By the end of the year, a 110-mile string of roads leading from the Tennessee border in Simpson County to a nation-spanning bike trail in LaRue County could be designated as a U.S. bike route.
Cave Country Trails, a group that wants to connect various trails in the Barren River region, seeks to designate a route that connects U.S. Bike Route 23, which ends at the Tennessee border, to U.S. Bike Route 76, which stretches from Astoria, Wash., to Yorktown, Va., and includes about 600 miles of trails in Kentucky, according to Helen Siewers, the organization’s director.
Siewers said Cave Country Trails believes getting a U.S. bike route would lure more adventure tourists to the area. “People who cycle through an area spend more money than people who just drive through,” she said. “Cyclists need to eat. That’s their fuel. They need places to stay the night.”
The proposed path consists entirely of existing roads and cuts through Franklin, Oakland, Smiths Grove, Mammoth Cave National Park, Cave City, Horse Cave and Munfordville. It would connect to Bike Route 76 just south of Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville.
Filing the application to have the route recognized as a section of Bike Route 23 and receiving the certification will not cost anything for Cave Country Trails or the affected counties and cities, Siewers said.
While Cave Country Trails hopes the path ultimately will have signs, Siewers said there are no current plans to purchase or install signs.
“It’s something we would like to do on Route 23, but our focus so far has been on getting it designated,” she said.
The roads were chosen for their variety of terrain, relatively low-volume traffic, scenery and because they’ve been well-maintained, Siewers said.
“We have several members of our board of directors who are avid cyclists and they know what cyclists want,” she said.
One of those members is Glasgow cyclist Eddie Bruner, who drew on his experience when proposing the initial route that has since undergone changes. He focused on rural areas and places that provided cyclists with good visibility.
“We drove it, I rode it a few times, we changed it a bit,” he said.
Bruner said the certification would draw more cyclists to the area, adding that Kentucky is not highly thought of among cyclists across the country.
“When you look at any Kentucky rankings for biking, we are around 45 to 50, depending on who you ask,” he said. A number of factors affect those ratings, such as the prevalence of potentially aggressive dogs in Kentucky as compared to other states and the lack of a law requiring motorists to give cyclists a certain amount of space, he said.
“Ultimately, Cave Country Trails’ goal is to boost quality of life for the residents of the area and boost tourism,” he said.
Additionally, he said, a law passed in July requires motorists passing cyclists to give them at least 3 feet of space.
Troy Hearn, bicycle and pedestrian program coordinator for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said he approved the application and sent it to the office of state Transportation Secretary Greg Thomas, where it awaits Thomas’ signature.
Hearn said he expects Thomas to approve the application within a week. After that, it will go to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials for final approval.
“It only takes a couple of months for them to approve so we should hear back from them by the end of the year,” he said.