Thunder & Bikes

So far as I can tell, this weekend should be crazy busy here in Louisville. This event called Thunder is supposedly taking over the town. I’m relatively new here, so it’s all Greek to me, but from what I understand the only way to get around town easily will be by bicycle. That’s something I can support—it’s the only way I know how to get around. But, from what I also know, in order to witness the cacophony and celebration that is Thunder (the kick-off to Derby) it’s best to ride your bike down to the river, where to your benefit is a valet bicycle parking service put on by Bicycling for Louisville. These folks rock, and they need more volunteers at the valet station. Read more about it, in this message from Barry at Bicycling for Louisville:

Fellow Louisville-area Cyclists:

Thunder Over Louisville will take place this Saturday! Once again, Bicycling for Louisville will provide free valet bicycle parking with support from Louisville Metro government’s Bike Louisville program. With much better weather predicted this Saturday than last year for Thunder, we hope that several hundred people will take advantage of the valet bicycle parking service, reducing traffic congestion and air pollution while adding a bicycle ride to their enjoyment of the day.

If you would like to volunteer to help with valet bicycle parking, please contact our volunteer coordinator Jennifer Clark off-list at or 819-7881. Volunteers should be at least 18 years old. Volunteers working at least 2 hours will receive:

  •  a $10 gift card from Scheller’s Fitness and Cycling
  • a shady place to sit and cold water or soft drinks
  • an uncrowded place to watch the air show & fireworks
  • the company of fellow bicyclists
  • a warm feeling from helping to make bicycling more convenient and popular in Louisville
  • the undying gratitude of Bicycling for Louisville (your charitable community service organization working to make bicycling in our community safer, more enjoyable, and more popular)

We need volunteers in 2-hour shifts from 9 AM (set-up) to 11 PM. We need LOTS of volunteers from 10-11 PM when everybody comes to retrieve their bicycles. If you can work more than one 2-hour shift, we will be all the more grateful.

To volunteer or to get more information, contact volunteer coordinator Jennifer Clark off-list at or 819-7881.

Thanks in advance,

Barry Zalph
Executive Director
Bicycling for Louisville
425 S. 2nd St., LL-102
Louisville, KY 40202-1430
(502) 582-1814

More Bike Advocacy in Louisville

There’s a meeting happening next week here in Louisville. It’s not going to be in exact response to the Louisville Bike Summit, but hopefully will address some of the issues that remain in some of our minds from the Summit. Hopefully we’ll be talking about some alternative ideas about bicycle safety and advocacy here in Louisville. Feel free to attend, and throw out some ideas!

Click Image for Larger Version

We are traffic, don’t forget that.

Louisville Bike Summit II

The Louisville Bike Summit redux was better than I was expecting. This isn’t to say that I have a totally changed attitude towards the progress this city is making in becoming bicycle friendly. There is a lot of work to be done.

The beginning and most of the morning was occupied with hand clapping and back slapping in a way that reminded me of listening to some big politician speak in front of Congress. The infinitely interrupting applause. No, it wasn’t that bad of course, but what was bad was the topic warranting the applause. A lot of discussing what has been done, how far it’s come along, and where it’s going. So what is IT? Basically, recreational bicycling. Too much talk about the Louisville Loop, too much talk about trails through parks, too much talk about parking lots. I even heard mention of facilities for horseback riding and in-line skaters. This recreational talk is far too distracting for what I came there to hear and speak: bicycle safety on the streets. Where are the priorities?

The emphasis on the Loop and the many recreational attributes it brings to the city reeks to me of fluff and status recognition with the League of American Bicyclists, who I’m sure would be just as willing to elevate Louisville from Bronze to Silver status if we were to institute more safety measures rather than recreational measures. Towards the end of this leisure chatter, the audience was asked if we had any questions. Mostly crickets were heard in the gymnasium, until a petite older lady one table over stood up and asked the quite poignant question as to the alternative transportation needs that this city wants and it’s citizens desire in order to establish a smaller carbon footprint (in so many words). Happy to hear this controversial query I joined her in the minority by letting out an audible “whoop”. “Here here!” I couldn’t agree more, let’s prioritize alternative transportation.

I believe the next dude to get up and congratulate himself was from some park development company. More banter about parks and paths. At one point I hear him mention something about getting his canoe in the river after driving for forty minutes is a good thing. Then something about a Park drive, where motorists would have a scenic route. Isn’t this the Louisville Bike Summit? II? Evidently Louisville’s bicycle conversation, while I’m happy [the conversation] exists at all, is far from the reduction of internal combustion driving as transportation. Too much talk of biking on surfaces other than the street and roads. Too much path and trail talk. Accessibility to these parks is more often than not by car, accessing via bike or foot seems secondarily mentioned.

Interesting they kept the number of attendees limited to 270 with all this unused space. I guess the limiting factor might probably be managing more people in the break-out groups—but still.

One other thing that irked me a bit was the attitude of some of the folks with the microphones. I’m not an entirely serious guy myself, I have many a sarcastic bone in my body, but I don’t for some reason take it in good fun the lack of seriousness in a subject that others may be taking very seriously. Immediately at the beginning of the morning the man with the mic was thanking people who ride their bikes (I think specifically from data taken from an online poll) and blithely mentioned that those who ride year round “don’t count” referring to some local bike club called the Mad Dogs. Blah, I know, minor insult/inside joke at best. But the point is, some people do take pride in riding year round, and to have the president of the Louisville Bicycle Club say that they don’t count, even in a joking manner struck me as having an attitude that the entire event was unimportant. I ride year round, and I took the day off of work to attend this summit, maybe I take this subject too seriously.

The other point I thought was in mildly bad form was the description of cities like Portland, Davis, or Boulder being unrealistic cities. Compared to Louisville, which “is a REAL city”. I get it. Louisville is down and dirty, it has varied elements that make bike infrastructure difficult, but I didn’t like the fact that achieving a bike infrastructure similar to what Portland has was derided as being unrealistic. This is the mindset that holds progress back in my opinion, and if that mindset is at the top of the management, then I don’t have a lot of hope for any real progress.

Mayor Jerry I think was next. His talk was a bit more of the same although with a little more appreciated enthusiasm. The planting seeds and preparing for future developments once the economy straightens out, sounded to me like obvious delays and potential procrastination. But it was good to hear his opinion on some of the recent accidents we’ve had in Louisville, how some accidents have been malicious and states that the numbers of injuries are unacceptable. This seemed promising in its awareness.

The break out sessions were somewhat constructive “feeling” whether or not our suggestions are considered or followed is another matter. During one of them I pointed out the fact that there were virtually zero low-income people in attendance at this summit (beyond myself of course)—surely these road users should have a say in this discussion. For that matter, how many strict motorists were in attendance—those that don’t drive but might be affected by decisions made in this process. I also mentioned a number of potential engineering solutions that I’ve witnessed in other cities that seemed to work—namely Portland. After two of these break out sessions, I had to break out myself, a half day’s wage was calling my name.

Long and short of it, the whole process seems a bit over complicated. As if we’re adding complexity to it to enable people to make money off the system. Too much “business” when, in my opinion, paint and signs might just go a long way. I can’t complain too much though, like I’ve said before, it’s an open discussion, bicycles are being talked about at high city government levels, the mayor rides a bike and talks about improvements, and for that, I’m thankful to be here in Louisville and involved in the process to make it more bicycle “friendly”.

Belligerent Ignorance

What is up Louisville?

The other morning, when there was a fair amount of snow on the road, I was riding to work heading east on Winter as is one of my usual routes. Freezing my ass off, all bundled up I’m approaching my left turn onto Rubel Ave. Attentively I notice on-coming traffic, an instinctual mental calculation of trajectory and distance tells me I can make my turn safely before the cars get to the intersection. A quick glance over my shoulder as a reminder there being no cars behind me, I execute my pre-turn merge. In that quick glance however, I thought I saw something on the far side of the street—it wasn’t a car though. I continue in my merge and am just about to make the cross-traffic turn when what was on the far-side of the street became ever apparent. It was a cyclist, riding on the wrong side of the road! Had I continued my turn I would have struck him, and then the both of us probably would have been struck by the on-coming cars—I’ll remind you, the roads had a fair amount of snow and likely ice. I quickly stop my turn, and slow down enough to wait out the three cars passing through the intersection only to have the other cyclist cut them and me off in the middle. Shocked by his actions, I exclaimed to him, “That’s not a very safe place to ride man. You’re likely to get yourself or others killed.” He let’s out a loud “wahoo!” and “I don’t give a shit!” in reply. 

What would you call this? This attitude and apparent apathy? Never have I experienced so many other people on bikes with this ignorant attitude than I have here in Louisville, KY. At least once a day, if not more, I encounter somebody riding against traffic as if they belonged there. Now this isn’t the same “against traffic” riding one would do to sneak a turn mid-block or something—there is a difference. No, it’s riding block after block against traffic, through intersections. It’s also riding block after block, against bicycle traffic in the bike lanes. And no, after dark they don’t even have lights on. BAM! Out of nowhere, you’re not the only one riding a bike on the street, all of a sudden you’re dodging another. Darwinian ignorance.

It goes beyond cyclists too. Joggers. I’ve experienced near-violent protest at my presence in the bike lane they’re  running in, also against the normal flow of traffic. (This I’ve seen in other cities too though). This wouldn’t be a complete rant if I failed to mention the belligerently ignorant motorists in this town. I think if I kept a logbook I could compile a thorough tome on these folk. What’s a red light mean if it doesn’t need to be stopped at? Everyday I’ve lived here I have seen numerous cars/trucks/buses/tractor trailers blow through blatantly red lights. How is this? Where is the logic? Consideration? Enforcement? Not to mention safety? (If they do stop at the intersection they’ll usually fail to not block the crosswalk.) 

These are likely the same people who pay little attention to the speed limit on small neighborhood streets. These streets that sometimes consist of sharp turns, limited visibility, and crosswalks. “Nevermind that, I’ve got somewhere to get to! 35mph isn’t fast enough!” Their speed, I bet, eventually results in the slew of impaired cars I see busted and mangled in front of their houses—parked there as eyesores until they can afford repair. If somehow still operable, they’ll be driving around (usually at night when I “notice” them) lacking the majority of it’s headlights, turn signals, and often times front grills or quarter-panels. 

They act ignorant and are proud of it, question them and I’m sure it’ll start a conflict. Sometimes, I just don’t know….

This post is not to be meant to be one that is rife with complaints and negativity. I have an open mind to most everything—consider this merely observational.

Sidewalk Guard Rails

3rd & Oak St at the 3rd Ave Cafe, evidently a semi-truck couldn’t make his turn

Perhaps Louisville should have put up ornamental guard rails instead of such nice trash cans to keep these menaces (i.e. motorists) on the road and not on our sidewalks. Don’t get me wrong, I like these trash cans, which are specific to neighborhood, they’re elegant in a way—I’m glad they’re there. But if they keep getting knocked down and damaged by motorists, what will be left to keep them from plowing down pedestrians on their sidewalks? Are they really enough to keep the cars on the road themselves?

Just a minor blow to this one, next accident will take it out for sure.

I’m pretty sure there used to be a can here in the foreground, but am certain there was an car crashed into the opposite corner’s sidewalk

This Town Already has Bike Boxes

When I’m riding around, casually or commuting, I envision possible solutions to the traffic issues we all face as cyclists, many of which seem abundant here in Louisville. Sometimes I like to envision intersections like this:

Frankfort Avenue

A lot of the intersections I’ve noticed in this town have a really nice space located between where the cars are supposed to stop at red lights and where the pedestrian’s crosswalk is. It’s presumed this area is a buffer zone provided to keep cars from stopping in the crosswalk. This area would make for a great “bike box”! And these “buffer zones” can be found at many of the city’s intersections; they’re just sitting there, ready for painting—I think blue might be nice.

Basically, it would b a place for cyclists to have a safe zone to wait for a green light at intersections; and to help prevent them from getting struck by right turning motorists. The one I’m seeing on Main Street and Brook is great because of the bike lane that leads into it. (Generally speaking, the bike lanes in Louisville are appreciated; they’d be more so—and used more perhaps—if they were safer and more respected; just a note).

Main St @ Brook

Bike boxes are a pretty nice street feature that I first encountered in Vancouver B.C., but really witnessed their implementation on the streets of Portland, OR (here and here) and Seattle, WA (here and here).

Time Warp

I’ve been so preoccupied with work lately I’ve recently experienced a weird sensation of displacement.

We’ve been riding around Louisville a lot—everywhere we go actually. Some of our routes have become rather rote, in a way. But one day, as I’m heading out to the Kroger (or what I commonly, and incorrectly, call QFC) and cross under a freeway overpass, crossing the next intersection I look to my right, and then to my left and proceed through. When I checked to my left something caught my eye: the freeway entrance ramp stating “South I-65 Nashville”. Totally common around here, but it caught my eye nonetheless, making me remark to myself, “Where the hell am I that I’m close to Nashville?”

Louisville, dumbass! Not only was it a sensation of displacement, it also reminded me how “out of the loop” we are about cars and how “regular” people get around. These freeways with their entrance and exit ramps and directional signs, they’re so out of our realm that I hardly take notice of them. Kind of interesting I think how unimportant things like that become when you remove them from your life; things like pumping gas, searching for parking, and many others I’m sure.