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September-October 2006 Newsletter

From the President
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

by


You may remember the 1970’s spaghetti western of that title, which despite being made in Italy, was about outlaws and lawmen in the American West. It starred Clint Eastwood (the good) and a couple of other guys who were up to no good and none too good-looking.

Anyway, in the modern and cycling-related update of the story, the (collective) good guy is the Louisville Metro administration, led by Mayor Abramson and the people at Planning and Design, especially Director Charles Cash and Assistant Director Mohammad Nouri, who have set the strategy and implementing plans to make Louisville a bicycle-friendly community.

We reported in the March-April Newsletter that Mayor Abramson had accepted the Bike Task Force’s recommendation of three priority corridors for improvements: Third Street-Southern Parkway-New Cut Road, Taylorville Road, and River Road. If you’ve been downtown recently you saw that the bike-laning of Third Street has begun.

River Road is THE high priority corridor. That’s where the most ambitious plans are being developed. Metro Government has added River Road bicycle improvements to the Horizon 2030 Transportation Plan. This plan, which will guide transportation expenditures within the greater Louisville (KIPDA) region, was amended in June 2006 to provide for bicycle and pedestrian facility improvements from downtown Louisville to Prospect Point (US 42). A total of $2,500,000 will be spent on this 8.15-mile section. (Louisville has applied for two federal grants to make River Road a bicycle friendly corridor.)

Other new developments that will help make River Road more bicycle-friendly include the following:

Metro Louisville will take over the development of the design from KYDOT and oversee the re-construction of River Road between Beargrass Creek and Zorn Avenue. The new design will include on-road bike lanes in both directions on River Road and a separate multiuse path.

As I mentioned at the July general membership meeting, as between a complete repaving of the section from Zorn Avenue to Blankenbaker — which is on the schedule to be done this fall — the Bike Task force has asked the city to consider holding off a full repaving in favor of extensive repairs until next year. This would give time to evaluate how to include bicycling facilities from Zorn to Blankenbaker and on out to Prospect Point and allow the repaving to integrate any new facilities.

The bad of this story is the ugly reportage of WLKY Channel 32, which, in a series of “news” broadcasts on July 24 and 26, dramatically misled viewers by asserting that cyclists were at fault in the majority of cyclist-motorist collisions.

You may have wondered what terrible accident had caused all this attention. And that was the problem: Nothing had happened. Except that maybe the station managers had poll numbers that led them to believe that cyclist-hatred was high enough that they could get a few rating points if they aired a cyclist-bashing report.

And bash they did. From the opening shot of the stack of police reports confirming the cyclist-caused accidents were about 2/3 of the car-bike total, to pictures of new riders at the LBC Bike Handling class – some of whom were clearly, and understandably, just learning the rules of the road – to out-of-context quotes of cyclists complaining about improper riding, the report grossly misrepresented how most cyclists – especially LBC members – conduct themselves on the road. (The big exposé of the report was that the City had contracted with LBC for about $10,000 to conduct classes for adult cyclists at two locations. The implication was that since the new riders were filmed not observing traffic laws, we were teaching them to violate the law. Brilliant deduction. There was no mention of the 150 or so people who attended that class.)

The reporters’ non-news, “instigative” purpose, a phrase used by Glenn Todd, was apparent from what the report did not say: riding on the road may be inconvenient to some drivers but is far safer for cyclists than the perceived safety of riding on sidewalks because, almost as an aside, the report noted that most of the cyclists involved in car-bike accidents were riding on the sidewalk!

The reporter might have pointed out that we don’t support sidewalk riding by adults and that none of the Bike Handling riders were on the sidewalk but that would not have delegitimized the resentment that the majority non-cycling viewers were being encouraged to express towards cyclists.

Dorn Crawford, who knows better than most the pleasures and risks of cycling, sent a comment to WLKY that neatly summed up the off-point report: “The report says there’ve been 155 car-bike crashes in the last 12 months and the most frequent cause is cyclists illegally riding on the sidewalk.

“The frightening part is, ‘what are all those cars doing on the sidewalk?’”

Be on the lookout for ugly, dangerous journalists. Avoid them, especially when they’re hungry.


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web posted: 18 September 2006
last updated: 19 September 2006