Generational divide on bike lane proposal

Older residents say adding lanes to Louisville Road Hill is too dangerous

By Ryan Quinn Published:

Residents were divided over adding a bike lane to Louisville Road Hill at the city’s public meeting on the proposal Monday afternoon.

The division was often generational. Of the roughly 35 who attended, mostly the younger ones spoke in favor of the plan. Several were members of Walk/Bike Frankfort, the group that envisioned and submitted the proposal to the City Commission.

Those who voiced opposition were mostly older. Many didn’t think it wise or safe to eliminate, as the plan would require, one of the uphill lanes on Louisville Road to accommodate bicyclists when so few people, they said, actually bike the hill.

“They may end up being like the phantom riders on the trolley,” said Charlotte Nelson, 68. “The numbers just don’t add up and don’t make sense.”

But Connie Lemley, 36, said calling the proposal unnecessary because so few people bike the hill “is kind of like the chicken and egg problem.”

“Even if not many people are biking or walking now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who want to do that, or people who would do that, if it were easier and safer,” Lemley said.

Another speaker agreed, saying he doesn’t bike Louisville Hill now because he’d “be asking to die.”

Brent Sweger, president of Walk/Bike Frankfort, said bicyclists do traverse the hill currently, though he said there were “not a lot.”

The commission is planning to discuss the bike lane proposal next week and, based on public input, possibly send a letter of recommendation for the plan to the state, which will make the ultimate decision.

The proposal would eliminate one of the two current uphill vehicle lanes, increase the distance between the uphill and downhill lanes to 3 feet, create a 6-foot bike lane next to the 11-foot uphill vehicle lane and widen the downhill lane to 14 feet with a 2-foot shoulder. The wide downhill lane would have markings on the right side to indicate where bicyclists can travel, but not a separate bike lane.

The proposal would cost little because it is simply a restriping of the roadway simultaneous with a sewer project, said Public Works Director Jeff Hackbart. That project is already requiring repaving of the section of Louisville Road from the end of Taylor Avenue and West Second Street to the scenic outlook spot over the Capitol.

Hackbart said he learned Monday that the sewer project wouldn’t affect the road all the way up to Lafayette Drive, which is where the proposal says the road restriping would end. Hackbart said the proposal would cost a little more than expected because of this, but he said he could not give an estimate how much.

“I don’t think that would be a costly item,” he said.

Sweger started the meeting by saying that this is at least Walk/Bike Frankfort’s third attempt to connect South Frankfort to West Frankfort.

“It’s very difficult because of our terrain to get people to safely walk and bike up and down from one side to the other,” he said.

Sweger said the group tried a connection on the abandoned Browns Ferry Road, but was opposed by a landowner. He said the group tried Lafayette Hill, but failed to have parking removed from the road after residents disagreed.

Now, he described the Louisville Hill restriping – which is also getting pushback from residents – as “the most logical route.” He said the proposal would make the road safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists and compared it to the addition of bike lanes on Second Street, saying that project concerned citizens as well but ultimately made conditions better for all.

A second citizen, who said he was a pedestrian more than a bicyclist, said he liked that the Second Street bike lanes had moved traffic farther from the sidewalks and thus supported this proposal.

“Every time that I get passed going up Louisville Hill I cringe because it is a disaster for whatever comes about,” he said.

“And usually the person that’s trying to pass somebody on Louisville Hill is speeding, so I’ll leave it at that,” he added. Some residents were concerned that they’d be stuck behind slow vehicles if the right-hand lane were eliminated. Sweger estimated being behind a slow car would cost 30 seconds at most on the hill.

After another supporter gave his opinion, an older man stood to say he strongly opposed the proposal. He said he had driven the road many times and saw many stalled vehicles in the uphill right lane, along with maintenance vehicles that clean up the rocks and other debris that often fall on the roadway.

“Traffic is still able to move up the hill with that going on,” he said, adding that he thinks removing that right-hand lane would be unwise.

Sweger had said the proposed bike lanes would move vehicles farther from the edge, allowing drivers a greater sight distance to see such fallen debris and stalled vehicles.

The opponent also said it would be dangerous for inexperienced bike riders to share the downhill lane with vehicles, and doubted they could match vehicles’ speed.

Another opponent, who said he had lived in Frankfort most recently for about eight years, said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone attempt Louisville Hill downhill or uphill on a bicycle.”

He said he has been up and down Lafayette in a car and bicycle and has seen many people biking on Lafayette. He suggested Lafayette would be a better route. He said he didn’t feel in danger there even though there was no bike lane.

“It is a steeper grade going up Lafayette, but Louisville Hill is no bunny slope,” he said. “An experienced biker is going to be challenged with Louisville Hill.”

Mary Anna Rogers, 57, who said she has owned and lived at Rogers Funeral Home near the foot of Louisville Hill for 34 years, said she had concerns about eliminating an uphill lane. She said she goes up the road sometimes several times a day.

“I often do pass slower vehicles, and I can do it without speeding and I can do it safely,” Rogers said. She said she doesn’t think it is a safe route, even with a bike lane.

Rogers, who said she had been in an ambulance recently, said her greatest concern was that emergency vehicles would not be able to get up the road quickly enough without two lanes. She said Lafayette Drive was a better route.

Sellus Wilder, one of three city commissioners present at the meeting to hear citizens’ concerns, said Police Chief and Interim City Manger Walter Wilhoite had not expressed any concerns about police vehicles being hindered by the proposal. Wilder said the fire chief had not yet been asked about his thoughts.

Sweger had said cars would be able to pull into the 6-foot bike lane to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Irv Gershman, 86, who lives on Tanglewood Drive, turned to the other residents to give his firm opinion.

“I don’t think it will work; it will mess everything up,” he said. “Leave well enough alone; it’s fine right now.”

He said there’s already plenty of room for bikers in Frankfort, and that he would be happy if they also took the bike lanes out of Second Street and downtown Frankfort.

“The first accident or fatality that happens on there, who are we going to point to?” he said of Louisville Hill. “The people who were for this.”

Stewart Harrod, 48, a member of Walk/Bike Frankfort, said he supports the proposal. He said he frequently travels both Lafayette and Louisville hills by bike and car and said bicyclists on Lafayette have to worry about cars pulling out of driveways. He said he thinks more people don’t bike Louisville Hill because no bike lane exists, and that one would make many people safer.

“Studies have shown nationwide that with bike lanes it slows down traffic, it’s a buffer, and that’s not a bad thing with Second Street School right at the bottom of the hill,” Harrod said.

One older woman who said she lives on Ewing Street right under Louisville Hill said, “I think the most dangerous thing that could happen on Louisville Hill is to have a bike trail up there.”

Another woman pointed out that bike riders are already allowed to ride on the roadway, and this proposal just makes them safer. A man who spoke after her said the proposal is based on the responsible bicyclist, which he suggested is not the average bicyclist.

Commissioner Bill May, who said he bikes Lafayette, said he doesn’t think the proposal is safe from his experience as a bicyclist. Though he said he generally supports cycling and walking, he said his number one concern is safety.

Commissioner Katie Hedden said, “Per everything I’ve heard, nobody wants it.” She said every opinion she has gotten in calls and emails has been opposed and that it is her job to represent her constituents.

Mayor Gippy Graham, who has one vote on the commission, did not say whether he supports the proposal, but said he had heard several opposing opinions and no support other than from the Walk/Bike group.

“I’d have to be sold on it,” he said.

Wilder said he had heard marginally more support than opposition for the proposal, and he’d just have to wait to see the final tally. Hackbart said comments sent to his office have been mixed.

Comments may also be submitted through the city’s website at www.frankfort.ky.gov. Go to the “About” section at the bottom of the main page, click on online contact form, and put Public Works as the category. There is also an online poll on the main page, and regular mail to City Hall is also accepted.

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  • Well Fry isn't it always that way with the airheads down at the hall or should we start calling it the Airhead Home? artsschoolmom. Really? ummm guess there will be chains to put on bikes come winter but I gotta laugh at your LIBERAL view even though Kentucky is part of the nation I do not believe that percentage is that high here in little ol' Frankfort. See this is how it starts. Instead of MINDING your own business, and doing what YOU feel is right, LIBERALS make it some kinda quest to get everyone to think and act like them. Although you make some good points, Louisville road is not, repeat, is not an idea place for a bike path. Paths around the Capital, downtown are cool but I don't see any one making a case to have one say down Holmes Street, Oh I forgot people in Frankfort consider Holmes Street the new "Bottom" or "Crawl" as my parents use to call it, so I guess Holmes Street is off the table. Do not use people as a means to an end and try all that guff about gas, cause you still drive, insurance is needed in case you get hit while riding on your bike path, and cars ain't going away. You do know that Frankfort is shaped like a bowl right?Up hill either direction you go and these moms that ride their kiddies to school on bikes live maybe two blocks from said school so they don't count. I can't stand someone telling others what THEY feel is a better alternative to their everyday life. Quit meddling, quit trying to change people and just live your life how you want and I'll live mine just as long something I do doesn't affect you and vice versa that way we all get along:)

  • I think more bike lanes everywhere are a good thing. Are you aware that 26% of our nation's young people (from learner's permit age to 34) have elected not to get a driver's license? And that statistic has increased an entire 5% in recent years? This statistic is likely to increase even more. The high costs of automobile ownership are definitely a factor, but even affluent young adults have decreased their driving participation. And bicycling is definitely on the increase. This behavior is a positive: it frees up income to be pumped into the local economy rather than to pay for cars, gas, and insurance. It's better for our nation's health, which can ultimately lower health care costs. And it's better for the environment.

  • Geez, pitch, how many times do they hafta say it? "This would be a HUGE waste of TAX PAYERS money"?? It's gonna cost the same, whether they stripe the road for two lanes or three! Don't get me wrong, I think it's a bad idea also, but IT'S GONNA COST THE SAME. (FWIW, I think the bike lane will be put in place, whether it's a good idea or not.)

  • Road funds pay for improvements. Those come from GAS TAX paid by people driving vehicles. No licensing and property tax paid on bikes.

  • Why then just stop at Louisville road? Why not the East/West Connector, Plaza West Connector, all the way out 127 North and South, Thorn Hill Bypass, US 60 East and West East Main, Old Lawrenceburg Road... This is getting outta hand these cretinous liberal actions are. Back in my day you rode a bike on the same asphalt that cars did, no need for a bike lane that frankly I haven't seen that many bikes use cept downtown where all the GTREENIES meet anyway. This would be a HUGE waste of TAX PAYERS money that could be better served paving roads, expanding sidewalks etc. I'd actually like to see horse paths instead of bike paths. Want to ride with your little helmets on, blinking lights, little flurry things hanging off your handlebars? Halloween is just around the corner have at it quit wasting peoples time and energy fighting stupid ideas and quit putting stupid ideas in the idiots heads down at city hall. They got enough stupid things floating around already in those empty heads. If Wilder had rode a bike instead of driving a car he would not have had to use an Alford Plea.

  • I am opposed to bike lanes on Louisville Hill. Most ridiculous idea I have heard in a long time. I am 79 years old and have traveled Louisville Hill probably as much as anyone because I have always lived on the West side. I remember when there was only one lane going up and how much better it is with two. Please, no bike lanes.

  • #1579 - that was my exact thought when reading this story. Much safer route, with regards to terrain, traffic, visibility and speed.

  • Wow. People think that there are cyclists who don't run errands on their bike? That's why bike trailers, baskets, panniers, and other lighting and safety accessories were invented. remember, some people that live in our community actually can't afford a car, or decide that they can live without one because they realize it will save them a ton of money or allow them to get "ahead". Young people are buying less cars, and many people in many cities exist without owning a vehicle because of the reasons I listed above and many more. Shocker: some of these people use their bikes to drop their kids off at school or daycare! It's funny that the people who mostly have a problem with this admit to using their car to go up the same hill multiple times a day. Remember, some of us can't afford that, and wouldn't want to do that if we could.

  • It would make more sense to ride up to the top of Shelby Street, then over on Tanglewood to Louisville Road.

  • The real issue here is not whether, or how many, people actually ride up or down the 3/4 mile of Louisville Rd. that's under consideration. The real issue is whether Frankfort has the vision to provide accommodation for alternative transportation and whether Frankfort has the guts needed to imagine and construct a network of paths, lanes, trails and sidewalks that facilitates movement around the city without a car.

  • Sort of like shooting Sandhill Cranes: WHY do folks feel the need to do it? Just because it (Louisville Road) is there? Why, other than for recreation, would any cyclist need to go up Louisville Road? To take the dog to the Vet? To go to Kroger's to do family shopping? To shuttle to and from work (where a shower and change of clothes would likely be needed before reporting in?) Cycling is great - but let's be practical folks.