Louisville Bicycle Club
May-June 2007 Newsletter

From the President
Geographical Metamorphosis

by


“Louisville will be Portland quicker than Portland became Portland.”

I heard that enigmatic phrase at the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Summit, which was held in Washington, D.C., on March 14.

You may never have been to Portland, Ore., but I’ll bet that you and every other cyclist know Portland’s reputation as a (the?) pre-eminent bike-friendly city.

To say that Louisville is hot — in cycling circles — would be an understatement. Listening to Mayor Abramson, the keynote speaker, paint his vision for cycling in Louisville and hearing the thunderous response of the audience, you wouldn’t know that there was a time when many of us felt we lived in a cycling backwater. So, you can imagine how heady it was for the Louisville contingent to be spoken of in the same league as Portland.

Louisville stayed in the spotlight in an over-subscribed learning session that was held after lunch. The panel focused on the three things that helped drive Louisville’s success: the bike summit model; money, public and private; and the Metro Loop, an idea that has caught the community’s imagination.

Every community, no matter how well developed its cycling infrastructure, can benefit from a bike summit and a group of citizens like our bike task force to follow up on commitments. Of course, they also need a mayor or other political leader to give impetus to the effort and direct the city administration to help implement the summit’s recommendations. If the cycling community has ploughed the ground the political leaders will sow it.

Money is harder to come by. Very few towns will have $70 million to spend on cycling facilities. (David Jones has or will raise about $30 million and Sen. Mitch McConnell earmarked $38 million for the Metro Loop and the city has added the rest on bike lanes and designs for new facilities.) But every community can demand that cyclists receive a share of the federal transportation funds allocated to each state.

Finally, we can thank geography for the third driver of success. The Ohio River, Floyd’s Fork and development-retarding karst geology have created a route for the Metro Loop in a ring of parks circling the county. I realize that many cyclists are concerned that the Metro Loop — like the Big Four Bridge — is more recreation than true transportation route. I say ride the wave, which, I’m convinced, will swamp opposition to other cycling facilities and make it imperative that bicycling connectors be included on arterials to the loop.

We have a long way to go before we get to Portland. But I believe fervently that if we stay vigilant we’ll get there sooner and be in a better place.


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