Kentucky Policies Bid a Lukewarm Welcome to Bicycle Season

Bicycle season is getting into full swing and many Kentuckians are certainly in the mood for it. Cycling will surely be a popular method of social distancing while exercising this spring and summer.

Kentucky has recently taken some steps toward becoming more friendly to bicyclists. But unfortunately, experts say our state does not rank high in supporting bicyclists in their healthy and responsible choice for commuting, exercising, and having fun.

Venerable biking advocates hand us a poor report card

The League of American Bicyclists has been advocating for the needs of bicyclists for 140 years. Near the end of each year, it releases Bicycle Friendly America, with state-by-state reports and rankings.

Kentucky’s latest ranking does not put us as high as many Kentuckians would like. We appeared down at number 43, just below South Carolina and just above New Mexico. We did, however, beat out Mississippi and Alabama.

The League says it tries to be systematic, using over 100 data measures and gathering the views of state agencies and interests. In the end, their report card for 2019 marked us with grades of C or C- across four measures:

  • Infrastructure and funding.
  • Education and encouragement.
  • Legislation and enforcement.
  • Evaluation and planning.

In the fourth measure, policies, and programs, the League hit us with a D+.

Strides ahead, hopeful signs for pedestrians and cyclists

The detailed report card points out many Kentucky cities and counties have been adopting master plans designed to get a grip on what these governments want to do for biking and walking, along with how and when they want to do it.

The number of such master plans rose from seven to 60 between 2012 and 2018. But the League sees this improvement as an excellent opportunity for us to finally create a statewide master plan, which they see as ideal. So far, the state has left our cyclists and pedestrians stranded by the side of the road.

The League also applauds our adoption of a state safe-passing law and hopes state officials will create a coordinated safety campaign to let Kentuckians know about this and other laws to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

Roadblocks for Kentucky

The League has plenty of suggestions for Kentucky. For example, many states have a law requiring motorists to look around before opening their car doors. Cyclists getting “doored” is a common cause of grave injuries.

On a larger scale, the League urges Kentucky to include the costs of biking and pedestrian infrastructure in all budgets for infrastructure projects in the state. Currently, the authorities often seek this money after they pay for everything else.

Finally, Kentucky would do well to adopt a statewide policy of “Complete Streets.” Such policies try to create s accessible and safe streets for people on foot, cyclists, motorists, and transit riders, including people of all ages and abilities.