Attendance was down this year from last at the Pedal for the Park fundraising event for Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park, but more than two dozen people – most of whom were in for the longest haul – participated, said Helen Siewers, executive director of the Friends organization and event organizer.
Siewers said approximately 70 cyclists participated last year, but a large part of that crowd came from the Bluegrass Cycling Club based on Lexington, and they didn't come this year. It was a good turnout compared with two years ago, though, when “only a handful of hearty souls” braved rainy, and at times stormy, weather.
Still, more than half who were participating were on the 62-mile – or 100-kilometer – course, the most extensive of three routes, and that pleased her. Because it was 100 kilometers, it was called a Metric Century Race.
Next year, for the sixth year of the event, the hope is to offer a Century Race of 100 miles, she said.
Meanwhile, Jason Childress of Bowling Green, who had already returned from the 12-mile course and was about to ride it again, said this made his second year for the event. He helped get others signed in for the courses that started earlier, so he took shortest route, which left last.
The longest course, 62 miles, started at 8 a.m., and had 16 registered riders. Six cyclists on a 45-mile course started at 8:30 a.m., and a 12-mile route group of five began their ride at 9, but a few others took the same route later in the day for the first time when Childress and one or two others repeated the trip.
“I like the course,” Childress said. “You've got three different options, so you've got a lot of history between the wigwams and going through the cave [area]. I've done this [event] twice. It helps give back to the community because it's helping Mammoth Cave.”
On his second go-around, he was being joined by Emily Chipman, who is from Barren County but now lives in Murray, and 11-year-old Anna Chipman.
Emily Chipman said she came to the event “to be active with my daughter and support my dad, who's one of the organizers of the event,” she said. Her father is Henry Holman.
Anna was a little unsure whether she could ride 12 miles, so Siewers helped her put it in perspective. Cycling at less than 10 miles per hour can be difficult without losing your balance, she said, so if a person had just a little more speed than that – “just faster than falling off” – the course would be complete in approximately an hour. Most of the participants would be cycling between 10 and 20 mph, she said.
Although the actual temperatures were staying relatively steady in the mid-50s, it felt much colder for those who were holding down the fort – and any light items with a tendency to blow away – in and around the outdoor pavilion in the Cave City Convention Center parking lot. If the cyclists went at 12 mph, they would still be moving at a slightly lower pace than the wind, according to at least one weather report.
Chilly or not, “this is a beautiful 12-mile ride,” Siewers said. “I would do this over an hour on an exercise bike anytime.”
From 10 a.m. to noon, a free bike safety rodeo, essentially a miniature driving course marked out with chalk, orange safety cones and downsized signage, was offered for the first time. Other than Anna, though, no one took advantage of the course.
Miranda Clements, the greenways coordinator for the Greenways Commission of Bowling Green and Warren County, had brought the materials for the course, a kit for which was purchased with the aid of grant funds, she said. Big Red Bikes, a program through Western Kentucky University that refurbishes bike and loans them, had allowed them to bring several kid-sized bicycles for the day, and helmets were available as well.
“This is our first rodeo, literally,” said Jeff Moore, a transportation planner with the Kentucky Department of Transportation's District 3 office in Bowling Green who works with the Greenways Commission and helped put together that part of the event to encourage transportation safety.
“It's a bicycle skills course, and it's designed to teach children the rules of the road and how to ride safely,” Clements said.
They plan to try again at next year's event, with hopefully weather that is more conducive to kids' riding, and in the meantime, it will be offered at schools and other opportunities in Warren County.