In May when the case of Cherokee Schill drew widespread attention she explained why she was riding her bicycle on U.S. 27 between her home in Nicholasville and her job in Lexington.
"I've got two kids to feed and a roof to put over their head. ... I've got to pay rent, pay bills and buy groceries."
For Schill, whose car's odometer was pushing 400,000, cycling to work was the only practicable, reliable way to do that.
Nicholasville police didn't see it that way, nor did Jessamine District Judge Bill Oliver who last week ruled that Schill had violated the law by not moving as far to the right of the road as practicable. He advised her to ride on the shoulder, which her defense team asserted is often littered with dangerous debris.
We disagree with Oliver's ruling, which bows to public opinion rather than the cyclist's legal right to be on the road. Nor do we understand the Nicholasville police department's insistence on targeting her. But there's a larger problem that demands attention.
It's simply this: Why is it almost impossible to get to work in this region without driving a car?
We know that the counties of the Central Bluegrass, while distinct, are one economy. People cross county lines thousands of times daily to go to work or school (Schill now rides her bike to Lexington to classes to become an EKG technician), to visit family and friends, to shop, eat out or for other entertainment.
Plus, we know that our region's carbon footprint is way too big, in part because of all those commuting miles, and that a large portion of Bluegrass residents struggle, like Schill, to afford food, shelter and utilities, much less to buy and maintain a reliable automobile. But, in order to earn a living or get training to earn a better living, transportation is a necessity.
Given all this, a regional transportation system should be a high priority piece of economic infrastructure.
But, as a study released this year by the Kentucky Transportation Center at the University of Kentucky found, in what it terms the Central Bluegrass commutershed, only two of the top ten intercounty routes have adequate commuter transit services available. It notes that the most traveled of these routes with inadequate service is U.S. 27 between Nicholasville and Lexington.
This is a problem that is not easily or cheaply solved. Regional cooperation in the Bluegrass has long been in short supply, and people with cars often don't see the value of paying taxes to help provide public transit for those who can't afford cars or who aren't able to drive.
But this is also a problem that won't go away, whatever the outcome of Cherokee Schill's legal struggles.
In this election year voters should demand that those who want to hold office show real leadership and begin the hard work of creating a regional transportation system.