It wasn’t that long ago that the rumble of a biker gang roaring into town would create fear and concern among the townsfolk. Bikers were generally viewed as rude, lawless and downright dangerous, as symbolized by the notorious Hell’s Angels.

But times have changed. Today, biker gangs are more associated with patriotism, honor, the love of God and country and respect for the law. The Hell’s Angels have taken a back seat to the Patriot Riders, who are praised and revered for escorting fallen soldiers to their final resting place.

The entire city of London rejoiced Monday when a biker gang took up residence on the north end of town.

An unusual mix of people turned out for the opening of Wildcat Harley-Davidson on the Hal Rogers Parkway. People wearing coats, ties and polished shoes mixed easily with others in leather vests, jeans and boots. Slick politicians were flanked by burly bike riders. Motorcycles outnumbered cars in the parking lot.

It was one of the largest turnouts for a business opening in recent memory, and rightly so. London is now home to the largest Harley-Davidson showroom in Kentucky. The beautifully appointed facility with the orange Harley motif will be a huge drawing card for motorcycle enthusiasts across the region.

For awhile, it looked like London might not land the much-rumored Harley dealership. Developers in Corbin announced that the dealership would be built at the south Interstate 75 interchange, but the announcement was a bit premature because no binding agreement had been signed.

London won the bidding war by offering a better location and some financial incentives from the city and county governments. Critics thought that giving the incentives to a primarily retail business was not an appropriate use of taxpayer money. But it was the absolute right thing to do in these economic times.

Basically, Wildcat Harley and its employees won’t have to pay occupational taxes for the first six months of operation as part of the incentive package. That money ostensibly will be used to train workers how to repair Harley-Davidsons — a skill that was somewhat lacking in this area.

Forgiving the taxes for six months is a small price to pay for a new industry that has brought new jobs to the area. There have also be inquiries from other businesses that want to come to London because of the Harley dealership.

With its unique dealerships, Harley-Davidson has helped reform the image of bikers from the lawless gangs of 30 years ago. It was interesting to note Monday at the Wildcat opening that the largest round of applause didn’t come from a politician's speech. It came from the invocation given by a longtime Harley enthusiast.

Welcome to London, bikers.

• • •

London City Council finally joined many other municipalities across the state when it decided Monday night to consider a smoking ban.

The council, at member Sharon Benge’s urging, asked City Attorney Larry Bryson to draw up an ordinance for consideration at next month’s meeting. Bryson’s job should be easy, because at least 16 governmental bodies already have successful smoking bans in place.

In the next month, there needs to be a thorough, civilized discussion about the smoking ban and the hazards of second-hand smoke. Supporters and opponents of the ban need to stay away from inflammatory rhetoric that will cloud the issue and make the council’s decision more difficult.

If the evidence can speak for itself, it will show that restaurant workers and patrons need protection from second-hand smoke, and the council needs to enact a law to do so.

It’s time that London joins other progressive, considerate cities that have passed smoking bans.

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