A Missed Opportunity on Lexington Road

This month and next, Metro Government will be completing work on the Lexington Road Safety Project — a repaving and redesign of the corridor between Grinstead Drive and Payne Street.

As stated in the city’s press release, the “new configuration is intended to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents as previously demonstrated by similar projects across Louisville.” Bike lanes will be added, and the project will improve drainage along the roadway, which neighbors Beargrass Creek and sits partially in a floodplain.

The colloquial term for a project like this is a “road diet.” It will look like this:

While a project like this is progress to a certain degree, it’s also a huge missed opportunity — one that falls short of the original goals of the plan and fails to keep pace with what’s being implemented throughout the country. With “progress” like this, we can simultaneously be moving forward and falling behind.

In 2015, Metro Government released a plan on the redesign of Lexington Road from Grinstead Drive to Baxter Avenue — roughly 1.8 miles. The vision for the corridor was “to develop a multi-modal, complete street, which is efficient, neighborhood friendly, and safe.” Continue reading “A Missed Opportunity on Lexington Road”

The Fallacy of the 9th Street Divide

It’s surface parking lots in western downtown that are undercutting our city’s vibrancy

“Streets for People” is a series of articles focusing on Louisville’s street design, written by Bicycling for Louisville Executive Director Chris Glasser. The goal of the series is to encourage a (polite and civil) online discussion of the topics from the articles. Please see the comment form below to respond and let us know what you think.

In last week’s article, I made the argument that, because Louisville’s transportation system is set up to move cars as efficiently as possible, we have sacrificed our ability to get anywhere in any other way — by foot, bike, or transit.

Examples abound of destinations in our city that are practically inaccessible by any other means than by car — Waterfront Park, the airport, Churchill Downs, the suburban malls, the Fairgrounds.

It needn’t be this way. Yes, our streets serve a practical purpose, but they can (and should) serve an aesthetic, collaborative, and creative purpose as well. Their effectiveness should not be based solely on an engineering equation that maximizes driving efficiency. To use a metaphor: streets are a city’s nervous system, though they’re too often thought of simply as a its circulatory system.

By making driving our city’s most convenient means of transportation, we’ve not only incentivized driving (an unhealthy and costly habit in and of itself) but also created a huge demand for parking (an unsightly, unhealthy, costly habit all its own). After all, what’s a convenient drive without a convenient place to park? Continue reading “The Fallacy of the 9th Street Divide”

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”