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What's This?
Route of the new Sixth Street bike lane showing varying lane treatments. (Montage by Broken Sidewalk)
Route of the new Sixth Street bike lane showing varying lane treatments. (Montage by Broken Sidewalk)

Bike Louisville‘s Rolf Eisinger is rolling out the city’s newest bike lane, a 1.4-mile stretch along Sixth Street between River Road in Downtown and Zane Street in Old Louisville. Except for two blocks at the route’s north and south ends, Sixth is a one-way street moving south.

“It’s a great connection from the middle of downtown to a lot of other good bike lanes. It connects to Muhammad Ali going west and to Kentucky Street going east,” Chris Glasser, president of Bicycling for Louisville (B4L) told Broken Sidewalk. The city opened a pair of bike lanes on Chestnut Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard earlier this year.

According to Bike Louisville:

The reconfigured cross-section improves safety for cyclists along the route and reduces the average vehicle speed within acceptable ranges of the posted speed limit. The excess pavement from the removed lane will be used to provide an additional buffer for cyclists by separating the bicycles from the vehicle travel lanes. This section of bike lane will improve connectivity by providing a direct link for cyclists between the River Walk multi-use trail and buffered bike lane on Kentucky St and shared lane that extends on 6th St after Zane St.

These changes are expected to create a safer Sixth Street, a welcome move as the city continues with its Look Alive Louisville street safety campaign. Between January 2012 and July 2015, Bike Louisville reports that there were 144 collisions on this stretch of Sixth Street resulting in 50 injuries.

“This is going to be a really important piece of bike infrastructure,” Glasser said. “It’s one of those projects that we think will really move the needle on bikeability in Louisville.” Growing the city’s bike network with infrastructure like this is a critical part of the city maintaining its new Silver bike-friendly rating from the Bike League.

The plan varies block by block as road conditions change. Most of the changes involve shrinking driving lanes to safer widths, from ten to 11-feet wide. South of Broadway, one lane of the street would make way for a buffered bike lane. Here’s the lineup beginning at River Road and moving south:

  • Between River Road and Main Street, the street would include one northbound lane, a center turning lane, a southbound lane, and a five-foot, southbound bike lane with a two-foot buffer.
  • Between Main and Market streets, the street would remain largely the same, with two parking lanes and two travel lanes, but sharrows would be added.
  • Between Market Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, travel lanes would be reconfigured to accommodate a five-foot bike lane with a two-foot door-zone buffer.
  • Between Muhammad Ali and Broadway, one lane of parking would be replaced by a seven-foot bike lane with a three-foot traffic buffer and bollards. Two driving lanes would be maintained.
  • Between Broadway and Kentucky Street, one driving lane would be replaced with a five-foot bike lane flanked by 2.5-foot buffers.
  • Between Kentucky and Zane Street, sharrows would be added in northbound and southbound travel lanes.
Sixth Street at Breckinridge Street. (Courtesy Google)
Sixth Street at Breckinridge Street. (Courtesy Google)

Besides the addition of bike lanes, the proposed changes would also bring traffic calming benefits. For instance, between York and Breckinridge streets, Bike Louisville’s traffic survey shows a right-lane average speed of over 40 miles per hour in a neighborhood setting with a 25 mph limit. Calming the traffic here would bring safety benefits to all road users.

Glasser is pretty excited about the project, but is watching closely for any “bikelash” from motorists who might oppose the project. “We’re using roughly the same treatment from Broadway to Kentucky that we used for Breckinridge and Kentucky Streets—which is to say, we’re cutting a driving lane and replacing it with a wide bike lane,” Glasser explained. “I worry that there’ll be some questions and a minor uproar from within Metro Council.”

Bike Louisville will study changes in collisions, speeds, bike counts, and automobile traffic counts before and after the infrastructure changes. “The traffic counts on Sixth are about one to two thousand cars per day less than what’s on Kentucky and Breckinridge, so the traffic should still flow pretty steadily, even at rush hour,” Glasser added.

Two public meetings are scheduled to present the plans and gather feedback.

  • Monday, September 14 from noon until 1:30p.m. at the Metro Development Center, 444 South Fifth Street, in the first floor conference room.
  • Friday, September 18  at 6:00–7:30p.m. at the Old Louisville Information Center in Central Park, 1340 South Fourth Street.

Funding for the $50,000 project comes from Mayor Greg Fischer’s Urban Bike Network budget for 2016. Design and engineering on the route was completed by Metro Louisville Department of Public Works and Gresham, Smith & Partners. Construction is expected to begin the week of September 28.

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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

2 COMMENTS

  1. Brandon – It seems to me like there would be advantage to standardizing the bike lane format all along 6th Street. Both the cyclist and the drivers will have a predictable street format without many changes.

    Could you comment on if it would be favorable to standardize the design all along 6th Street? If so, could you comment on how difficult/easy that would be?

  2. Standardized two way traffic for cars might be an improvement over all of these schizophrenic directions that change block by block. First, Second, Fifth…… I cannot comment on bike lane design but I know that a confused driver doesn’t help.

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