2017 Year in Review

Hello, 2018! As we move into the new year, we wanted to look back on the past year and share with you some of our biggest advocacy victories.

Advocacy Wins

Without a doubt, the most substantial projects we had a hand in this year were three road diets:

In each case, a four lane road was trimmed to three, adding a middle turning lane and buffered bike lanes on the sides. Road diets are great for traffic calming and for improving safety for all road users — drivers, bikers, and pedestrians — and each of these projects is a nice step forward in the city’s efforts to implement better “complete street” road design.

Despite the similarities in the projects, our advocacy efforts for each were very different. We began pushing for the Lexington Rd project in 2013, along with a number of other groups, and nearly four years later (after countless public meetings, delays, and internal debates within Metro), the project finally hit the road this fall.

Compare that to the Hill St project near UofL. We presented the idea to Public Works this past February, public meetings were held in March, and by April it was on the road. (Unbelievable!)

The effort behind the Jefferson project lies somewhere in between. We proposed the redesign in 2015 and watched as it steadily, over the next 18 months, made its way through the design phase, public meetings, and then finally to the top of a list of projects for the city to implement.

It’s great to see each of these projects hit the road now — whether they took months or years to find their way there. Big shouts and thank you’s to Metro Public Works (particularly Rolf Eisinger at Bike Louisville) for the project management, to the teams at Gresham, Smith & Partners and Qk4 for their design work, and to Mayor Greg Fischer for the budgetary funding. They’re the folks who made these projects possible.

 

Smaller Wins

This year, the city made its strongest progress yet on its “neighborway” program — an interconnected network of low-volume, low-speed streets that are naturally friendly for bikers. We first proposed the neighborway network — which is modeled after the bike boulevards in Portland, Oregon — in 2013 and have been happy to see its steady growth over the last four years.

While adding “sharrows” to a roadway and declaring it a “neighborway” is a modest step, looking forward, we hope to see these and other neighborways augmented with more traffic calming and volume management, to make them even safer for bikers. (Check out the NACTO guide for bike boulevards for some great ideas on what this could look like.)

 

Advocacy Losses

We took some L’s this year as well, for sure. Probably too many to list.

Most disappointing, though, comes from the same Lexington Rd road diet we mentioned above. When we first started our advocacy efforts, we proposed a two-way protected bike lane (aka a cycletrack), and after the initial public meetings, this was listed as the preferred option in the project proposal.

With modest traffic counts and essentially no turning movement in either direction along this corridor, as well as prime access to Cherokee Park one one end and to Clifton and the Highlands on the other, the city had an opportunity to create a truly world-class bike facility that could serve cyclists age 8 to 80. Similar designs to what we advocated for have gone in across the country, as protected bike lanes become the norm and officials recognize, in order for biking to take off, it needs to feel as safe and simple as walking on the sidewalk. In short, facilities must appeal to all age groups and experience levels, not just the grizzled commuter vets and the Lycra crowd.

Examples abound of how top-notch facilities attract riders — and not just in the New York City’s and Portland’s of the world. One need only look at the success of the Parklands or the Big Four Bridge to see the way world-class bike/ped facilities can attract both ridership and economic development — to say nothing of promoting healthy lifestyles.

With that in mind, in the days ahead, we’ll be putting out a wish list for 2018 (and the years ahead) — starting small and working up. We hope you’ll check back in.

Streets for People: Louisville’s roads need to be designed for citizens, not cars

This is the first in a series of articles written for Insider Louisville focusing on Louisville’s street design. Written by Bicycling for Louisville’s Executive Director Chris Glasser, the “Streets for People” series will be published with the goal of encouraging a (polite and civil) online discussion of these topics. 

In Louisville, it’s easy to drive just about anywhere. I live in the inner Highlands, and a car ride downtown takes 5 minutes, to my mom’s house (near the zoo) 10 minutes, to my in-laws’ (Norton Commons) 20 minutes, and to the far reaches of the county (Jefferson Memorial Forest) 30 minutes.

This is a problem. And it’s one we as a city need to talk about.

It’s so easy to get around Louisville in a car that we’ve sacrificed our ability to travel in any other way: transit, biking, and walking are not even options for most people in most areas.

One-way streets, traffic signals timed to 35 mph, abundant surface parking lots, and arterial intersections where there’s nary a traffic jam. These design choices compromise our city’s ability to do what great cities do best: bring people together. They undermine walkability by making the public space of the street inviting only to cars. Instead, I’d like to see us design streets for people.

What we’ve gained in efficient traffic flow and easy access to parking, we’ve lost in places actually worth arriving at. In a town where we have (a) bad public health, (b) poor air quality, (c) an urban heat island problem, and (d) dilapidated urban infrastructure, we’re incentivizing driving in a way that only exacerbates each of these problems.

The intersection of Story and Main streets. Removing the concrete barrier, adding crosswalks and a traffic signal could remake this throughway into a node.

Continue reading “Streets for People: Louisville’s roads need to be designed for citizens, not cars”

On Waterfront Park and Ensuring Access for Everyone

In our first piece on the new planned parking charge at Waterfront Park, we attempted to make the argument that:

a) a parking fee is not the same as an access fee,
b) parking does come with a cost, and
c) providing free parking incentivizes driving — a practice that is costly (both for cities and individuals), bad for our air quality, and bad for our health

As a commenter to the article pointed out, “When accessibility equates to free parking … this is a clear indicator that the public discourse is dominated by a car-centric mentality.” Agreed. 100%.

To chalk the debate up to “car-centrism,” though, only gets at part of the issue. The central argument against the parking fee at Waterfront Park hinges on access — particularly the burden a fee would place on poorer families. Yes, there is an assumption that people will be arriving by car, but given Louisville’s current dependence on the automobile, that’s probably a fair assumption. So, let’s consider the issue of ensuring access for all, while also looking for ways to lower the necessity of arriving by car.

Why Access is Important
As is well-understood at this point, Louisville is a segregated city — poor, urban, and black in the West End; rich, suburban, and white to the East. (To say nothing of the rural, poorer populations at the southern edges of the county or the overlooked, incredibly diverse, largely immigrant population of South Louisville.) Continue reading “On Waterfront Park and Ensuring Access for Everyone”

On Waterfront Park and Why Charging for Parking is Okay

News broke tonight, after weeks of speculation, that the Board of the Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC) approved a plan to charge $3 for parking at Waterfront Park five days per week (Wednesday – Sunday).

Despite the 6-3 vote by the board, it seems nearly everyone in the public sphere opposes this change — Mayor Fischer, Metro Council (Bill Hollander and Barbara Sexton-Smith, in particular), and “hundreds” of Louisvillians, according to an Insider Louisville article leading up to the vote.

Fischer wrote a letter to the WDC Board Tuesday saying, “This park is our community living room, a gathering place for all Louisvillians. I do not support creating an unnecessary impediment to access.” Hollander, probably the most outspoken critic of the plan, tweeted, “[Waterfront Park] should be accessible to everyone, every day – not just Monday & Tuesday.”

In the hours since the news has come out, both Hollander and Sexton-Smith have issued statements of disapproval. Sexton-Smith wrote: “This is disgraceful. … This decision will promote segregation at a time when we must all do everything we can to bring everyone together. … We must not balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it. … Keep Our Waterfront Park Free!”

Social media comments echoed/furthered these sentiments. One user referred to the plan as a “money grab,” another said the park’s board should be disbanded, and another suggested legal action against the park.

Considering all this — the nearly universal, bipartisan, community-wide opposition to this plan — we’d like to weigh in with an unpopular, contrary opinion. Here goes:

It’s okay to ask people to pay to park their cars, even at parks. Continue reading “On Waterfront Park and Why Charging for Parking is Okay”