Cyclists promote biking in BG

Senior Seth Short, 21, of Madisonville, takes part in Critical Mass an event to promote cycling safety in Bowling Green each month. Short is one of the organizers of Critical Mass where he rides each month on the roads in Bowling Green with a group of cyclists.

Magen McCrarey

Pedaling with traffic, a mass of cyclists breezed across a bustling US 31-W to Scottsville Road while motorists honked and hollered at the sight of the crew on bikes.

The cyclists were participating in Critical Mass, an event where 15 to 35 cyclists, ardent to share the pavement, embark on a bike ride undeterred by motorists on the last Friday of every month. The group meets next today at 5:30 p.m. at Fountain Square in downtown Bowling Green, and the ride starts at 6 p.m.

The event started when Madisonville senior Seth Short noticed how ill-equipped Bowling Green was for cyclists, and with the help of friends David Darnell and Dallas Slaughter, the city’s first Critical Mass made way last April.

The city’s Critical Mass was modeled after other Critical Mass events that have taken place in major cities across the U.S. and the world, including Chicago, Denver and Phoenix.

“If you ride a bike, then it’s super important to go to meet other people who ride bikes and be more comfortable riding on the road,” Short said.

Critical Mass was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco by a group of citizens who shared Short’s observations.

Since April, the mass of cyclists in Bowling Green has been made up of all ages, ranging from college students to middle-aged riders, he said.

Short says there is no set leader of Critical Mass. Instead, a route is collectively chosen, and communication is key throughout the ride.

He says the rides are meant to encourage the city to be more conscious about cyclists, something other local groups encourage too, including Bike Bowling Green and the Bowling Green League of Bicyclists.

Jennifer Tougas, director of Parking & Transportation Services at WKU and president of Bike BG, is actively working towards creating a cycling environment for the city that is a safe and convenient alternative to motor vehicles.

“In regards to making steady progress, we still have some work to do before we really accomplish that goal,” Tougas said.

For WKU students, there are 500 bike racks available on campus, and Big Red Bikes offers a full-service bike shop that is funded by the WKU Department of Parking & Transportation, Tougas said.

Big Red Bikes offers refurbished bicycles to be checked out at no cost for a period of two days to WKU students, staff and faculty, Tougas said.

Mayor Elaine Walker said that the city is becoming friendlier to cyclists and an effort is set into place to increase the number of greenways and bike paths, along with “share the road” signs.

Josh Moore, planning commission Greenways coordinator, says the city offers 20 miles of greenways, but hardly any designated bike lanes.

About two miles of bike lanes are around the city, and the majority stems from campus property, he said.

Walker said that motorists need to accommodate cyclists by becoming more aware of their presence and surroundings.

In the future, Walker said she would like to see a greater number of citizens commuting via bicycle.

“It is a heck of a lot easier to park a bike than a vehicle,” she said.

When cycling around the city, Walker advises citizens to use bike lanes. If there isn’t a bike lane, cyclists can join in traffic while following the rules of the road.

“It is really not a good idea to ride a bike on sidewalk,” she said.

Tougas said Critical Mass is a good event for creating awareness and an atmosphere where people can feel comfortable.

It adds to the examples of how Bowling Green’s bicycling community is growing, she said.

Critical Mass has a laid-back approach to creating awareness, but the rules of the road are always taken into consideration, Short said.

“Anybody can do it,” he said, “We coast most of the way. The whole point is for us to stick together and relax.”