Issue September 25, 2007

Erosia

LEO welcomes letters that are brief (250 words max) and thoughtful. Ad hominem attacks will be ignored, and we need your name and a daytime phone number. Send snail mail to EROSIA, 640 S. Fourth St., Louisville, Ky. 40202. Fax to 895-9779 or e-mail to leo@leoweekly.com. We may edit for length, grammar and clarity.

Corrections
• In last week’s digest of that which we find appealing about our city, we cited a disparity in taxes paid for services — in this case, trash pickup — between the Old City and Old County, saying the residents of the two pay the same taxes for different levels of services. That is inaccurate. Residents of the Old City, or the Urban Services District, actually pay about two-and-a-half times what those in the Old County pay. LEO regrets the error, and thanks the litany of loyal readers who wrote in to inform us of the mistake.

• A staffpick in LEO’s Sept. 19 issue incorrectly listed the sponsor of the Clifton Center Concert Series. The sponsor is First Capital Bank. LEO regrets the error.

Simply Intolerable
Although the Americans With Disabilities Act became law 17 years ago, it is still often ignored, as is the case in a Sept. 19 Courier-Journal article, “Patron Asked to Move is Suing the Bristol.”
As a former classmate of Corey Nett, I was appalled to read about his recent experience at one of Louisville’s locally owned restaurants. The manager’s request that Corey move to the back of the restaurant — so that others would not have to eat in his presence — or get out is simply intolerable and unconscionable.
I’m a Highlands resident who used to be a Bristol regular. I do not plan to attend The Bristol’s 30th anniversary soiree on Sept. 30, nor do I plan to ever patronize this establishment again. I hope others take notice of this injustice and do the same.
Brian Phillips, Louisville

Hidden Agendas
Iraq Summer was brought to Louisville by Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq. Against the Escalation in Iraq? Hmm … I don’t know what the heck that means. Sounds like a phrase carefully honed to obfuscate. Considering the total catastrophic meltdown the U.S. government (including Congress) has visited upon the good people of Iraq, the phrase sounds more like the arrogant rhetoric that Lucinda Marshall referred to in her column (LEO, Aug. 15); the kind of vocabulary that not only allows us not to think about the humanitarian devastation but that actually sanitizes war/occupation. As if everything up to this point in the war-cum-occupation is regrettably acceptable because, God forbid, we just can’t leave … we must leave “responsibly” … another word carefully honed by the AAEI folks. Is there anything about the U.S. Middle East fiasco that has been or could ever be responsibly wrought with the exception of … GETTING OUT NOW?!
Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq is using its multimillion dollar budget to target pro-war, congressional Republicans but not one pro-war congressional Democrat! I suspect AAEI would be just as happy supporting any ol’ blue-dog, pro-war Democrat (think: rhymes with Dumbo) who might run against McConnell. OK, things are clearing up now. The operative words that Iraq Summer dared not speak are: “This campaign is about electing Democrats!” My gut feeling is that AAEI is more about being pro-Democrat and anti-Republican than about being antiwar.
Marcia Schneider, Louisville

Cost is Relative
Attn: Sherry Deatrick:
Thank you for the review of “Fire on the Mountain” (LEO, Sept. 5). I want to follow up with some specific information to address your concern about ticket prices.
We offer a broad range of ticket prices from free to $58. The free tickets are often contributions to other nonprofits and efforts to bring in people who cannot afford to pay. The $8 tickets are available to students who attend performances with their schools, the $17 tickets are consistently available to full-time students, and the $20 tickets are for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Regular ticket prices range from $21-$58 and still only cover less than half our costs, but that’s another conversation.
I personally believe live theater inspires, challenges, educates and entertains — often all at the same time — so we are pleased if our audiences can learn about others or themselves and simultaneously be entertained.
I am happy to discuss further, but most immediately wanted to begin to address your discomfort mentioned at the conclusion of your review.
Jennifer Bielstein, managing director, Actors Theatre

Black Smoke in Mirrors
I read the pitiful letter signed by Democratic State Representatives Jody Richards, Larry Clark, Rocky Adkins, Charlie Hoffman and Rob Wilkey (LEO, Sept. 5). They reported that the Special Session that was called by Gov. Ernie Fletcher was a success because the passage of House Bill 1. They went on to say that the refocused efforts of the special session made the bill a better bill. A little truth would be helpful, honestly, if these men are to send a letter out to LEO.
House Bill 1 was hammered out in private, closed-door sessions BEFORE the special sessions and agreed to between certain members of the House and Senate leadership. Democratic Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, who works for a coal company, led the closed-door sessions. This is not democracy in action. This is special interest in action. Two legislators tried to add amendments to House Bill 1, and they were not allowed to attach any amendments to the bill to come up for a vote. I called my State Senator, Tim Shaughnessey, the weekend before the special session, and he told me that he knew only what he was reading in The Courier-Journal. If this was such a strong, wonderful bill as the above mentioned men claim, it seems the bill could have stood on its own two feet in broad daylight.
I attended a House session in Frankfort, and it was obvious that the Special Session was just for show. Minds were made up. Coal is a strong special interest in this state. I only wish we had more legislators who had the guts to ask tough, responsible questions and not be afraid of open and free discussions. If elected officials worried about fixing bridges the same way they worried about giving $300 million to Peabody Coal Company and reducing Peabody Coal Company’s Coal Severance Tax Bill, they could accomplish many things in this state. Maybe we should rename all bridges Peabody Coal Bridges. They would get repaired quickly, I am sure.
What is the return on this massive $300 million investment to Peabody Coal? Three hundred seventy-five jobs? Wow! What a bargain. I am glad we have fiscally responsible people in Frankfort.
Gregg Wagner, Louisville

Innate Differences
Thank you very much for furthering the discussion about transportation issues as it relates to bicyclists and motorists. In the letters, more than one person noted that cars and bicycles are fundamentally different (they were noting this to suggest that bicycles may not belong on the roads).
I agree that they are different, and those differences ought to be considered. For instance:
• In the United States alone, motorists are involved in wrecks that result in more than 40,000 deaths annually with millions injured, at a cost of surely billions (if not trillions) of dollars to the economy and to taxpayers.
• Bicyclists, on the other hand, are responsible for very few deaths annually, and in nearly every instance of bicyclist-caused deaths, the victims in question are the bicyclists themselves (there are around 700 bicycle deaths in the U.S. annually — most NOT caused by the cyclist, according to the Department of Transportation).
• Additionally, motorists contribute significantly to ground, air and water pollution. In the U.S., roughly 70,000 people a year die as a result of air pollution.
• There are, I’m sure, zero deaths annually caused by pollution from bicyclists (although the fumes of a sweaty cyclist can be offensive, they’re rarely toxic).
So yes, there are differences between the car I drive and the bicycle I ride — or my feet, when I walk. The automobile, for all of its advantages, has some deadly serious and costly drawbacks. And the extreme consequences of motorists not exercising extreme caution calls for serious reconsideration of our laws and behaviors.
It also suggests how appropriate it would be for us to change our policies and behaviors to encourage less driving and, instead, more transportation that is innately safer and more wholesome, for individuals and the world as a whole.
Dan Trabue, Louisville

Spinning the Facts

Thank you for continuing to cover the evolving and varied attitudes toward bicycling in greater Louisville (“Don’t Tread on Me,” LEO, Sept. 12). In hopes of reducing animosity and improving coverage of this important topic, I offer a few suggestions.
Do not reward acts of vandalism by giving trophies to the vandal. The skid marks left on the shared-lane markings on the Clark Memorial Bridge do not symbolize anything beyond one immature individual’s willingness to seek attention by acting out his or her aggression and defacing public property. Printing photographs of the skid marks on LEO’s cover and three other places in the story lends credibility and meaning to a foolish, antisocial act.
Please transcend the poor example of some other local media outlets and drop the silly “bike vs. car” rhetoric. The bicyclists on the region’s roads want to get from point A to point B safely and without hassles, not to ban cars. Similarly, virtually all motorists want a quick and convenient way to their destinations, not a ban on bicycles. The same rudeness and recklessness that makes some cyclists annoying and dangerous is likewise evident every day in motorists. Bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians are all human beings, cut of the same cloth. Characterizing us as drivers and bicyclists creates a false dichotomy: Many bicyclists drive, and many motorists ride bicycles. Instead of “bikes vs. cars,” let’s talk about considerate, law-abiding road users vs. inconsiderate scofflaws. The same principles and laws apply to all of us: Give respect to get respect; have patience and reap the reward of calmer, safer streets; learn and follow the traffic laws that apply to you as a pedestrian, bicyclist or motorist. When we work together to make the streets safer and more civil, we make progress to our mutual benefit. When we divide into opposing camps, we stay stuck.
Take time to check the facts. Many of the opinions voiced by your readers reflect ignorance of the law, the crash statistics, or the examples of other cities. I appreciate your giving readers the opportunity to express their concerns, and urge you to follow the open forum with a piece written with the facts in hand. My organization, Bicycling for Louisville, would be happy to provide LEO with the relevant state and local laws, traffic and crash statistics and other objective info needed to develop an accurate sense of what happens on our streets and how to improve safety and convenience for all road users.
Barry Zalph, executive director
of Bicycling for Louisville,
www.bicyclingforlouisville.org

Editor’s Note: Prior to this feature, LEO had published several articles on cycling issues where the current law, statistics and examples from other cities are accurately and correctly cited.

Peddling Common Sense
I thank you for compiling, in the Sept. 12 edition of LEO, the article regarding automobile and bicycle safety. I am heartened that our community is so passionate about this issue and that strident efforts are being undertaken by most folks to let common sense rule the day on this topic. I would, however, like to have some input from you or from any of the readers of this fine publication regarding two items so far unmentioned on this topic. The first is in regards to the issue of ownership of the road. While it may be true that bicyclists are legal co-owners of the road, they bear no financial burden for its construction or for its maintenance and upkeep. In order to drive my motor vehicle in the city of Louisville, I am required to pay taxes on the assessed value of the vehicle, pay to have it licensed, pay to have it registered and pay to have it insured. Though insurers do not, to my knowledge, remit any of these monies back to the local government expressly to pay for roads, at least some of the monies paid for the assessed value tax, licensing and registration are used for road building and upkeep programs. Also, the gasoline that my automobile requires has a not-so-insubstantial tax placed upon it for the explicit purpose of paying for roads. Do with that information as ye may.
The second item is in regards to the issue of safety on the Second Street Bridge. If that bridge is so unsafe as to put a person in peril by merely riding a bicycle across it, why doesn’t anyone walk their bicycle across it using the sidewalk? I don’t know if that is legal, but I do know it smacks of common sense. I also know that in the hundreds of times that I have crossed that bridge in the 18 years I have lived here, it is an action that I have never witnessed being undertaken. Thanks for the lovely newspaper and keep up the good work.
J. Martin Hughes, Louisville


Choice to Bike

I am a very recent transplant to Louisville and a very avid biker. I’ve come to Louisville from Boston, where I was a pedicabber (rickshaw driver) and rode a fixed-gear, so I got to experience everything Boston had to offer on a bike. I always felt safe biking in Boston, which is a notoriously bad town for bikers despite the large number of them (especially college students). When I came to Louisville, I was extremely pleased that the roads are much wider, there are actual designated bike lanes and the sides of the road are free from potholes (and the cleanest looking bike messengers, although their lack of fixed-gear bikes seems odd to me). I was very amiss to see the disharmony between bikers and drivers in spite of this. As someone who has driven a lot, with all the concessions for bikers, I don’t think motorists should have much of a problem avoiding bikes. Just have some patience, please, and realize that many of us choose to bike rather than drive, that we derive great pleasure from the thrills of biking and also enjoy the environmental and economical benefits of doing so.
Jay Lee, Louisville

Dogs, Bikes and Smokes
In all the hoo-ha over bike vs. car, it doesn’t seem anyone considered the obvious: Tally all the bike-related injuries and deaths per year, and if it meets or exceeds the same count for smoking or dog-related injuries and deaths, then ban bicycles. Obviously there would be less bike-related casualties, and it’d end this debate. But there’d also be more money for the city from fines since bicyclists will (based on past history) flagrantly ignore the law. TARC ridership will go up since more people would start using mass transit — there’s a good thing. Finally, there’d be no more of those pesky cigar-smokin’ rottweilers chasing me on their low-rider bicycles. Just make sure the ordinance forces bike shops to convert half of their premises to non-bike sales. Then, after they make the change, force them to drop all bicycle inventory or close ’em down.
P.S. Don’t forget to make the ordinance ponderously long and incomprehensible.
N.J. Brundige, Louisville

Not That Bad

In response to LEO’s latest car vs. bike article, I have to admit I am amazed at the idiocy of the letters. To put it simply, the current situation really isn’t as bad as everyone might have you think. Sure, it would be all rainbows and unicorns if everyone just shared the road, smiled and slapped fives as we passed one another, but a utopia this is not. Most days I get to work, the store or wherever by bike, but I’ve done my share of driving as well, so I understand both sides of the argument. The problem isn’t the roads, sidewalks, bikes or cars; it’s people. People tend to be a bit selfish and, at times, in a hurry. Unfortunately, shit (read: an accident) happens! It’s a horrible side effect of the society and community, or lack thereof, that we have built up around ourselves.
As it is, the best solution I can imagine is for everyone to just use some common sense. I really feel like the last thing I need at this point is another law protecting me from myself, or even cars when I’m riding on the road, for that matter. I’ll just put on my helmet and hope for the best, having confidence in my fellow humans that they don’t truly have the intention to run me over and leave me for dead.
Keep up the good work, LEO, and I’ll probably keep reading. I just can’t make any promises.
Jimmy Flaherty, Louisville