Making Newport safer and friendlier for bicyclists

With its relatively flat topography, dense urban layout, and popular destinations near residential areas, Newport has the potential to become a bike-centric community.

Over the last few months, the community experimented with ways to make bicycling safer and more enjoyable, employing a technique called “tactical urbanism” to create pilot projects around safe urban bicycling.

Tactical urbanism has been used around the world to quickly and inexpensively prototype new street configurations to serve the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. The process can guide and inform permanent investment later.

“By piloting an infrastructure idea, we get an opportunity to inexpensively see how it works in the real world before investing precious taxpayer dollars to make it permanent,” says Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails.

The Newport project is called ConnectNKY and included a series of community slow rides and meet-ups with residents guided by Tri-State Trails and urban consulting firm YARD and Company.

Earlier this year, three Newport organizations were awarded a competitive grant to create the project that aims to improve bike and pedestrian connections.

ReNewport, Southbank Partners, and the City of Newport were awarded a technical assistance grant to explore options for safe on-street bicycle routes in Newport to connect to everyday locations like grocery stores, schools and the library.

In October, a weeklong demonstration project was held. “We were able to show off a number of different bicycle facilities on the road,” Johnston says. “People could interact with them and see what they were comfortable with.”

“The purpose was to show residents and decision makers that bike lanes can help Newport thrive as an urban community.”

The project tested three bike facilities: a two-way protected bike lane; a one-way protected bike lane; and shared lane marking, or sharrows, pavement markings to indicate that bicyclists may ride with traffic.

The project was focused around Saratoga Street, as that thoroughfare connects with a popular bike route, the Purple People Bridge.

“The Purple People Bridge is the most highly used trail in our entire region,” Johnston says. “An average of 1,900 people a day cross the bridge.”

Tri-State Trails also conducted a survey and will publish a report soon on the project and its findings.

“People wanted to make the bike lanes permanent,” he says. “They felt safe and comfortable.”

Tri-State Trails will work with Newport city administration in the coming months to advocate for creating lasting bike facilities in the city.

“We hope that this will result in permanent infrastructure that we can then use to build out a large network in Northern Kentucky,” Johnston says.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.