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Bikes Alive in Transylvania

The following story about how two women made cycling a part of Transylvania University’s campus culture comes to us from Michael Flueckinger. It first appeared in our May-June issue of American Bicyclist. If you’d like to receive the magazine in your mailbox, please consider joining as a member today.

Lexington may be known as the Horse Capital of the World, but our scenic country roads and rolling hills also make our Kentucky city a great place for bicyclists.

With nearly 750 members, the Bluegrass Cycling Club sponsors weekly rides around the Lexington area — but that’s not all. Bicycling is also alive and well at Transylvania University, nestled in the northern reaches of the city, thanks to two dynamic and energetic women: one a student, the other her teacher and mentor.

Sharon Brown, professor of exercise science and avid road cyclist, has been promoting bicycling at Transy all of the 17 years she’s taught at the progressive liberal arts college. In addition to being an active member of the Bluegrass Cycling Club, she’s completed organized rides outside Kentucky — and brought that passion home to the university. She’s worked hard to incorporate cycling into the academic curriculum at Transy, including the development of a course now called “It’s All About The Bike: Public Health, Sustainability and Liberation.” 

It started in 2002, when Brown first led a group of students on a bicycling adventure in France, including rides through classic cycling country and epic climbs like Mount Ventoux. The course involved pre-trip training, cultural study, and, of course the physiology of long distance cycling. Not surprisingly, the class was offered again in 2006 and 2010. 

Last year, Brown repeated the course in the Bluegrass State, leading a four-day tour around Lexington, including stays at an organic farm and the famous Shaker Village. Combining academic study with real life cycling experience, it was the first biking experience since childhood for many of the students. And the confidence they gained, completing 50 hilly miles on a windy Kentucky day, was an education they’ll take far beyond the classroom.

One of the students on that trip was Stevie Morrison, a junior art major.  Morrison loves the bike, and has become not only an avid rider but also a skilled bike mechanic. And she has a strong desire to share her passion with other Transy students.  

During her sophomore year, Morrison was approached by the Transy administration with a request to bring more visibility to bikes and biking to Transy students, many who hadn’t been in the saddle since their elementary and middle school days. Up for the task, Morrison created a place on campus that has become “Transy Bike Central.” 

With just one room in the heart of Transy’s campus, Morrison created a center that has become an integral part of campus life, and has sparked a dialogue on campus about cycling. A bike repair and rental shop, it’s also a hub for bike education and an opportunity for students to renew their interest in the cycling. 

With her artistic talents, Morrison has designed a welcoming array of original bike art that adorns the walls. Students can bring their bikes in for a tune-up; get advice on purchasing a bike; or brush up on bicycle safety tips and skills. Bikes are loaned out to students who wish to get reacquainted with bicycling, or who just need a ride for the afternoon. International students can rent a bike for the entire academic year. 

Morrison also leads bike-centered activities on campus, including creating and leading the Transy Biking Club, and Saturday morning rides to a local bagel shop. This fall, she led a group of Transy students and alumni on a 220-mile bicycle trip from Transy to the National Undergraduate Sustainability Conference in Nashville, an indicator of her multi-faceted approach to biking and the bike as an element of sustainability. 

Morrison and Brown have become Transy’s bike ambassadors, doing excellent work on campus to promote bicycling, bike safety, and a healthy, bike-oriented sustainable lifestyle.  They recently presented their work to delegates of the Kentucky Bike and Bikeway Commission conference, extending their energy and influence to the larger Kentucky biking community.  

Their efforts represent the future of biking and sustainability at the local, university and state levels. 

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