Thursday, October 25, 2012

Louisville, Kentucky Provides Perfect Blueprint to Become a Bicycle City

This article was originally published at Mobility Lab.

The 99.72 percent of commuters* in Louisville, Kentucky who don't travel by bicycle are really missing out.

That's what I learned when I recently visited the home of the Kentucky Derby and the state's largest city.

Everywhere I travel, I try to rent a bicycle and see the sites. And nearly every time, I wonder why most people continue to drive alone when at least some of them could much more easily and healthily travel these places on two wheels. I was staying with a friend who owns a bike but rarely uses it.

In fact, when I told him one of the highlights of my ride was posing with Honest Abe at the Lincoln Memorial in Waterfront Park, he said he didn't even know Louisville had a Lincoln Memorial! And indeed, I suppose there might not be much reason to know about the memorial unless you took a stroll or bikeride along the Ohio River.

But the miles of trail along the river are part of what helps make Louisville so bikeable, and so attractive. I rode from my friend's house – in the very walkable and vibrant area southeast of the downtown called Highlands – straight up Bardstown Road, through the beautifully wooded Cherokee Park - designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in Manhattan - to the riverside bike path. This was an easy and flat ride and, indeed, even along the retail-lined Bardstown Road, there were signs to share the road with bicyclists.

Riding between Cherokee Park and the river took me through a warehouse district that, while not all that pretty, afforded a completely easy and care-free ride. And, amazingly, took me right underneath the stressed-out hordes up above on the "Spaghetti Junction" tangle of crisscrossing interstates and highways.

I then rode west along the river into the heart of the downtown. There were bicyclist signs all along the way, so the city is definitely thinking of ways to encourage this win-win activity. There are great sites and things to do throughout the downtown that are made even greater by the ease of simply pulling right up to the front doors on a bike, including the Belle of Louisville, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and food trucks to choose from for my lunch (I had a tamale).

I headed south out of downtown through Old Louisville and through the University of Louisville campus. Then I wound back east to return to my friend's house.

* One comment I feel I should add to this is that Governing’s statistic about the 99.72 percent in Louisville who don’t bike commute seems a little off (and Governing, to its credit, admits as much in its own footnote to its very-cool graphic). I saw a lot of bicyclists on my ride through the city, and several people told me that they see quite a few people riding regularly to work.

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