Imagine doing something responsible and economical and almost dying for it.
That is what happened to Billy Dengel, a second year nursing student at Campbellsville University.
“I started bicycle commuting to work last spring as a way to cut down on gas and get more exercise in my daily routine,” Dengel.
Dengel, an emergency room technician at Taylor Regional Hospital, said he was nearly run off the road while riding to work.
Frustrated with his situation, Dengel turned to the community and started searching for cycling advocacy groups. He found no such group.
Due to the lack of such a group, Dengel started Bicycle Friendly Campbellsville (BFC), an organization whose mission statement declares it is “dedicated to encouraging and educating the community on the joy and benefits of cycling or bicycle commuting and to bring awareness to the need for bicycle infrastructure in our community.”
“I just felt there needed to be more awareness of the bicyclists on the road and the health benefits of cycling,” Dengel said.
Bicycle Friendly Campbellsville, which was launched this past June, has more than 40 active members and 200 likes on its Facebook page.
Dengel’s initiative further paid off and also attracted attention from the Healthy Living Taylor County Coalition (HLTCC), a group dedicated to promoting health, community and tourism to Campbellsville.
Unknown to Dengel, the coalition had just created a “Trail Town Task Force” dedicated to having Taylor County being designated a “trail town.”
Dengel joined the taskforce to establish bicycle safety programs and trails. This attracted the attention of Kentucky’s Office of Adventure Tourism that was in charge of the Kentucky Trail Town program.
“I think it’s great that a college student is driving the momentum,” Seth Wheat, assistant to the executive director of Kentucky’s Office of Adventure Tourism, said.
“A community being designated a trail town is a tedious process but has many benefits for the community and, through the hard work of individuals like Mr. Dengel, the process is a lot easier,” Wheat said.
That process includes submitting a formal application, which takes in account the community’s proximity to areas for hunting, fishing and downtown areas, as well as dining and shopping places and how wide sidewalks are.
“Once the application is approved, we send outdoor recreation users to the community to try out the trail system, and they provide feedback about their experience. Then the community makes a plan to address these issues, and after that we submit their proposal to the governor’s office for approval,” Wheat said.
“The Trail Town designation offers a way for towns to diversify their economy, improve the quality of life, and a designated trail town marketing scheme provided by the state,” he said.
Elaine Wilson, executive director of Kentucky’s Adventure Tourism, visited Campbellsville in August to start the process in Campbellsville and met with many of the members of BFC, the Trail Town Task Force, community leaders, including Debbie Carter, who is an assistant professor of social work at CU, board member of the Campbellsville’s Downtown Renaissance Committee, and wife of Campbellsville University President Dr. Michael V. Carter.
“We need to have a better trail system in Campbellsville, marked cycling lanes and better infrastructure to support riders. Crossing Broadway is pretty dangerous, and I think a pedestrian bike bridge is needed to connect downtown area to the campus,” she said.
Dengel’s dream is to have a trail system that spans Taylor County. BFC members and John Moore, an engineer with the highway department, have designed a trail map that connects the university, downtown Campbellsville, Green River Lake and many of the county’s major areas.
“The map reflects my hopes and dreams for Campbellsville to have a trail system for bikes and pedestrians which would bring tourist money to Campbellsville and offer us more options for staying healthy,” Dengel said.
Dengel said he thinks cycling lanes would benefit international students and individuals who choose not to drive everywhere.
“There are plenty of international students at CU who don’t own cars and cycling is great way for them to get around, but we need to have better infrastructure,” Dengel said.
Following the recent installment of the red pedestrian walkways by the baseball field, Carter said the university, specifically the building and grounds committee of the CU Board of Trustees, will start working on more trails and lanes around campus.
Posted on Wed, November 7, 2012
by Gerry James