Bowling Green: a case in point

The Bowling Green fire chief takes a turn  Photo credit J.D. Pooley of the Sentinel-Tribune

The Bowling Green fire chief takes a turn  Photo credit J.D. Pooley of the Sentinel-Tribune

I spent 23 hours in Bowling Green this fall. On October 12 Kathleen Watkins and I led a Professional Development Ride with the City Engineer, Fire Chief, Civil Engineer and Assistant Municipal Administrator. I returned November 7 and hosted two Professional Development Rides with the Director of Public Works, 2 City Council members, a Bowling Green University student organization representative, a reporter from BG Independent News and one from the Sentinel-Tribune, 2 City Council Members, Ohio Department of Transportation District 2 Engineer and 2 local bicycle advocates. After the rides that day, I led a public meeting with approximately 50 attendees in which I presented about safe riding practices and facilitated discussion about them. The media coverage was encouraging:

Bike tour of BG opens eyes to some solutions

Cycling advocacy group shows ‘tourists’ how to experience bike-friendly BG

VIDEO: Advocacy group's tour points out safe ways to bike BG

And the direct feedback (from the ODOT engineer) was even more so:

I participated in the Bowling Green Professional Development Ride yesterday afternoon. I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned from Yay Bikes! about bicycling in this community in just over 3 hours.

Although I have lived in Bowling Green for the past 14 years, I have never ridden a bike here prior to yesterday. I am not a cyclist. I don’t own a bicycle, and I haven’t ridden one for 30 years. Yay Bikes! provided me with a bike and helmet for yesterday’s ride.

The ride was not at all what I expected it to be. I fully expected a high-pressure sales pitch to construct miles of bike lanes and multi-use paths all over the city. Instead, the entire experience and information shared was intensely practical and focused on cost-effective solutions. The experiential nature of the session really opened my eyes to a lot of things which impact bicyclists and traffic safety that I would likely neglect otherwise, such as: trees, sidewalks, pavement widths, lane widths, use of signaling to turn/change lanes, and (most importantly) bicyclist lane position.

I was pleasantly surprised how courteous vehicular traffic interacted with us on every street we traveled. We rode on several residential, collector and arterial streets, including significant stretches along State Route 25 (Main Street), a 4-lane arterial with many signalized intersections and driveways. We did not have a single close call; no one honked, yelled, or made offensive gestures at us the entire time we were on the road.

I highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to make their community more bicycle-friendly. It was an eye-opener for me, and I’m sure that others will have a similar positive experience.
Photo credit: Kathleen Watkins

Photo credit: Kathleen Watkins

Since the rides, I've spent at least 7 hours on the phone with city leadership, including Jason Sisco, Bowling Green's City Engineer, and Robert McOmber, a City Council Member, about updates they're considering. A group from Bowling Green is planning a trip to Columbus to experience our infrastructure first-hand. And soon, "Bikes May Use Full Lane" signs will be popping up throughout town (the message is already in rotation on the electronic billboard by the police station)!

So 47 hours—23 in Bowling Green, 7 on the phone with their leadership, and an additional 17 in the office preparing. And yet a complete transformation is underway in that community, with dozens of advocates and professionals now on a coordinated path to accommodating people who ride there. Wouldn't it be perfection if everyone in America had an experience of riding on roads? Wouldn't it be pretty close to perfection if every transportation professional did? We're back in action on another round of ODOT-funded Professional Development Rides next spring. Support that work now with your gift.