State Fair Bicycle Ban ‘UN-FAIR!’ Some call for boycott

NOTE: As a Bicycling for Louisville board member and a vocal advocate for active transportation such as cycling and walking, I find it amazing that I’m even writing the following post. Our city is at the bottom of the National Fitness Index. Our state is among the most obese in America. Yet, we go out of our way to keep people from becoming more active by limiting their transportation choices.

Internal Memo Bans Bikes at State Fair

A Facebook page is calling for a Kentucky State Fair boycott because Fairgrounds officials ban bicycles from the Kentucky Fair & exposition Center.

A July 7 internal memo between officials at the State Fair, circulating today on the Internet, makes the policy clear. “… bicycles are not to be admitted to the grounds but should be chained to the side fences or left at the gate (but not where they might obstruct pedestrians or vehicular traffic). All bicycle owners are to be told that in no way will the Fairgrounds or the Gate personnel be responsible for their bicycles.”

When I called the Kentucky exposition Center to find out more about why bikes are banned, I couldn’t reach Jerry Frantz, the official who issued the internal memo. Instead, I was routed to Ellen Anderson, who said, “I do know it’s a safety issue because people are walking around and you can’t have bicycles interfering with traffic.” When I asked her to explain how bicycles are more dangerous than automobiles that are free to roam the parking lots, Anderson said she would have another spokesperson call me.

no bikes
No Bikes at the Kentucky State Fair

When Amanda Storment, Vice President of Media and Public Relations, got back to me, she stressed that the bike ban is “strictly a safety issue.” She said bikes would create a hazard for motorists and pedestrians. Storm said she would send me a copy of the Fair Board policy on bikes. When I told her I already have the policy from the internal memo, she clarified that the internal memo wasn’t really the official policy. “A guy came up to the gate and made a scene,” she said.  When the gate personnel showed him the memo, he snapped a photo of it.

I asked Storment how bikes could be as dangerous as cars, trucks or motorcycles she said, ” Look, we’re putting on a fair here. People are moving all over 500 acres. We know that if we let bikes on the property someone is going to get hurt.”

I asked how the State Fair could possibly predict injuries when they don’t allow bikes on the property. Storment didn’t have a clear answer. I took the opportunity to invite Storment to propose a more progressive policy in the future, one that might me more in step with current trends toward active transportation, more livable cities, less traffic congestion, better health and cleaner air.

Here’s the official statement from the Kentucky Fair:

The Kentucky State Fair provides bicycle racks outside of Gate 4, off Crittenden Drive.  Bike riders must provide their own locks.  Bicycles are not allowed on the grounds during the Kentucky State Fair as a safety precaution for all fairgoers.  It is difficult to ride through crowds of people, and especially hazardous for bicyclists to ride through parking lots where they are difficult to see from vehicles.

 We want to provide the best entertainment for the most people in the safest manner possible here at the Kentucky State Fair!

(Clarification the bike racks mentioned above are actually parade barricades with very few positions for bicycles.)

Facebook page calls for boycott

A Facebook page “Boycott Kentucky State Fair” lit up with dozens of comments about the bike policy. Andy Dyson, Executive Director of Bicycling for Louisville posted his note to Jerry Frantz, who issued the internal memo banning bikes.

 “Dear Mr. Franz,
I’m disappointed in your policy prohibiting bicycles. Bicycling is a safe, healthy, economical, and environmentally-friendly transportation method enjoyed by thousands in the region. As businesses and institutions nationwide are recognize that bicycle use is good for people and communities it is deplorable that those who go to the trouble to bike to the Fair are treated as second-class citizens. I would welcome a discussion on how we can improve on this situation. “

John Mahorney, an everyday cyclist wrote: ” Whose safety? We manage ourselves on the roadways everyday… why would managing safety there be any different or worse? I think they need to discuss this and I’m glad they are, but I have a feeling the fair will be over before they do and another year will go by… they we’ll go through this all over again in 2012. sheesh!”

Many of  those complaining about the policy on the  Facebook page said they would be voicing their complaints to the Fair Board in hopes of changing the policy for next year. Others questioned the legal standing of the Fair to ban bikes.

Wakeley Purple, an avid local cyclist suggested a critical mass demonstration. Critical mass rides a demonstrations that involve a large number of bicycles appearing in one place to draw attention to cycling for transportation.

John Paul, an Old Louisville resident, who rides his bike all over town, said, “I went through all this with them a few years ago and they told me I could lock up on the fence outside of the ticket/parking booth, and then they said there was “a” bike rack outside of the new exhibit hall that I could use.

The Facebook page started with a post stating, “The Kentucky State Fair has banned bicycles from the Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds, despite a mammoth parking facilities budget, has made no provision for bicycle transportation. Jerry Frantz, executive director for the Kentucky State Fair Board has issued a memo stating: “Bicycles are not to be admitted to the grounds”. Meanwhile cars by the thousands are allowed in. Until the Kentucky State Fair makes reasonable provisions for bicycle transportation, we will boycott it, taking our money elsewhere.