I am saddened by the recent death of a fellow cyclist and for the grief and horror that the driver in the collision must feel.
The problems of motorist and bicycle interactions are not unique to any road or street, urban or rural. I have had as many close calls riding my bicycle on errands in Lexington as I have had on county roads.
Nationally, the average bicycle trip is 3.9 miles. No cyclist I know chooses to ride on Paris Pike for fun. Cyclists prefer the less-traveled country roads, however they often cross or deadend into major highways. Cyclists then have to travel 100 yards, a half-mile or more on major highways like Paris Pike, Winchester Road or Newtown Pike to connect their overall routes within their journey.
The construction and maintenance of roadway shoulders (6 feet and wider) would better accommodate travel by cyclists on these roadways, particularly along stretches of road that access tertiary roads. The need is for connectivity, adequate cycling infrastructure and driver awareness/alertness to bicyclists on the roads/streets and cyclist’s awareness/alertness to vehicles.
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Many of the bicycling clubs in our state document the roadway routes most used by members within their organizations. This data includes where they ride, when they ride and how many riders participate. Some of this data has been shared with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Bike/Ped Program and is available for public review.
Bicyclists can use Web-based applications like Strava to record and track the areas and roadways they use. This information can guide infrastructure improvements where most needed.
In the 2016 legislative session, I advocated for Senate Bill 80, “A Safer Passing Law for Bicycles,” that would have required a car to give at least three feet (minimum clearance) when passing a bicycle. Making cycling safer will be important to the thousands of Kentucky cyclists and to cycling tourism. But that died in the House.
Kentucky currently has 11 certified “trail towns” primarily in rural areas. They are starting to embrace cycling tourism, promote and encourage walkability throughout their communities and have realized the value of accommodating all modes of travel with an emphasis on safety.
Cycling tourism is increasing. The TransAmerica Bike route (USBR 76) crosses the state, and four more national bike routes are planned to go through the state. Annual bike tours put on by bicycle clubs and nonprofit organizations attract out-of-state cyclists and their tourist dollars.
One of the largest of these event rides is the Horsey Hundred sponsored by the Bluegrass Cycling Club that hosts over 2,000 riders each year with more attending as family members and guests.
Although Kentucky is ranked very low as a bike-friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists, I am proud of what Kentucky is doing. Cycling supporters are working to increase awareness of the benefits of cycling, pass a safe passing law and increase driver and cyclist education.
Kentucky is improving and increasing dedicated cycling infrastructure and is currently ranked eighth in per capita spending of federal transportation dollars on bicycle/pedestrian projects. Lexington currently has approximately 30 miles of bike lanes and has proposed 30 more.
A safer passing law would not be a replacement for dedicated bicycle infrastructure, including bike lanes and shared use paths. The power behind a safer passing law is its ability to increase the overall awareness of bicycling safety and the rights and responsibilities of all road users, motorists and cyclists alike.
Dixie Moore, an urban and recreational cyclist, lives in Lexington.
Related: April 19 column by Herald-Leader’s Tom Eblen, “Bicyclist’s death a reminder that Kentuckians must share the roads”