On Branden Klayko and his website Broken Sidewalk, which was unlike anything else.

First off, the site was terrific, one of a kind — certainly within Louisville, but also nationally.

Broken Sidewalk was always a smart read, but in a way that was accessible. Branden’s writing was thorough, intelligent, fair, confident. It was occasionally light-hearted (as in this 2010 story about Slugger Field’s history as a potato shipping ground), always well-researched. It oozed cautious optimism, maybe a little wariness.

We were lucky to have it as part of our city and community conversation. National blogs would regularly pick up Branden’s writings. When Bicycling magazine rated Louisville a Top 50 bike-friendly city in the US in 2016, it listed Broken Sidewalk as a reason and summed up the genius of BS in three tidy sentences:

Louisville’s Broken Sidewalk blog is perhaps the nation’s best local outlet chronicling a city’s urban transformation. The site’s clean design and enlightening content regularly features posts from some of the country’s top thinkers on utilitarian cycling. Every city that wants to improve biking needs an online publication this good.

Branden’s editorial decisions were the most interesting part of the site. Things you wouldn’t see covered anywhere else, he would discuss in detail. When the city’s bike/ped department started its “Look Alive Louisville” campaign, for example, he wrote a multi-part series on pedestrian safety in the city. When LMPD started handing out warning tickets to children jaywalking and teaching them to “walk defensively”, Branden published this article that laid out a list of reasons why this was an incredibly bad idea:

While educating children in proper street safety is certainly important, the underlying message that we should raise our children to “walk defensively” on Louisville streets misses the mark. On the surface, it appears to condone Louisville’s unsafe streets and place responsibility for dealing with it on the shoulders of bikers and pedestrians. Additionally, on our city’s dangerous streets, sometimes the safest place to cross the street is actually in the middle of a block, not at a crosswalk where multiple chaotic turning motions of motorists can end up being more dangerous—which could be termed jaywalking. What’s worse, this approach could end up teaching some Louisville pedestrians that our streets are unsafe and they’re better off driving in a car to avoid the risk. And as we have already explored in depth, jaywalking to begin with was originally a campaign begun by car manufacturers to stigmatize walking and get people off the street to make them easier to drive cars on.

BS knew of Louisville’s past missteps but hoped for a better future. It knew that future was within our grasp and celebrated every modest step toward it. It loved our city’s neighborhoods and alleyways and architecture and history, most especially the downtown of a Louisville that no longer exists. It knew our city’s nooks and crannies — and of past nooks and crannies that had been obliterated by interstates and parking lots.

There were so many beautiful maps on the site — some historic, some that Branden made himself. They were all amazing, all telling their own amazing story — like this one of Miles Park at the old fairgrounds from an article on Louisville’s “lost race tracks”.

There were so many great old images from a city we didn’t know existed, a version of Louisville that had come and gone before our time. Reading Broken Sidewalk was to sometimes feel as though you were time-travelling, with Branden sending you postcards from a different world. This one of 4th Street is an urbanist’s heartbreak, with Branden’s caption both educating and chastening a city that destroyed such a beautiful streetscape:

In the weeks and years and decades ahead, we will miss Branden’s insights and wisdom. Broken Sidewalk is an incredible legacy to leave behind. It was both a lens through which to view our city and an invitation into someone else’s mind. Thanks to Branden for having the generosity and amazing skill to share these two gifts with us. What an incredible, sustained work of art.

#AdvocacyIdea: A Walkable Winter

Exciting news for the Portland and Russell neighborhoods, courtesy of Louisville Metro Public Works:

Public Works’ description of roadwork planned for W Market St later this summer

We’d love to see something similar on the Oak/Winter corridor that connects the Highlands to Germantown. This area could be incredibly walkable, considering the residential density and proximity to the Baxter/Bardstown commercial corridor. Unfortunately, due to the narrow sidewalks, parking restrictions induce speeding, and lack of tree canopy, this short stretch shuns would-be pedestrians. Tree-lined sidewalks buffered by a row of parked cars are great for walkability along busy streets — just check out what they’ve done for Cherokee Rd.

We would love to work with Louisville Grows and/or Louisville MSD, as well as Metro Council and Louisville Metro Public Works to see this corridor enhanced.

Winter Ave at Rubel Ave

We’d also love to see this kind of investment (say, $800k/year) for two-way street conversions. Our downtown and urban neighborhoods are beleaguered by an antiquated one-way street network. With modest, dedicated funding for this problem, we could have the one-way network flipped in a decade.

One-way street pairs that are maintained by Metro Government

Neighborway Project Continues Progress in Urban Neighborhoods

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.)

Edward St in the Highlands

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.

W Kentucky St in the California neighborhood

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.

Lexington Road Safety Project

This project’s final public meeting is tonight at 6:00pm at Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana (2115 Lexington Rd). Last week, we shared a project plan from the LouisvilleKy.gov website with three striping options for the corridor. Unfortunately, in the time since, our preferred treatment (5-foot bike lanes, 3-foot buffers) has been removed as an option. The only option currently being presented is for 4-foot bike lanes and 2-foot buffers.

Our take: meh. Not bad, but not great. Considering the goals of the project and the city’s stated interest in “complete streets”, it’s somewhat surprising that they’re moving forward with a project for 12-foot driving lanes (which will encourage speeding) and narrow, curb-side bike lanes (which will be inviting only to more experienced cyclists and which will almost definitely get filled with debris).

We encourage you to come out tonight to see Metro’s full proposal, hear their reasoning, and (of course) express your thoughts!