Only One Way to Look at It: Two-Way Traffic is Good

Last night, the Metro Council approved a plan pushed by Council member David James that will convert parts of First and Brook streets in Old Louisville from one-way to two-way streets. It was the culmination of an idea being pushed for years and adopted by James when he got into office last year..

“More two-way streets are an important part of our strategy to renew historic neighborhoods near downtown,” says James. “Converting a majority of one-way streets to two ways allows for additional parking, trees, and bike lanes that calm traffic, making neighborhoods more livable for all who utilize the urban parts of our city.”

Earlier this year, at a meeting of residents, there was little opposition. A paper written by U of L PhDs Matt Hanka and John Gilderbloom explained the advantages of the move. It read, in part:

A key strategy to renewing downtown historic neighborhoods is converting one-way to two-way streets.  Oppressive four-lane downtown one-way streets help kill neighborhoods and small businesses. We need to convert these one-way ghetto makers into two-way streets with parking, trees, and bike lanes to calm traffic and make neighborhoods more livable for families, young urban pioneers, and the elderly, who want to live closer to medical care downtown.

One-way streets pose many threats for pedestrian and motorist safety, make city streets seem less safe, disproportionately impact poor and minority neighborhoods, hurt downtown businesses, reduce the property values of homes, and negatively impact the environment and contribute to global warming.  Conversions to two-way have already happened in more than 100 cities around the United States.

These one-way streets also constitute a kind of “environmental racism,” where speeding motorists on one-way streets increase the levels of exhaust, noise, and pollution. One-way streets are predominately located in older downtown neighborhoods in minority, poor and working-class neighborhoods.  Engineers claim that “one-way” is the best way because it moves traffic quicker, but they don’t understand the sociological, ecological and economic impacts of a one-way street.

There was token opposition, mainly from residents who like to speed through Old Louisville who see the change as an impediment to their quick trips through the city.