Get on Board
By Kristina Rosen
“The more you invest yourself in learning what other people care about, I think the better kind of person it makes you,” says Mike Sewell by way of introduction. Even a quick conversation with him might leave you wondering why you don’t make the 20 minute commute to the interview via bicycle.
Sewell, an engineer and owner at Gresham Smith, is collaborating with the Lexington Area MPO in his role as the project manager for Town Branch Commons Project, the new transformative public-private park and trail system along Midland Avenue and Vine Street.
“The initial intent of why the city of Lexington is here is based on transportation. The Town Branch Commons project is hoping to reinvigorate and transform a modern city to get back to its roots.”
The project is about the overall quality of life. Think 22 miles of uninterrupted trail providing the downtown area with more green space, better pedestrian settings, and an improved environment.
Sewell is most surprised with how well the LFUCG and Lexington Area MPO functioned together on this project. “From the get-go LFUCG exhibited a lot of coordination which is unusual for a municipality. They tied it to the overall vision of the community and worked well with the Lexington Area MPO. It was refreshing to see how well the city functions in a managerial capacity.”
For most of his life and especially as an engineer, Sewell relied on his car, but when he began commuting to work by bike, his life changed and he reevaluated his entire career.
One day on his way to work, he got caught in traffic and hadn’t moved an inch in fifteen minutes. He was furious as the people walking and biking by were beating him across the bridge. He hopped the curb, parked his car, and started walking. As he fumed his way across the bridge, a bike bell rang and he heard the cyclist say pleasantly, “On your left.”
The next day he packed his bike in his car and decided the moment he hit traffic he would ditch his car and bike the rest of the way. That was nine years ago. He has biked to work nearly every day since. He stopped paying to park downtown and saved $130 a month. His mood improved and he lost weight, and he started taking both his physical and mental health more seriously. Biking changed his life and his career. He went from focusing his career around cars to focusing on the front end of roadway Sewell says the Town Branch Commons project “can mean so many positive things for the city of Lexington. Ladders of opportunity for people who depend on multimodal, a (mobile) shift when people see the benefits of getting out of their car. It can mean transformation on an entire corridor between the land use, overall enjoyment, and making the commute to downtown a lot more fun.”
Interested in joining the Lex on the Move movement in October?
Businesses and organizations can head to the Lexington Area MPO website to sign up. The more active a workforce is through-out the month, the better their chance of redeeming the benefits and good publicity while the most active individuals receive company perks or incentives provided by employers. (Results will be submit- ted at the end of November.)
Sewell says, “It’s like every time I get on my bike, I love my community just a little more than when I get in my car.”
BONUS LIGHTNING ROUND:
Next transportation trend to takeover Lexington in next five years:
Electric bikes. They’re great for the aging population, they give you a little boost and you don’t get too sweaty. They’ll continue to be a major force that helps to showcase how to get around short trips inside a city.
Favorite place to bike in Lexington:
Around campus. The University of Kentucky has done phenomenal things for bikes to make it very comfortable, but also connecting.
Name five things in your fridge right now:
Crank & Boom ice cream (we had to remind him fridge, not freezer), almond milk, aloha turkey (he says it tastes like pineapple), turkey sausage, and eggs. (He puts one scoop of Crank & Boom Bourbon & Honey ice cream in his coffee everyday — apparently we’ve been drinking our morning coffee all wrong.)
Favorite meal in Lexington:
The mock crunchwrap supreme from girlsgirlsgirls Burritos is to die for, but it’s tied with the shrimp or buffalo catfish from Smithtown.
The Lexington Area MPO works to ensure that transportation projects and programs are based on local priorities and mutually agreed upon goals.
A Metropolitan Planning Organization is made up of representatives from local, state and federal government, transit agencies, transportation providers and other local stakeholders. Urban cities with more than 50,000 people must designate an MPO to conduct transportation planning activities.
The Lexington Area MPO is making October the month to ‘Move It” with Lex on the Move, a month-long initiative to encourage local area businesses to engage in active commuting.
The challenge invites participating companies and their staff members to “step up” to find healthier, greener ways to commute to work in October. Walk, share a ride with a coworker, hop a bus, or ride a bike.
With ConnectLex, the new bicycle and pedestrian master plan, the Lexington Area MPO plans to build on past efforts and create a new vision for walking and biking in the region. As of now, Lexington has over 100 miles of bike lanes and shared use trails with more than 218 miles on the way.
This article also appears on page 6 of the October 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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