LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Metro Council's president and several Republicans called the creation of new bike lanes near downtown into question on Tuesday.
Council President Jim King, a Democrat, said new bicycle lanes on Breckinridge and Kentucky streets, which take up nearly half the road when parked cars are on both sides, weren't appropriate as Louisville struggles to pay for road paving.
While bike advocates said $300,000 in proposed new spending on bike lanes over the next year is a positive step for rider safety, Republican Councilman Jerry Miller suggested bicyclists buy licenses to help pay for road repair.
"If that's the plan, if (bike lanes) are going to take up half the road, I think they should pay more than zero," Miller said at a budget hearing Tuesday.
Drivers pay gas taxes to fund road paving, while bicyclists ride for free, Miller said.
Bike riders slammed Miller's idea, saying riders also drive vehicles and pay taxes like everyone else.
"I understand that people feel like they're taxed enough and the roads are in bad shape, but I look around and I see people in bad shape," said Chad Lockyear, a bike rider who supports bike lanes. "They need to be on their bikes instead of in their cars."
Lockyear said bike lanes, such as the ones on Breckinridge and Kentucky streets, are necessary to keep bicyclists safe from aggressive drivers.
"If you have a lane, you know where you're supposed to be, cars know where they're supposed to be," he said. "I've had things thrown at me. People cut you off. They literally don't want you on the road."
Mayor Greg Fischer has recommended the $300,000 in bike lane spending for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Fischer proposed spending $6 million on road repairs in the coming year.
Metro Public Works administrators said that amount would pay for paving 75 miles of two-lane road. It costs about $80,000 per mile to pave such a road, the officials said, adding that the number of roads in poor condition is higher than the budget could support fixing.
"We're only paving a fraction of the roads we should be paving," Miller said.
Miller called it "a shock" to see the changes on Breckinridge and Kentucky, where crews positioned the bike lane out into the streets to prevent the doors of parked cars from swinging into oncoming bikers. Both streets are down to one lane for several hours a day when it becomes legal to park in the other traffic lane.
Drivers who attempt to pass by moving into the bike lane can be ticketed, Metro Public Works officials said.
The council will continue its budget hearings later this week. Leaders plan to hold a budget vote June 19.
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