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Morgantown Wins Bronze: Puts West Virginia on the BFC Map
By Lindsay Plante, BFA Communications Intern
On Monday, Morgantown added another state to the Bicycle Friendly America map, becoming the first Bicycle Friendly Community in West Virginia. Having applied several years earlier, Morgantown used the League’s advice to guide its efforts and win the Bronze designation.
But this is just the first milestone for Morgantown. The community plans to become a city that is bike-friendly for riders of every background and purpose.
“Our goal is that bicycles will be 5 percent of all vehicles on Morgantown streets by 2020,” says Frank Gmeindl, Chairman of the Morgantown Municipal Bicycle Board. “Our mission is to get the everyday commuter, student or employee, to look beyond Morgantown’s hilly terrain and see the potential cycling holds individually and for our community.”
“Our city has seen unprecedented growth in the past few decades and, as a result, traffic congestion in popular university and commercial areas has increased,” he adds. “Cycling offers congestion relief, as well as personal benefits to body, mind, and pocketbook!”
Already Morgantown has seen an increase in bicycle commuting, recreational riding, and growth in general cycling culture. These changes haven’t always come easily. Like many communities across the country, Morgantown faces tough terrain and older street systems, as well as a lack of financial resources to change existing infrastructure. Rather than attempt a construction overhaul with a lack of political and community support, Morgantown has focused on mounting small, attainable achievements, like funding for cycling classes and improving bike rack facilities.
“There’s no switch you flip to become bike-friendly,” Gmeindl says. “We want our citizens to see the sum of all of these activities, and eventually draw their own conclusion that seeing bicyclists on the road is the norm. Overcoming challenges requires continuous cooperative effort among all stakeholders in becoming a bicycle-friendly community.”
After seeing such growth in cycling and the positive impacts to health and community, Morgantown will continue its effort with a new comprehensive bicycle plan. It’s not just city officials and cycling enthusiasts who are excited about riding in Morgantown.
“One local cyclist started commuting and used a tag-a-long to take his daughters to day care,” Gmeindl says. “One afternoon he overheard the other kids talking about how cool it was that her Dad brought to school on a bike!”
We couldn’t agree more!