Louisville cyclist Jackie Green declares victory over challenge to bike lanes, stoplights
City official says cyclists still need to follow traffic rules
Green had sought to make his case a broader appeal for a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly approach to transportation in Louisville, and on Tuesday, he declared a total victory – even as he acknowledged one charge was dropped only after he agreed to take a traffic safety class.
“The case established two big wins for the cycling community,” Green said. “The first win acknowledged that cyclists do not have to use bicycle lanes. The second win established that cyclists may take measures at intersections to increase their safety, regardless the color of the traffic signal.”
Josh Abner, the spokesman for the county attorney’s office, acknowledged that prosecutors were not able to meet requirements for a successful charge of obstructing a road. That left the traffic light charge, which he said was eligible for dismissal following participation in a driver safety program.
Green participated in the program, and upon its completion, that traffic light charge was dropped. Abner also pointed to a ruling in the case a year ago by Judge Eric Haner that found cyclists were not exempt from the charges.
Regardless, Green expressed vindication. “Two charges were made, the cyclist refused to plead guilty to either, the prosecutor dropped both charges. What conclusion should we make?”
In Haner’s ruling, the judged noted that Green said at the time of his citation that the Thirds Street bike lane had debris in it that would flatten his tires. He ruled that dispute should be resolved by a jury.
Green – a bike store owner who is running for mayor as an independent – has objected to breathing car exhaust at stop lights, and also raised concerns about being hit from behind by a motor vehicle. He has said cyclists can be safer by cautiously riding through red lights.
Still, a top city public works official said certain cycling rules are still in place and that bicyclists still must follow all traffic rules.
Bicyclists must use bike lanes whenever feasible but not if they are blocked, littered or unsafe, said Dirk Gowin, transportation division manager of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Works, and a cyclist. He acknowledged there is a judgment call on determining safety.
Some bicyclists are concerned about being hit by opening car doors while riding in bike lanes, though he said that’s not been a big problem locally.
Cyclists are not supposed to roll through red lights, he added.
Police cited Green on Third Street in Old Louisville in November 2015. He faced a potential penalty of between $20 and $100 on the traffic light charge, and $250 and up to 90 days in jail on the obstruction charge, authorities said at the time.
“I am not a scofflaw,” he declared at the time.
Green has been car-free since 1999 and is a long-time advocate for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly transportation policies in Louisville. He is running for mayor in large part, he has said, to bring attention to the problem of global climate change.
Reach reporter James Bruggers at 502-582-4645 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jbruggers.