Metro Louisville

Louisville will allow developers or city officials to construct parking-protected bike lanes, something that was barred under local law before Metro Council approved a change last week.

The ordinance, sponsored by Democratic District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, modifies the requirement in city code that all vehicles must be parked within six inches of the curb. 

It now allows the construction of bike lanes next to the curb, with parked vehicles creating a barrier between cyclists and other traffic. Existing bike lanes along the roadway, marked by a painted line or plastic bollards, make up the vast majority of this kind of infrastructure in Louisville.

Chambers Armstrong said she thinks parking-protected bike lanes provide two advantages compared to other types: the perception of safety, and actually being safer.

“I think a lot of times we will have bike lanes or icons indicating that a road is for shared use, but you don’t see people doing that because they just don’t feel safe,” she said. “It’s much harder to clip a cyclist if there is a row of cars separating the moving vehicles and the cyclists.”

The ordinance, which council members unanimously approved, also clarifies rules around the use of e-scooters and makes parking or stopping a vehicle in a bike lane a ticketable offense. Local law previously barred people riding e-scooters and electric bikes from using bike lanes, even though that conflicts with the city’s dockless vehicle policy.

Chambers Armstrong said the changes will allow Louisville to build infrastructure that is seen as best practice in other cities. 

Nearby Indianapolis and Cincinnati — which many Louisvillians see as peer cities — already have parking-protected bike lanes. Cincinnati officials completed the city’s second protected bike lane earlier this year. It uses parked cars, cement curbs and plastic bollards to create a barrier between cyclists and cars.

Chris Glasser, president of the Louisville transit advocacy group Streets for People, praised the changes allowing for parking-protected bike lanes.

“Certainly this is a thing that exists all over North America, all over the world,” he said. “This ordinance gives us the ability to do what other cities have done, and we’re not talking just super progressive cities.”

Glasser said parking-protected bike lanes are a relatively easy and inexpensive way of creating safer paths for biking, compared to erecting bollards or cement curbs. He added that having more protected bike lanes could also encourage residents, particularly those just starting out, to use alternative modes of transit more often.

“I think it’s just all on a spectrum, different people just have different barriers for what they’re willing to accept and how comfortable they are on a bike already,” he said. “What you’re trying to do with this is make it a more inviting biking experience, scooter experience.”

Transit advocates say the next step is to identify a street or neighborhood to test out parking-protected bike lanes. Chambers Armstrong said she’s in early talks with city officials about creating some in the Highlands.

“It’s a really great place to begin that conversation because we have so much green space, a close proximity to downtown and a lot of people that live in the community who really support multi-modal transportation,” she said.

Chambers Armstrong said Metro officials should have community meetings on parking-protected bike lanes and other pedestrian infrastructure with the goal of creating a comprehensive network across the city.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.