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May-June 2006 Newsletter

From the President
Louisville in the Limelight at LAB Summit

by


Louisville’s efforts to become a bicycle-friendly city were recognized at the League of American Bicyclists Summit held in Washington, DC, on March 1-3. Three LBC members — Barry Zalph, Mohammad Nouri, who is also the Louisville Metro planner with principal responsibility for transportation, and yours truly — told the attendees about our February 2005 Bike Summit, the creation of the Bicycle Task Force and the progress made to implement the recommendations to build facilities and increase cycling-related activities.

Barry led off with a description of Louisville’s rich cycling history and the more central role that cycling played in the city’s history especially during the late 19th century. He also described the more recent period when advocates were frustrated by state and local officials’ indifference — and sometimes hostility — to cycling issues despite national mandates to consider cycling issues in transportation planning.

I followed with a review of the summit and actions taken by the task force and gave the attendees my assessment of the four elements that best guarantee success for improving cycling in a community, all of which Louisville has enjoyed.

Political leadership – Increasing cycling opportunities is easier, and can occur more quickly, if driven from the top. True, grassroots advocacy can provide a constituency to sustain the momentum, and also true that non-cycling leaders can get the facilities part wrong, but I think the benefits that come from elected officials’ enthusiasm outweighs the risks.

Willing city agencies – The people who must translate the enthusiasm into programs and facilities must want to do so, not just because it’s their job. We’re lucky in Louisville to have people in planning, public works and parks who actually get it and understand how a bicycle-friendly city advances other goals like economic development and smart population growth.

Organized,connected cyclists – That’s LBC. We are one of the few bicycle clubs in the country with an advocacy program, which we began in about 1991. It’s been a long learning curve. We have not always been as effective as we would have liked and don’t have the technical expertise that would enable us to be transportation consultants. But what we have is numbers and members familiar with and comfortable dealing with people who can advance our issues.

Volunteerism tradition – A tradition of volunteerism, high levels of community involvement and boosterism, high per capita arts and charitable giving make it easier for people to support civic improvement goals such as making this a more bicycle-friendly town.

Mohammad Nouri wrapped up the presentation by describing Mayor Abramson’s mandate to city departments and giving an overview of the projects that have been implemented, planned and funded. The audience was impressed that $84 million has been raised and committed to cycling-related projects that will be built over the next ten years.

During the question period that followed most people wanted to know how to use our bike summit model to create one in their communities.

The National Summit provided yet another opportunity to get the word out about what we’re doing in Louisville. We need to take advantage of every such opportunity. Nothing feeds success like being perceived as successful.


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web posted: 5 May 2006
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