By Curtis Morrison, Louisville Courant
Progressive change, whether treating sewage or creating safe streets, does not come easily when the always petulant greater public is not getting its way.
Take for example the proposed “road diet” for Lower Brownsboro Road (closer to downtown), a plan to slow traffic by reducing the road to one lane each direction from two lanes, with a center turn lane. The redesign would add a sidewalk, but commuters from the wealthy areas the road connects to downtown – including Windy Hills and Indian Hills – are less than thrilled.
Like most suburban–to–urban thoroughfares in Louisville, Brownsboro Road is not safe. The four-lane Autobahn-style raceway-to-downtown is set up for motorists to commute briskly in their “ultimate driving machines,” with minimal risk of encounters with the lesser public.
The corridor is less safe for the humans who travel the area powered by their own feet or arms. Let’s not talk about their young. That’s why a ‘road diet’ was proposed – to enhance the livability of the Lower Brownsboro Road community it dissects.
The Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, who advocates for the road diet, make lots of compelling arguments for the project such as this one:
You can not imagine the fear of crossing this road, until you’ve tried to do it at night with a tired 5-year old child and the only crosswalk a 15 minute walk away. Residents face this dilemma every day, folks. (CART)
Metro Mayor Greg Fischer had initially signaled support for the proposal when the Mayor Newsroom issued this release announcing the 30-day comment period:
This is a project that will not only enhance safety for those behind the wheel but also for those who walk this stretch of road, including many visually impaired citizens ….The comment period ensures everyone will have the opportunity to participate in the process.
WHAS11′s Joe Arnold reviewed and tallied all the public comments submitted, and he found 157 of the comments were in favor of the road diet, and 221 against.
This is a real conundrum for community activists such as me, who oft complain city and state leaders ignore public input altogether. (See: Ohio River Bridges Project, or Councilman David Yates’ proposed changes to landmark ordinance.)
So, let’s hear what the anti-road diet forces say:
“This idea to create a sidewalk for the few who might use it at the inconvenience of the East End residents who use this road regularly seems unnecessary and unwise.”-City of Indian Hills
“Government at all levels is anti-automobile possibly to force more people into public transportation or bicycles..” – City of Windy Hills
At right are copies of two of the comments received in a recent 30-day comment period for the proposed Brownsboro Road diet, which closed April 29.
While both cities, Indian Hills and Windy Hills, have websites, the latter is unique in that their website includes a United States Census report assuring the general public that the neighborhood is, as expected, 96.9-percent white, 100-percent owner-occupied, with 32.3 percent of those owners having the privilege of no mortgage to fret about.
Only 0.5 percent of Windy Hills residents are car-free.
Comment from Tom Eifler, Sr., Mayor of City of Indian Hills:
“Frankly, government’s pursuit of this plan strikes me as a ploy to garner favor (votes) from residents of this area without regard to the greater public good,” Thomas O. Eifler, Sr., the Mayor of Indian Hills included in his comment.
It appears Eifler’s use of the adjective “greater” may not modifying “good,” but “public.”
Understood is that the greater public resides East of Zorn Avenue, in 40207, the lesser public, the blue-collar, working class with their bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs, and responsibility for their own children’s safety, well, they reside North of Zorn, in the yucky 40206.
How dare these dirty common hippies expect to have influence over anything?
I’m reminded of an editorial cartoon that appeared in the Courier-Journal a couple decades ago ridiculing Indian Hills for their opposition to public sewers.
While I haven’t seen it in years, I remember there was a big house, with a big tycoon relaxing on his big columned porch. A big Buick in the big driveway, and the unmistakable smell of a big puddle of sewage in the big back yard.
For those who care about creating a safer community, our best hope is that the mayor stand his ground against “the greater public,” who in this case, are short-sighted to prioritize their own convenience over the safety and livability of the lesser public in a neighboring community.
Mayor Fischer’s spokesman Chris Poynter told me, “The mayor is reviewing all the recent comments from the 30-day comment period and will make a decision within the next week or so.”