A green bike with a yellow seat and an American flag sits in front of Cross Bros. Grocery with a country cured ham hanging from the handle bars. Nearby, two bikes – one baby blue and the other hot pink – sit atop the Ashland Theater marquee covered in lights. Decorated bikes sit in front of the police station, public library, and local coffee shop.
Bike gardens are everywhere.
This is Ashland, a turn-of-the-century railroad town known as the “Center of the Universe” by its residents for its central location within the state. Just 15 minutes north of Richmond and 1.5 hours south of Washington, D.C., Ashland is also the intersection of the nation’s two longest bike routes, U.S. Bike Route 1 and U.S. Bike Route 76.
Thanks to the Ashland Main Street Association, a non-profit comprised of community volunteers, the town is now known for its creative use of recycled bikes and baskets of flowers to celebrate the area’s unique character and hospitality. With over 40 bike installments, Ashland’s local business owners and residents have inspired and challenged each other to find as many ways as possible to get more gears in the garden. Here, bikes practically grow on trees, sprout from rooftops, and welcome visitors to this home-grown community.
Go: From Ashland Town Hall to the public library, from the Ashland Theater to Ashland Hanover Visitor Center, it’s not hard to spot a vintage bike with decorative items welded to its handlebars and basket full of flowers. Simply walk down Main Street and meander through side streets, a bike garden is sure to appear.
Take the Scavenger Hunt: Visit www.mainstreetashland.org for the town’s official scavenger hunt to find all of the bike gardens and sculptures in the Center of the Universe. There are printed versions available at the Ashland Visitor’s Center.
Interact: Visitors are encouraged to post their bike garden finds on social media channels using #ashlandbikes. Let Ashland Main Street Association know what you think and if you are doing your own promotions associated with bikes.
Create Your Own: For bike garden ideas, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Ashland-Bike-Gardens.
Get Involved: Beyond its bike garden campaign, the Ashland Main Street Association led the effort to reopen the long-dormant Ashland Theater as a performing arts venue. The group is responsible for the annual Ashland Chalk Walk, celebrating artists of all ages, and the annual Ashland Train Day, celebrating the town’s railroad heritage. Partnering with the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Ashland Main Street Association has launched a “Drive Tourism” initiative and an impressive five-year strategy for economic development in Ashland. And they publish a monthly online newsletter, Get Centered, to communicate important news and events in the downtown district.