Perhaps you remember last year, around this time, Kentucky flashed its regressive side with a bike ban at the Kentucky State Fair. Per Fair Board policy, cyclists had to chain their bikes at periphery gates and trek across a sea of asphalt and gas-guzzlers to enter the fair.
Not surprisingly, this incited anger and even a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the fair.
Despite two meetings between the group Bicycling for Louisville and the State Fair Board, not much has changed this year. The reason given? Pedestrian safety. (Surely this has nothing to do with a broke Fair Board looking to rake in automobile parking fees at this popular event.)
How could these cyclists pose hazards?
Renegade gangs cruising through the midway snatching cotton candy from the hands of babes? Jousting with livestock? Family games of Frogger with Chevy pickups in the parking lot?
Seriously, all cyclists want is to welcome (rather than deter) bike use with a few short-term parking spots near building entrances. A modest request.
Bicycling for Louisville sent a letter to their board members outlining their requests and the lack of progress made over the last year. From the letter:
Bicycling for Louisville made the following requests to the Fair Board in two meetings, Fair Board representatives responded as follows:
1. We requested that they provide bike parking that complies with Louisville Metro’s own bicycle parking ordinance (LDC 9.2), which requires parking at locations as close as a car can drive to the entrances to buildings, and when they declined we asked them to disclose what in their liability prevents them from allowing bikes to operate as vehicles within the Fairground gates. They declined to respond to this request as well.
2. We offered to provide valet bike parking next to the Tram Stop by East Hall, accessible by gate 6. (They declined)
3. We requested that the Bradley St. entrance be reopened, as a bike & walk entrance to the fair, so that people can access the fair safely without riding on major arterial roads. They responded that they are unwilling to pursue this.
4. We asked to meet again with them in September so we can revisit the event and get the ball rolling early for increased capacity and infrastructure for bikes in 2013. They responded with a tentative yes, if we would discuss potential sponsorships.
Kentucky State Fair Board spokeswoman Amanda Storment tells LEO that the Fair Board has made “small steps” toward accommodating cyclists. For instance, the city will loan a few bike racks. And there will now be a bike corral at a gate off Central Avenue. Still, no bikes will be allowed past gates and onto the fairgrounds. Storment tells LEO the Fair Board and cyclists will continue to work on a better plan for next year.
It’s worth noting that many state fairs encourage bike use as a mode of transportation. In the letter to its members, Bicycling for Louisville states its disappointment with the Fair Board’s lack of progress on the matter.
We believe that this was not enough of a good faith effort to work on the problem of safe bicycle access to the State Fair. After all, in Indiana they discount $1 off the admission price to encourage people to ride to their state fair, and they provide valet bike parking. Several other state fairs welcome people on bikes including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and Texas.