helped start the yellow bike program.

That would include 12 to 15 solar-powered racks where bicycles could be borrowed with the swipe of a credit card and returned to another rack at the end of a ride. The racks would be concentrated downtown, around the UK and Transylvania University campuses and at the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of the Legacy Trail, which is now under construction between downtown and the park, said Kenzie Gleason, the city's bikeway/pedestrian coordinator.

The rack vendor would be chosen by competitive bidding. But one major player in the business is Bcycle (bicycle with no "i"), a three-company partnership that includes Louisville-based Humana. To see how its racks work, go to Bcycle's Web site, www.bcycle.com.

But this year, like last year, about 60 yellow bikes will be available for checkout from several downtown locations, mostly retailers, and must be returned to the same location, preferably on the same day. Yellow bikes will be out through October.

There's a $10 one-time fee to join the program, and people who have signed up before don't need to re-register.

Bike Lexington plans

The annual Bike Lexington event has been moved from the third Saturday in May to Memorial Day, May 25, to better coordinate with the Bluegrass Cycling Club's annual Horsey Hundred ride that Saturday and Sunday.

The Horsey Hundred attracts nearly 2,000 cyclists — many of whom come from as far away as Florida and Michigan — to the countryside around Lexington, Georgetown and Versailles.

The event is based at Georgetown College, but Gleason said shuttle buses will bring riders into Lexington that Saturday evening for food and a live band at Cheapside. "Lexington wanted to bring them into town and show them a good time," she said.

Bike Lexington on Monday will be at the Courthouse Plaza at Main Street and Limestone and will include a 10-mile family fun ride and other activities for cyclists, walkers and families. More information on Bike Lexington will be available next week at www.bikelexington.com. For information about the Horsey Hundred, go to www.bgcycling.org.

In other bicycle news: Mayor Jim Newberry and the Mayor's Bike Task Force will have a Community Bike Forum on Tuesday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m. at a location still to be determined. The public forum will include updates on various bicycle-related activities and organizations around town.

"We're hoping people will come, find out what is happening in Lexington and tell us what they would like to see," Gleason said.

Also, people interested in bicycle commuting can attend free seminars at the Courthouse Plaza on three Wednesday nights next month — May 6, 13 and 27 — from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The seminars, conducted by trainers certified by the League of American Bicyclists, will cover such commuting basics as how to change a flat tire, and choosing the right bike, clothing and route.

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