Louisville Bicycle Club
Table of Contents
From the President
Bike Handling Classes
Cabin Fever
May-June 2002 Newsletter

From the President
Building Bridges

by Earl Jones

People keep talking about bridges so I thought I'd put in my two cents.

Yes, I do mean the Ohio River bridges. But first I'd like to talk about building bridges of the figurative kind. Bike Maintenance classes let us tell and show others how to get the most out of cycling, have fun and achieve their fitness objectives. It and the Bike handling classes that start in May are among our best bridge-building programs.

If you haven't heard about the tremendous success of the Bike Maintenance classes that AB Sandefur, who's doing a great job as VP Education, organized this year, here are a few statistics. More than 110 people attended the first session on March 5. And the next three sessions had an average attendance of 80. AB recruited some of the best cyclists and mentors in the Club, which accounts for the over-whelmingly positive feedback from the attendees. These were the most successful Bike Maintenance classes ever thanks to the great presenters and AB's leadership.

I learned from Milita Chilton on a ride recently about the results of another of our bridge-building projects: The Brain Injury Association of Kentucky (BIAK) has given free bicycle helmets to some of the kids in her school. It's good to know that our relationship with BIAK, which began in 2000 through donations from the Old Kentucky Home Bicycle Tour, is leading to improved safety awareness by local school kids.

And now that April has arrived, we've started again building a bridge to great fun for local cyclists of all levels: The Tuesday evening rides from Hogan's Fountain have begun. Join the construction crew by captaining at least one Tuesday ride this season.

As for the Ohio River bridges, LBC has only two concerns: That cyclists have access to them and that they not degrade traditional cycling routes.

These concerns are pretty easily addressed for the downtown bridge. So long as the Second Street Bridge remains open to cyclists we don't need to fight for access to the new downtown bridge, which is likely to be heavily used by commuters anyway. But this isn't as easy as it sounds. Mayor Armstrong has proposed that the Second Street Bridge become an off-ramp for I-65, which would pretty much end its usefulness to cyclists. LBC's position is that the Second Street Bridge is a city street that must remain as open to cyclists as any other downtown street. This is even more important given the uncertain future of the Big Four Bridge, which the Waterfront Development Corporation wants to use as a multi-use route across the river.

The east-end bridge raises more difficult questions. A friend, who is also a member of the Club, expressed concern about the costs, estimated to be approximately $5-10 million, of making this bridge accessible to cyclists. It reminded me of the controversy in San Francisco over the costs of providing multi-modal access to the rebuilt Oakland Bay Bridge. (I think the price tag was $60 million).

Federal law, according to Cheryl Brawner, our VP Advocacy, encourages the integration of cycling into federally funded transportation projects, including bridges, so long as the costs do not exceed 20% of the project cost. For the downtown and east-end bridges, that means that federal law would permit spending up to $120 million for pedestrian-cyclist access! And according to transportation planners (and club members) Ron Schneider and Barry Zalph, the projected costs to make the Louisville bridges accessible is $5-10 million, or about 1-2% of project costs. I'd say that's a real bargain.

But my friend is still concerned about the cost. Is it a prudent use of scarce resources to spend that much to provide access to the relatively few cyclists and pedestrians who would use the bridge? And what about the fact that most would be recreational users?

It took me a while before I thought I could answer these questions. To begin, I long ago stopped trying to make sense of federal policy. And when it comes to transportation policy, the historical neglect and general hostility of policy makers toward cyclists makes me think we shouldn't forego any benefits that are finally being made available. Second, who can say what development patterns will be 20, 30 or 50 years from now or that traveling across the east-end bridge won't be as second-nature as traveling across the Second Street Bridge is today? (Although most club members are recreational and fitness cyclists, we are the only organized voice that area cyclists have, including the migrant workers who bike commute to jobs on cycling-unfriendly routes like Hurstbourne Lane.) If employment expands in Southern Indiana, shouldn't cycling commuters be able to get to those jobs?

Finally, if federal and state funds can be made available for cycling facilities, aren't Louisville-area cyclists entitled to benefit like others do? Today maybe cyclists in San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., have a more immediate need for these facilities, but let's not deprive future Louisville cyclists of the same opportunities. Surely they and we are worth it.

We'll continue to speak against singling out non-motor vehicles having access to river crossings. If we (you) don't, who will?


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web posted: 28 April 2002
last updated: 9 May 2002