This spring in the urban neighborhoods across Louisville, roads are being painted with sharrows. This work is part of the continued and steady progress of a project to build a city-wide network of “neighborways” (see this 2014 report from Broken Sidewalk).
B4L first proposed building the neighborway network back in summer 2013 — which, in terms of the city’s bike infrastructure, was a lifetime ago. At that time, none of the First, Brook, Sixth, Seventh, Breckinridge, Kentucky, Floyd, Ali, or Chestnut street bike lanes existed.
With limited funds available then, B4L worked with Metro Advanced Planning to conceive a neighborway network that could be painted with sharrows using money from a federal CMAQ grant. In the years since, about 50 miles of roadway have been painted as part of the neighborways project, with still more coming later this summer. (You can chart their progress here.)
The sharrows mark these roads as neighborways; however, sharrows do not make a road a neighborway. Ideally, neighborways (aka “bike boulevards”, aka “neighborhood greenways”) are low stress bike routes that are inviting for anybody on a bike. (Jefferson Street downtown, for instance, has sharrows but isn’t a neighborway, due to both traffic volume and speed.)
In a best case scenario, neighborways are roads with low traffic volumes (fewer than 2,000 cars per day) and slow traffic speeds (25mph or less), while also being direct, intuitive routes for riders. Tactics for enhancing neighborways include traffic calming and volume management.
Unfortunately, because Louisville’s street grid is so reliant on arteries (Bardstown Rd, Dixie Highway, etc), there are very few low stress streets that are also direct paths to where people are going. The result is a neighborway network that can feel indirect and roundabout at times– lots of turns, lots of jogs onto and across busy streets. Not ideal.
Still, the neighborways are functional — if you’re looking for a calm ride home, they’re reliable and safe even if they take you a little out of your way. And because they’re well-marked, they’re fairly easy to follow.
We’re curious what you, the folks out riding the streets, think. Do you use the neighborways? Do you find them intuitive? Have you even noticed the sharrows? Let us know in the comments.