Louisville Bicycle Club
September-October 2007 Newsletter

Speech Text
Bridge to Bicycle-Friendly Louisville

by , VP Advocacy

What a wonderful turnout on such a hot Sunday afternoon! I want to thank you all for your attendance and participation in what I believe is a very important event.

Just six weeks ago, a lone cyclist was returning home from his job in Southern Indiana during the middle of the afternoon on a bright sun-shiny day. It was a trip he’s made many times being a regular bicycle commuter. He always followed the fundamental practices of bicycle safety; he always wore his helmet, and brightly-colored clothing, most of the time a reflective vest, even during the day. He was aware of the rights and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists and respected both. He was a stickler for following the laws that guide and regulate cyclists and motorists alike.

Unfortunately, a non-attentive driver made a critical error in judgment, about 2,000 yards up the bridge here in the south-bound lanes — and took this experienced cyclist's life. That cyclist was my brother-in-law, Chips Cronen. Good afternoon, my name is Ed Tonini. I am the Vice President of Advocacy with the Louisville Bicycle Club. I have held a long standing belief in the extreme importance of bicycle safety. In fact, I had been working with the city administration on several bike safety issues prior to the tragic accident here on the bridge.

We have a wonderfully supportive city administration, with Mayor Abramson at the point position — that has been leading the nation in terms of the overall pace of progress toward bicycle-friendliness. Of course, bicycle-friendliness always has as its top issue — bike safety.

Louisville’s problem is that we got our start so much later than the real bike-friendly model communities around the nation. These communities enjoy decades of conditioning in what I call the culture of cycling. The result is a mindset within its citizens that just doesn’t exist here in Louisville. Yet!

We are gathered here today because of a “window of opportunity” made possible by the vast media attention and the subsequent public awareness and concern the Chip Cronen accident has generated. Immediately after the fatal collision, speaking to the many people who attended the funeral activity, it occurred to me that Chips would have wanted something good — something positive to come of his death.

We gather today to launch what I hope will be a new era in bicycle safety in the Louisville area.

It starts with a dedicated political infrastructure that recognizes the long list of benefits cycling provides. Let’s go through some of them: Cycling is good for the environment. It is a great form of exercise that definitely is terrific for your cardiovascular system. It is easily the best kind of energy consumption you can have — no fossil fuels, just a positive consumption of calories which helps to develop a “healthy hometown.” Finally, it can provide a fantastic release valve for traffic-clogged highways and overcrowded urban parking.

In Louisville, we have enlightened political leadership. Our leading corporations are beginning to get the faith, too.

Bicycle-friendliness requires infrastructure changes and investments. Louisville has very aggressive plans for bike lanes, the circle of parks, a multitude of multi-use paths. We’re dedicated to the Complete Streets Policy. We’re looking at more creative use of watersheds, utility and limited access highway rights-of-way and more. We’re starting to see a more comprehensive signage plan for instructing motorist and cyclist alike as to what their responsibility under the law actually is.

Today, we dedicate the new experimental “Sharrows” program on this bridge. We were able to get this done in just over 30 days. This took the cooperation and commitment of not only the city but the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as well.

I think Andy Clarke, the Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists to my left here, who will speak to you a little later, would tell you that this has to be a national record for getting something like this accomplished.

While the Second Street bridge is the first place you will see the sharrow markings, you will soon begin to see the marking across Jefferson County on roads where they make the most sense. The city has asked for the input of the cycling community as to which roads to be considered for these sharrow markings.

When these kind of things start happening in a community, bicycle usage grows dramatically. We’ve seen that begin to happen here in Louisville. I would venture to say that there are more bicycles in use today than at any period in my lifetime.

All these thing have our community headed in the right direction. I believe what Chips Cronen’s tragic death has provided is an opportunity to go that extra mile with the people of our community... on both sides of the Ohio River.

We have the attention of the people, the activity in the media has greatly increased the awareness of the problem. What we need to do is change the basic culture of this community.

What we’re trying to accomplish with the assistance of the city, the Louisville Bicycle Club, the Louisville bicycle retailers and area cyclists in general is changing the mindset of motorists and cyclists alike. We have to courteously and respectfully share the road with one another. Motorists and cyclists alike need to understand the rules of the road and the Kentucky statutes.

This event is billed as “A Bridge to Bike-Friendly Louisville.” That Bridge isn’t just the sharrow program — it represents a bridge between motorists and cyclists that need to be joined.

Louisville radio and television stations have made major commitments to aid in the education effort. Soon well-known media personalities like Barry Bernson, John Belski, Terry Meiners, John Boel and Kirby Adams will be on the air reinforcing the bike safety message. If we’re successful, motorists will begin to expect to see cyclists on the road and when they see them they will be knowledgeable as to the proper and legal way to react to the particular situation.

I spent a couple of hours last week with the editorial board of the Courier-Journal. They increased my already high level of awareness that there is a deep divide in opinions about cyclists in our community. The only way we’ll begin to get converts is to minimize the confrontational nature of the relationship that exists today. As cyclists we need to make a commitment to significantly increase our adherence to the laws, our patience and our civility and respect to motorists. I ask you to go beyond the letter of the law by going single file when traffic is being held up and space is tight — instead of insistence on your legal “right” to be two abreast. Always use common sense, but do your part to minimize confrontations.

I told the editorial board that there will always be “bone-headed motorists” and that there also will always be “bone-headed cyclists” but our job is to make every attempt to minimize their numbers by converting them one person at a time.

I ask all of you today to do your part, individually and collectively. If we are successful Louisville will become a community where cyclists and motorists truly share the road. It won’t happen overnight, but if we work at it — and maintain the momentum that Chips Cronen has provided us — we can greatly accelerate the change of mindset — and the culture — to accept and enjoy the enhanced quality of life that cycling — safe, healthy cycling — brings to a community. That is our ultimate goal.

Now I’d like to invite to the microphone America’s most bicycle-friendly Mayor. The absolute best partner any bicycle community could ever have. Cyclists and cycling supporters — my friend and fellow cyclist, Jerry Abramson.


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web posted: 21 Sep 2007
last updated: 24 Sep 2007