Joshua Poe lives on Spring Street across from Destinations Booksellers. I'm posting his observations here, and will link to this from NA Confidential. When I get around to it, I'll add him to the contributor list here.
I moved to New Albany in August 2009, a couple of days before the flood. One of my initial apprehensions about living here was that I would not be able to commute by bicycle. I just imagined it being such a major inconvenience that it would be impractical. I held onto this notion throughout my first New Albany winter, envying my fellow graduate students who biked to class from such convenient locales as the Highlands and Old Louisville. Swelled with self-pity, I kept driving, clinging to my auto-dependence and justifying it the same as any other addict.
Finally, when the weather warmed, I surrendered and devised a route to commute to work at Dutchmans and Cannons Lane and school at U of L. I started out using TARC and the #22 bus to get across the Sherman Minton Bridge, but the 3 bus routes in New Albany are so scattered and infrequent and that I have since forsaken the bus altogether. Here are some observations about biking from New Albany to Louisville.
• New Albany has the potential to be an excellent city for cycling. Right now, it is not.
• Once I connect to the Ohio River Greenway in Clarksville, I spend the entire trip to work on greenways, bike lanes, bike trails, and bike routes (until I reach Dutchmans Ln).
• My commute from NA to Dutchmans & Cannons Ln is approximately 15 miles and takes about an hour and a half (keep in mind this is a leisurely pace, I do not want to arrive at work soaked in sweat, and I usually stop at either the Falls or Cherokee Park to eat a packed breakfast).
• Two bike racks on TARC buses are not sufficient. Often they are already in use and some bus drivers will not let you take your bike on the bus, in which case you have to wait for the next bus, which can take up to an hour and a half.
• It takes approx. 45 minutes to get from downtown New Albany to U of L across the Clark Memorial Bridge on a bicycle (the completed Greenway will easily cut this in half).
• It takes about 30 minutes to get from downtown NA to the Falls of the Ohio (again, this is at a leisure speed). (For more info on the route from New Albany to the Ohio River Greenway see the NA Confidential blog, which has detailed directions; search "Clarksville levee path.")
• If I take the #22 bus from State and Elm St. to get to downtown Louisville, I only have to leave the house ten minutes earlier than I do when I drive a car (This is accomplished by getting off the bus at 22nd St. and Portland Ave. and taking the River Walk to downtown).
• Unless you are in the throes of desperation, avoid the #72 bus at all costs. This bus is an abomination on the face of all public transportation. My heart aches for anyone who has to ride this bus on a regular basis. It is by far the worst bus route I have ever encountered anywhere.
• While the bicycle connections in Louisville going eastward are excellent, they are awful heading west. Sure, there is a greenway to Shawnee Park, but nowhere else to go once you get there. I am fortunate that I work in the east, if I worked in Shively, I would be driving.
• I met seven people today that I never would have met using an automobile. I also saw three of my friends on the street and stopped to talk to them. I also happened to see the Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife release 2,000 rainbow trout into a lake in Cherokee Park. I am more spatially aware of my surroundings and distance, and much more observant of architecture and neighborhood demographics.
• Thinking of starting a cycling/pedestrian/neighborhood campaign/organization/advocacy group called ARC. Acknowledge. Recognize. Contact.
• On an average day, I see blue herons, hawks, eagles, turtles, and a variety of songbirds on the Beargrass Creek bike trail, at the Falls, and in Cherokee Park (this week I saw a hooded warbler).
• Bicycle safety is a simple matter. Everyone MUST obey basic traffic laws, bikes and cars alike. When people start breaking these laws, cyclists are in trouble (Cars pulling out too far at the intersection, making u-turns, backing up after missing a turn, bikes using pedestrian crosswalks to ride the sidewalk, going the wrong way on one-way streets, not signaling, not stopping at stop signs even when they think no one is coming, etc….). As long as everyone follows the rules, all will be well.
• I am ashamed to admit that I do ride the sidewalk on the Clark Memorial Bridge (I know, it feels like defeat). I have ridden on the street, gripped by fear as I hear the cars speed up behind me, honking their horn as if I am supposed to go somewhere else. I have ridden in the street on that bridge several times, until I decided that it was not really worth it. When it comes to upholding principles over personal safety, the choice is a simple one. As the horns sound behind me, I am left to wonder; are they honking because they cannot stop in time to keep from hitting me? Are they honking out of rage? What is coming up behind me, how fast is it coming, and will I survive? People drive too fast on that bridge and often they seem angry. So, I ride the sidewalk on the Clark Memorial, all the while thinking that soon enough the Big Four Bridge will be complete and I will never have to cross that scene again.
• Drawbacks to cycling: do not get to drink as much coffee, smoke as many cigarettes, listen to NPR, or talk on the phone.
• The majority of the cyclists I meet in Southern Indiana are men 35 to 45 with DUI convictions. These guys ride the sidewalk, sans helmet. They are not enthusiastic about cycling. They don’t hate it either, mind you, they just fail to see it as any sort of movement that creates positive externalities for society or themselves. They have strictly utilitarian motivations for cycling and once their DUI non-driving probationary period is up, they will mostly likely be back on four wheels (probably wasted).
• The area in New Albany between I-64 and West 10th St. has the highest concentration of assholes in the metropolitan region, be extra cautious here.
• My favorite billboard of all time says “YOU ARE NOT STUCK IN TRAFFIC, YOU ARE TRAFFIC.”
• The positive external benefits of cycling have been well documented (environmental, traffic congestion relief, etc...). I am more interested in the internal benefits. Generally, I am riddled with anxiety, which has the potential to turn into depression. Sometimes I feel sinful, flawed, dull-witted and ineffective. I have too much energy. I have trouble relaxing. My grandmother used to say that I was “wound too tightly,” whatever that means. Sitting in a car smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee every morning leads anger, frustration, and is not conducive to any sort of serenity. When I ride my bike 15 miles to work in the morning I am more relaxed throughout the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment and awareness that would never result from driving. Sometimes in the morning, I am even positive and enthusiastic. This effect did not happen all at once, like education, therapy, or any input-based process that actually works; the results are amorphous, diffuse, and incremental. I do not ride a bike out of some grandiose notion of saving the planet. Nor do I meander with false consciousness, telling people what they should or should not be doing. Nor am I interested in gears, gadgets, and merchandise. My goal is to make my heart stop racing and increase my own awareness, get rid of the worry, get rid of the negativity, get rid of the cynicism, propel myself forward by pedaling, force oxygen into my lungs and get down with some sort of fucking goodness on a daily basis. Something has been lost throughout the human evolutionary process. We are genetically programmed to deal with life-threatening danger and physical exertion every day, resulting from a time when we had to kill animals and grow food in order to eat, when a stroll through the woods also entailed the constant threat of saber-toothed tiger attacks and such onslaught. These days lack stimulation. It is no wonder people shoot heroin, take Prozac, look at porn, or attempt to meditate. Driving a car is a soul-depriving endeavor, one of many designed to keep us isolated along with other isolatory technology that furthers our inward obsessions and prevents real work from being accomplished. Living a life of cheerful humility is one that humans are wired to prefer and to be happiest in such a state. I don’t know the exact causes of my anxiety, but I do know that cycling satisfies some brain chemical reward system so that when I come home in the evenings my kids don’t get on my nerves quite as much, I am better equipped to practice things like patience, gratitude, and life doesn’t seem quite as bleak, hopeless, and dark. I am not trying to sell anyone on riding a bicycle, but it really is a hell of a good thing to do.
• Bicycle planning for cities involves a lot more than just painting lines on the road. All plans must be in line with the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards. For more info on AASHTO standards see: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 1999.
• Some of my favorite bike/planning websites: There’s a ton of resources on this site.
The FHWA (also linked through the above site) has a bunch of material on
Also, I love the inspiration from sites like Streetsblog and Streetfilms
(with links to the other sites).
Some good info on the use of cycle tracks, an emerging practice.
A recent publication on best practices in designing bicycle boulevards.
Todd Litman with the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute has a ton of
info as well.
Also: Cities for Cycling.