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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 29, 2015) — At the University of Kentucky and across Lexington, car-free transportation options have continued to grow in popularity due to increased accessibility and affordability. Today, UK President Eli Capilouto, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and others celebrated the opening of a new shared use path at The Arboretum, State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, connecting bicyclists and pedestrians from south Lexington neighborhoods to campus and downtown.
Located on the western edge of The Arboretum Woods, the path links Shady Lane to University Court, providing a safe and efficient connection for dozens of commuters cycling and walking along this corridor daily.
“UK is undergoing a dramatic physical transformation, including the redevelopment and improvement of our parking and transportation infrastructure. We’re taking a holistic approach to provide a diverse range of safe options for our campus and surrounding community,” said President Capilouto. “The new shared-use path through The Arboretum connects us to surrounding neighborhoods and provides a safer, more convenient access point for bikers commuting to campus."
Until now, cyclists commuting along the Bellefonte bicycle route, the oldest bicycle facility in Lexington, faced limited and difficult options for traversing The Arboretum and Alumni Drive. The shared use path will allow those commuters to travel through The Arboretum Woods to campus and then downtown along an established network of dedicated bicycle facilities, with safe crossings of busy intersections and without having to negotiate the walking paths in The Arboretum.
“The new Arboretum path adds to our growing network of paths and trails for cycling and walking,” Mayor Gray said. “From the Legacy Trail to Town Branch Trail to Brighton Rail Trail and all points in between, Lexington is connecting the pieces to make it easier to bike or walk around town. The city is adding more bike lanes, colored lane markings and road signage to improve the safety of bicycling.”
To promote safety for all commuters along this corridor, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG), a founding partner of The Arboretum, instituted new way-finding and safety-related pavement markings and signage to guide cyclists between the Bellefonte route and the new shared use path, along with a new pedestrian crosswalk where the path intersects with Shady Lane.
An additional component of the project was an improvement to the connection from University Drive to Hiltonia via the Baptist Health campus. This part of the project creates better connectivity to the west and provides safer access for cyclists traveling between the Rosemont Garden and Southland Drive corridors and campus/downtown. Baptist Health was a key partner for this aspect of the project.
The Bellefonte route and many neighborhoods connecting to the shared use path are located in Lexington's 4th District, represented by Councilmember Susan Lamb.
“We are excited to have this new path, providing a safer route for bicyclists who travel to the University of Kentucky from and through the 4th District," Lamb said.
In 2011, the UK Bicycle Advisory Committee identified the Arboretum Woods connection as a priority project. The connection was also identified as a priority project on the LFUCG Greenways Master Plan, the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and the UK Campus Bicycle Plan.
"Through our Transportation Master Plan, we've really been focusing on finding alternative ways for people to reach campus," said Lance Broeking, director of UK Parking and Transportation Services (PTS). "And so this path is really just an extension of some of those efforts to create commuter paths for the community and the university community in order to find unique ways to get people out of single occupancy vehicles and still have access to campus."
Broeking says PTS has seen a "huge increase" in the number of bicyclists on campus over the last several years. In September 2008, PTS, with the help of the Sustainable Campus Internship Program, repeated a 1998 Cordon Count Bicycle Study of bicycle traffic and cyclist behavior on campus. The count and the resulting data assist PTS in making decisions about bicycle use on campus. Approximately 60 surveyors counted bikes at 14 checkpoints around major entrances to campus. The data showed that bicycle use on campus had grown 37 percent in the decade since the previous study. Once considered just a warm weather way of commuting, more and more individuals are now using bicycles as their primary source of transportation.
“A shared use path that traverses The Arboretum has been in discussion since at least 2001. With The Arboretum Advisory Board’s approval, in 2013, plans to develop a path through the woods commenced," said Molly Davis, director of The Arboretum. "One of the board’s concerns was that the path’s ultimate location should cause the least possible damage to the existing trees in this 16-acre remnant of Inner Bluegrass Upland Forest. While construction projects always have impacts to the existing environment, we hope that this project will improve the bicycle and pedestrian environment for UK and the wider community, and provide a needed connection from neighborhoods through UK’s campus and beyond, while causing the least damage to our treasured Arboretum.”
The design of the new facility carefully considered the ecological significance of the woodland remnant it crosses and was constructed to remove as little vegetation as possible and to protect the root systems of the trees adjacent to the path.
“From a sustainability perspective, this project was both complex and challenging,” said Shane Tedder, sustainability coordinator for the university. “We had to balance the benefits of potentially shifting more commuters out of cars with the impacts of building in the unique and sensitive ecological conditions of the Arboretum Woods and the concerns of neighboring residents. I am hopeful that the scales will tip in favor of the health, environmental and economic benefits that come from the path.”
Once commuters arrive on University Court, they can cross Alumni Drive onto University Drive's bicycle lane or shared sidewalk. From there they can access main campus or downtown Lexington through a number of bicycle lanes, shared use trails, sharrows (shared lane arrow) or shared sidewalks. Once the Alumni Drive realignment is complete, cyclists and pedestrians will also have access to campus and downtown from Tates Creek Road through a shared use path and bicycle lane, and from Nicholasville Road through a bicycle lane shared use path.
Commuters expect the path will offer convenience and save them time when traveling to and from campus and downtown. For Sue Troske, a research coordinator for the Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy in the UK College of Pharmacy, the path also offers comfort and safety.
"It feels a lot safer because there aren’t cars and there are no potholes," she said. "You don’t have to deal with traffic; you can kind of think, 'okay what am I going to do today?' You can kind of get set up for your day."
On her new route, Troske can even pick up her weekly share of organic vegetables from the UK Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.
"It's right on my way home to pick up my CSA on Thursdays," she said. "So I pick up all my vegetables on my bike and then pedal home."
"This path kind of parallels Nicholasville Road but creates a warm and inviting opportunity that while it's primarily designated as a commuting path, it really is an enjoyable ride as well," Broeking said.
In addition to the Arboretum Woods Shared Use Path, the UK campus boasts 8 miles of bike lanes, 3.5 miles of sharrows and 3 miles of shared sidewalks. Once recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly University, UK's status was upgraded to a Silver level Bicycle Friendly University this year.