How Bike-Friendly is Louisville?

Early yesterday afternoon I was riding home after leading a “lunch and learn” session on biking to work for a group at University of Louisville Hospital.

I love the fact that Bike Month is getting some traction here. We’re emerging as a bike town. There’s a bike culture coming together here. Things are looking up. People seriously are thinking about cycling as a way to replace expensive car trips.

I was feeling pretty good riding home on Market St., when I caught a glimpse of two women unlocking their bikes at a bike rack in front of Muth’s Candies. I was in no hurry. Next Friday is Bike to Work Day. Why not stop and chat about it?

After convincing Tammy and Holly that I’m not a psycho stalker, I asked them to tell me a little about their experience with bikes. I got a unique perspective – especially from Holly, who wants to find safe cycling routes for her young daughter.

Tammy says she uses her bike “to have fun and just to get out in nature.” She and Holly had just finished lunch at Harvest on Market St. “I like to ride my bike for just sort of knockin’ around,” said Tammy. “But if we had more trails in this town I’d use my bike a lot more,” she said. “I’d like to get a road bike and join the bike club or something.”

Her Trek commuter bike has some miles on it. Tammy has used it on some long rides, including the Old Kentucky Home Tour. But without a lighter road bike, she said, “it’s tough and you get left in the dust.”

Are we a bike-friendly town? Not yet, according to Tammy and Holly, who wouldn’t dream of taking her six-year-old daughter on a bike trip downtown. In their opinion, there just aren’t enough trails.

“We came downtown on the Beargrass trail, but then where do you go once you get downtown?” asked Holly. “You’re not going to come out on these streets with small kids. Where do you go?” Holly is a big advocate for recreational trails separate from roads where motorists often show no concern for bicyclists.

“Trails and bike lanes really enhance a city. You’ll attract people. They’re good for the infrastructure and good for businesses because they’ll attract more cyclists who don’t want to worry about some driver running you off the road,” said Holly.

I got the sense that Holly and Tammy have seen some truly friendly bike towns. I was right.

“This is the first time I’ve been on my bike for three years,” said Holly, who had purchased her mountain bike in Colorado about 20 years ago. “I’m not doing any mountain biking, so I need to get a new bike,” she said, “but first I wanted to see if there’s anyplace to ride my bike without being on the street.

“And now I’ve found there’s that little Beargrass stretch we could ride from Seneca Park by our house, down to the riverfront. That would be worth getting a new bike for because we could be off the streets the whole time,” Holly said. “My daughter would love all the turtles along the Beargrass Creek. We could go to Waterfront Wednesday. We could have something to eat downtown. So, I think it’s do-able,” Holly concluded.

Hmmm. Interesting. I’m personally an advocate of “Every lane is a bike lane. Share the road.” In other words, I don’t want to see bikes relegated to relatively few bikeways. I prefer to see a culture that values and protects the most vulnerable users of the roads we all pay for. I look forward to a day when Tammy, Holly and her daughter Haley can confidently bike straight through a big bike boulevard, right up the middle of our city.

My short chat with Holly and Tammy let me know we have a long way to go before Louisville, Kentucky becomes the bike-friendly town we’d like to think it already is.

Bronze. Silver. Gold. Platinum. I’m reminded that we’re not Madison, Wisconsin or Boulder, Colorado. Tammy and Holly clearly are dialed into that. Thanks for the reality check.

Grace. Peace. Bicycle grease.

PS: Remember, every lane is a bike lane.
Share the road.

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Enjoy the ride home.
© Copyright, Kirk M. Kandle, MMXI
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