From the Presidentby Earl Jones
It turned out for the best that I was late getting my article to Norm Minnick for this month's newsletter. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to write about what's going on in Iroquois Park.
If you haven't been following the story — that wasn't hard given the scant public notice — Metro Parks has agreed for the balance of the season to expand the hours that motorized traffic can use roads in Iroquois Park. The roads include the perimeter loop around the bottom, the hill climb that leads to the top of the park (and its north and south overlooks), and the one-mile loop around the top of the park.
Under the new plan, the perimeter road would always be open to cars (it is now completely closed) and the road up to the top and the upper loop would be open Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (today it is not open during the week), and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (today open from noon to dusk). These roads would be closed to traffic the remaining days. The loss of motor vehicle-free roadways is always something to regret, especially if the days include recreation-heavy weekend days. But this loss is even worse because it happened with so little notice and public input.
Restricting cars in Iroquois Park was seen as a way to reduce vandalism, youth cruising and other inappropriate conduct in the park. The ban was opposed by many area residents but proved popular with families, recreation enthusiasts and park preservationists.
Apparently, Alderman George Melton, whose ward encompasses part of the area near the park, has constituents who want to reopen the park to unlimited car use. Although he has justified the policy change by citing the needs of the elderly and of the handicapped to access the park, the reality will be that every kind of driver will have unfettered access to every part of the park.
Although he has justified the change by citing elderly and disabled residents who must use automobiles to visit the Overlook, everybody will be able to take advantage of the change.
Many users, including Club member Tim Chilton, who is also head of a nearby neighborhood association, haven't been persuaded but they were given little opportunity to have their concerns considered. Principal among their concerns are the safety of walkers, runners and cyclists, including many children, on the park's narrow roads, especially the steep road from the top, which also has line-of-sight problems. In addition, long-time park users report that policing has never been adequate. Lifting the ban has been a subject of heated exchanges on KyCycList. Many cyclists have written to Mayor Armstrong, Alderman George Melton and other officials. You should do the same, especially if you live near Iroquois or in Alderman Melton's ward.
The foundation of our advocacy program is that cyclists have the same rights to the road, as do motorized vehicles. We're not arguing for the exclusion of cars, even from park roads. (That would only provide ammunition for those who would exclude cyclists from other roadways.) But we do insist that roads be suitable for a shared use. And the fact is that some of the roads in Iroquois are not. That's why we are asking that the plan be re-evaluated so that the safety of Iroquois Park recreational users can be given the same consideration as users of Cherokee Park. Whatever your criticisms of the Scenic Loop, having one lane of traffic improves safety on that narrow road.
The perimeter loop in Iroquois Park should also be evaluated for one-way traffic. And since the road up to the top is not a loop, a least one day of the weekend should be car-free. While we're not giving up, it may be too late for this common-sense solution this year. But we'll be collecting information and supporters when the matter is reviewed this fall. Let's schedule as many rides this season in the park as we can and keep track of incidents that show that the same old inappropriate behavior has returned with the cars. And let's be ready to be heard when the changes are evaluated at season's end.
Finally, mark your calendar for May 27 and be a part of BikeFest, a joint celebration of cycling and our great park system sponsored by LBC in cooperation with Metro Parks and the Louisville Olmsted Conservancy. The main venue will be the rugby fields in Cherokee Park. One of the featured rides will be the Emerald Necklace tour through the three flagship Olmsted Parks, including Iroquois. Won't that be a sight!
BikeFest will speak louder than words to the local officials who'll be there about the positive role that cycling can play in the parks system and the need to engage the cycling community to address access and use issues.
Copyright ©2001 Louisville Wheelmen. All rights reserved.
Web posted: 24 April 2001
last updated: 30 April 2001
by Duc M. Do