Friday, January 22

From the Suicide Lane: Bigger or Better?

Currently there is a Senate Bill before the Kentucky legislature to provide protection to cyclists on the Commonwealth’s roadways.  It’s a safe passing bill or what is typically known as a three foot to pass law.  Kentucky needs this.  Currently Kentucky is ranked the 49th bicycle friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists.  Kentucky needs safe passing legislation.

I was contacted by the bill’s champion to see if I knew any cyclists within a certain House District that might contact the Representative who happens to be the head of the House Transportation Committee.  She commented that his responses had been along the lines of “bicycles are dangerous and shouldn’t be on the roads,” that legislation like SB80 make cycling more attractive (duh) which will result in more people on the roads on bikes who shouldn’t be there in the first place, and that cyclists and motorists would be in more danger because of it.

So dangerous!

I find it odd that the head of the House TRANSPORTATION Committee doesn’t realize that 1) bikes are legal vehicles in Kentucky per KRS 189 and that 2) people are going to ride bikes on the roads for myriad reasons and they deserve the same kind of protections as other users regardless of how he feels about their presence or absence thereon.

But it’s a mentality that is prevalent.  This week is the annual Kentuckians for Better Transportation Conference in Lexington.  The conference is the yearly get together of statewide legislators, local elected leaders, and more specifically all of those people in the same room with all of the Big Transportation industry folks; the contractors, asphalt companies, the planning and engineering firms, and anyone who has an interest in big ticket transportation projects around the state.  And of course the state level transportation officials are there as well.  So all the decision makers and al the demand desire-ers get together to network and drink together in a hotel before returning to a full year of schmoozing and finagling all of those transportation dollars into the appropriate coffers.  Do I sound cynical?

Of course.  Despite the Kentuckians for Bigger Transportation claiming to represent ALL modes of transportation those that are not deeply connected to gasoline and diesel powered conveyances get the short end of the stick shift.  Too many people in positions of power have flippant attitudes toward cyclists and pedestrians while too many local elected officials are forced to deal with issues they have no real power to confront.  They’re told by knowledgeable “experts” in the Transportation Cabinet that there is simply not enough money to accommodate walkers and bikers in their counties and if they try to do so that the larger number of constituents in single occupancy vehicles are going to suffer for it.  Do I still sound cynical?  Do you disagree that this is not the culture in government today?

And do you disagree with the flawed logic in this thinking?  The new republican Governor spoke at the conference luncheon on Thursday.  If we could truly believe him to be speaking Truth then most of those industry bigwigs should have been shaking in their expensive shoes yesterday.  And I think they were, but not for the right reasons.  See, the Governor said he was committed to eradicating waste in the state budget.  And while I’m not sure what he will determine to be waste, I do know that if we appropriately cut up the pie and if we planned and built projects based on real needs and not contrived demand and selfish greed then perhaps more human scaled projects would end up coming to life in communities that desperately need them.

I actually heard one conference attendee (and I did not see his face and do not know who he is) say: “I’m just here to find some money.”  My guess is he was half joking and that he was likely a county Judge-Executive.  Our rural county Judges never have enough money to run their counties.  I truly hope it was a mirthful county Judge because had any other attendee said that it would have just been creepy.

I try to check my conspiracy theories at the door.  But it’s really hard to ignore big meetups like the annual KBT conference as being the informal lobbying sessions that they seem.  Or short of that being the networking orgies they definitely are for contractors to buddy up to county and highway district level decision makers for future favorability in the bid process.

There are no bike-ped sessions in the conference.  There was a token session last year, but it was more a novelty than evidence of a change in thinking.  If you check out KBT’s policy and bill watch pages you won’t find anything about the Safe Passing Bill.  I didn’t go to every session in the conference, but I didn’t hear anything about legislation that protects or even hints at promoting non-motorized or non-SOV modes of transportation.  Wonder where in ALL modes of transportation bike-ped fits in the eyes of KBT?

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