Lakeside Swim Club is a huge complex of swimming pools in the Highlands of Louisville. The club draws people like a grocery store or small college, but it does so without car parking lots. How do they do it? Unusually for Louisville, Lakeside has meaningful policies and infrastructure that strongly encourage bicycling and walking.
At first, the infrastructure is more noticeable. The club does have two small parking lots, one with space for 50 vehicles. Only you won’t be parking a car there: these parking lots are reserved primarily for bicycles. The racks fill all the way up on busy days. Had they opted to make a conventional Louisville parking lot, they would have only had space for 5 cars. They moved way more people with bike parking.
Also on the infrastructure front, they have many conspicuous crosswalks along the bustling suburban road Trevilian Way. These are more like the crosswalks you see on major arterials. The crosswalks are enough to get motorists to hit the brakes on this winding, tree-lined road. Letting your kid walk to the pool without adult supervision is something parents feel good about.
On-street parking further slows traffic on Trevilian.
Cynics might point out that it is the only thing standing in the way of a bike lane, which would create a more-or-less continuous bicycle facility to the Louisville Zoo, but that would also increase motorized traffic speeds, so I’m unsure if I have my feathers ruffled by this. The on-street parking is very popular, which means you’re not going to “just drive” to the pool, you’re going to “drive and then walk” to the pool.
There is also the neighborhood issue of the rather narrow sidewalk, and on only one side of Trevilian Way. The result is not good for side-by-side, but it is still functional for basic transportation, enjoying the gardens along the way.
If you’re looking to make things more walking and bicycling friendly, infrastructure is expensive and takes a long time to change. But more important than infrastructure is a policy which encourages walking and bicycling. Lakeside has this in spades.
Firstly, is their membership structure. Despite being the best pool in the city, Lakeside tries hard to be a neighborhood community builder. As such, they offer different, cheaper rates to land-owning residents within the neighborhood. By their own policy they have more customers in walking distance than average.
Secondly, is the way the club has apparently been grandfathered in through the land development code. You could not just tear out the swimming pool and drop in a Wal-Mart here. Land development code would force you to pave a square foot of parking lot for every square foot of building, and there would not be enough space.
As you’d expect for what amounts to a private club, Lakeside’s membership policy does not appear to promote economic or racial diversity. A visit on an average day reveals a sea of overwhelmingly white faces. Rather than fault Lakeside for this, we note that the homogenenity reflects the underlying lack of diversity in Louisville’s neighborhoods, stemming again from regressive choices in our zoning and our land development codes which keep things segregated. However, Lakeside does not offer its reduced rates to renters, which has obvious class segregation implications.
A visit to the front of the pool will confirm that a huge fraction of the Louisvillians at the pool get so by walking or bicycling. These are suburban families, and even unaccompanied children, able to move about their streets freely due to active transportation friendly policy and infrastructure choices.
Louisville has a lot to learn from Lakeside Swim Club. Transportation can work without seas of asphalt parking. People adapt. Of course, some still choose to drive. Others car-pool and get dropped off curb-side. Still others take the initiative and choose walking or bicycling. Humans are adaptable, and there’s a lot of room for innovation in the way we’ve been transporting ourselves. Our standard parking requirements have been created to roll out the red carpet for one choice only – the car – at the expense of all the others. Hopefully, with Lakeside as an example, Louisville is starting to offer people more useful choices.