The Commons, Squabbling in

A recent pedestrian/cyclist incident on a Louisville sidewalk mirrors the history of the Big Four Bridge and the daily struggle in Louisville streets between cars and cyclists. The sidewalks, streets and alleys, like our parks and libraries, are part of The Commons – that public space that we share with each other. The Big Four Bridge, when put back into service as a car-free facility for pedestrians and cyclists, had a bike lane. Immediately pedestrians complained when cyclists were outside of the bike lane. Cyclists complained that pedestrians when were in the bike lane. The Big Four Bridge bike lane turned the public into squabbling siblings in the back seat of the family car: “She’s on my side!!!”. The bike lanes on our streets result in the same squabbling with drivers yelling “Get back in the bike lane!!” and cyclists yelling “Get out of the bike lane!!”.
Spacial segregation often escalates beyond squabbling to name calling and sometimes physical conflict. Spacial segregation is counter productive to community.  The Commons is a space to be shared, respectfully. Cyclists need to respect pedestrians. Drivers need to respect cyclists and pedestrians. Urban traffic needs to be calmed so cyclists can share the road with cars.
The city’s best traffic calming tool is a bicycle in the travel lane. Removing bike lanes and establishing a 20 mph urban speed limit will calm traffic, helping to turn The Commons from a place of conflict to a space of community.

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