Coincidentally, this morning's e-mail also included a note from a driver who expressed that cyclists endanger their own safety by slowing motor vehicle traffic, especially on River Road. I could easily have dismissed the comments, because they displayed significant ignorance of the traffic law. The tendency to blame cyclists for obstructing motor vehicle traffic and ignorance of traffic law are both widespread, though. We can only progress so far without addressing those attitudes and misconceptions, so I chose to write a respectful and detailed reply.
River Road is the only Kentucky Scenic Byway in Louisville Metro, and by far the most pleasant way to ride northeast from the city center. In my letter to the disgruntled driver, I identified a unique combination of attributes making River Road a perfect storm for tensions between motorists and bicyclists:
- one narrow lane in each direction, with no paved shoulders
- heavy motor vehicle traffic
- heavy bicycle traffic, including many large group rides
- long distances between intersections
- lack of alternate routes
- many blind curves and blind hill crests
In the meantime, I ask that you consider how to make River Road safer and more functional for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. This is a timely question, because Louisville Metro has just begun a $100,000 grant-funded project to create a River Road Corridor Management Plan, which will include recommendations for accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians. If bicyclists vilify or refuse to work with motorists, land owners, or other non-bicycling interest groups, we will not get what we need. I hope we will get ourselves into a cooperative, open-minded frame of mind before the first public meeting is announced. Of course, we have some core principles that we cannot compromise, including our right to use the road. We need to be ready to hear and respect other groups' core principles, too, in order to succeed in crafting solutions that work for all of us.