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Bicycle commuters seeking input

May. 16, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- This Ohio River city is mostly flat. Its downtown streets were built wide enough for Collis P. Huntington to turn a horse and carriage around, and it's now being striped and signed for bicyclists.

A group of Huntington cyclists who commute to work are hoping to make the commuter cyclist scene grow through their efforts.

The grassroots group of cyclists that includes such folks as Marshall University student and activist Dan Taylor and Breanna Shell, a planner for the city of Huntington, conducted their first meeting a couple weeks ago as part of the weekly Chat 'n' Chew sessions at the Frederick Hotel.

They are meeting again at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Heritage Station to ride routes throughout the city to determine best and safest routes for cyclists of all levels. That ride is free and open to the public.

Shell, who has ridden to work in Huntington for the past three years, said they ultimately hope to create a bicycle commuter map that folks in Huntington could use to determine best routes for navigating the bustling college city that's also home to factories, hospitals and large downtown offices where thousands of people work.

"Depending on who comes out to the Saturday ride, we would like to go into different areas of the city and want to make note of what is there when we go out on the ride," Shell said. "Is the road brick or hilly or flat? All of the answers to those questions can be part of the conversation."

At the first meeting, the group brought in maps from a bunch of other cities including Seattle (where Shell used to live), New York, San Francisco, Louisville and Champaign/Urbana in Illinois, which Shell thought was a great map for its cyclists navigating a working college town.

"There's some great visuals on these maps educating cyclists about how to navigate traffic," Shell said. "One thing we wanted to be able to show visually was different comfortability levels so if you are a rider who is new to riding on the road you might want to take a longer route that is flat with less traffic if you want to get from Point A to Point B versus someone who is more skilled who might take a more 'treacherous' route. That is the one thing that other cities have good examples of."

Shell said the idea for the commuter bike map was birthed by bicycle advocate Stacy Bisker, and one that they would like to see carried forward and hopefully created sooner rather than later.

They're going to seek input from folks who are riding the monthly bicycle ride, Critical Mass (it meets at 6:30 p.m. every third Friday of the month at the Ritter Park fountain) for a six-mile easy ride around the city.

Shell said the commuter map may also dot-in the Critical Mass route, as that's a best route chosen for its easy pedaling and for the most part, lack of traffic.

"About a month or so Dan and I met again, and we were thinking that with all the biking happening and all the energy going on and spring leading into summer we could get some momentum going by getting people together," Shell said. "We're definitely seeing more and more people bicycling, and we at some point may want to create more of a coalition or bicycle advocacy group where we come together, but I think this is may be the start of something like that. With PATH getting so much more visible, this is a good time to gather around."

You can contact Shell at shellb@cityofhuntington.com.

Follow Dave Lavender on Facebook and on Twitter @DaveLavenderHD.