Family Freedom Fun Ride

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What better way to celebrate July 4th than by exercising new freedoms? Thanks to the new bike lanes on Kentucky and Breckinridge, cycling the city is finally relaxing and fun. Bring your whole family out and show the media that we support bicycling for all!

This ride will be short. It’s 5.2 miles – 45 minutes at kid pace. It will mostly be on Kentucky and Breckinridge streets. In our judgement, it is safe for any supervised kid who can ride consistently in that lane and obey stop lights. 

The ride starts and ends at the playground in the southwest corner of Central Park. You can bring a picnic for after, or stop by Dizzy Whiz for ice cream.

 

This ride is brought to you by Bicycling for Louisville and Louisville Bicycle Club. Invite your friends using the Facebook event page.

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Why Breckinridge Matters

It was a dark night in autumn, and I was bicycling from a friend’s house to a dance across town. I was rolling predictably down Kentucky Street. Without warning, there was an astonishingly loud crack right behind me. Suddenly I was flying through the air. I landed in a heap, with car headlights shining over my body and the wreck of my bicycle. I was stunned, unable to determine what had happened.

I had been rear-ended by a motorist. She was a teenage girl. She had somehow overlooked my two obnoxiously bright tail lights and slammed into me. We called the police and we settled down for an hour to create the crash report. It was probably her first crash, and she was scared and traumatized. She had to call her parents and explain things to them. She was on the hook for my medical and mechanical bills. I think it’s safe to say it ruined her week.

For my part, I was incredibly lucky I wasn’t hurt more badly.

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Cut to the same street, this spring. I’m pedaling home and I sense a car coming up behind me too fast. I have nowhere to go, so I desperately speed up to buy time. At the last second, the motorist swerves to avoid me. Silhouetted against the street lights ahead, I see a cell-phone pressed to an ear inside a speeding car. That driver couldn’t handle both talking and driving. Now I’m getting angry, and I follow the car on an adrenaline-fueled chase through Germantown. The driver manages to give me the slip at first, but he’s delivering pizza and I get lucky and hunt him down. He’s a senior citizen driver working a tough job, and he apologizes profusely. I decide to cut him some slack and let the matter drop.

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Hit from behind crashes are usually rare on urban streets at night. But probably because of the high urban speed limit, they sure seem like a threat on Breckinridge and Kentucky. Drivers: you don’t want to hit a cyclist. You don’t want to have that blood on your hands.

Louisville recently removed one travel lane and added a nice bike lane. Now traffic moves at the speed of the most prudent driver. These reckless motorists who hit or almost hit me would have been reigned in by other motorists on the road. The road is slower and safer for everyone.

This change has not proven popular.

Look – I get it – there are currently vastly more motorists than bicyclists on this corridor, and some of them will face delay. However, that is not very important. The safety benefit of the new roadways will save a handful of human lives. That is vastly more important than a lot of people grumbling about little delays.

Bike Lane Tour of Chicago

I went up to Chicago and got a tour of their Urban Bike Network with their network engineer. Here are the lessons that apply to Louisville’s Urban Bike Network.

They are using green paint at conflict points. This is the reverse of New York’s system of using green on straightaways. Chicago’s approach is superior for two reasons: (1) green paint is expensive, it’s cheaper to do it at the rare places (2) Like a bicyclist, a motorist entering a conflict point has to go over a color transition on the pavement, potentially making them more careful.

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They are also using green paint really inconsistently and confusingly throughout their network. Perhaps we will also make this mistake.

Unbuffered bike lanes are clearly on the way out. I saw a few DZBLs, but they are already the minority compared to 7+ foot bike lanes. They are sanding out their 8′ parking / 5′ bike lane geometries and going with 7′ parking, 2′ buffer, 5′ bike lane.

They pay an enormous cost-per-mile. Their Breckinridge equivalent streets cost them $150,000/mile. Their neighborway equivalent cost them $70,000 for one or two miles. The latter is sharrows and a sign or two. Our cost-per-mile is way below this.

In their favor, their pavement markings and sharrows are crisp and flat, not the icky gooey three-dee glop we use. At a fraction of the price, I prefer our system.

They, too, have problems with disappearing paint.

They have bike stop light signalheads in appropriate places. I saw about three. They saw stop light compliance from cyclists go from 30% to 80% after installation. Unlike New York City, they did not overuse them.

Their mayor has pledged 100 miles of “separated bikeways”. As with us last year, that has created a tension between fulfilling the spirit of the goal (a intuitive low stress network) and fulfilling the letter of the goal (lane miles).

They are using bollards on about 20% of their arterials. The rest are paint buffers. It was unclear if they were counting paint buffered bike lanes towards their goal.

They aspire to replace their bollards with a different pavement material from the rest of the road within 1-2 years.

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This winter they lost 300 bollards to snow plows. When bike lanes went between parked cars and the curb, the bollards amdist the parking were particularly resilient. Bollards between bike and travel lanes did not fare as well. They shrugged off the damage as a cost of doing business. However, they are filthy rich compared to us.

They are just starting their neighborways. They’re still figuring out how to get nabes to accept closing blocks to thru traffic with bollards. Good luck with that!

They have a lot of traffic circle type things. They were bigger and older than what we are looking at here.
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The #1 thing I noticed: Their traffic calming was pervasive. On arterials and in neighborhoods, it was just impossible to speed. The only stressors I felt were in the eddies of automotive traffic in their innermost city. Where they had built facilities through that, they helped a lot, not the least because they made a bicycle the most consistently fast vehicle on the road.

Overall, I was impressed with their progress and agreed with most of their decisions. I was surprised by how much I liked their ultra-wide bike lanes. They made arterials more relaxing than I expected.