Nky Cities Win Approval for Protected Bike Lane Sought After Cyclist’s Tragic Death
By Brian Planalp
Published: Sep. 14, 2022
NEWPORT, Ky. (WXIX) - A two-way protected bike lane is coming to Northern Kentucky thanks to a groundswell of community support following the death of a cyclist last month.
The bike lane will span the 11th Street/Girl Scout Bridge connecting Newport and Covington, according to transportation advocate Matt Butler with the Devou Good Foundation.
The cities secured approval from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for the bike lane Wednesday. The approval was necessary because 11th Street is a state route.
The Devou Good Foundation will fund the project. It’s expected to be complete by the end of October.
Butler says Tri-State Trails will work with Covington to create a “safe transition” from the bike lane to city streets.
Additionally, the cities and KYTC have agreed to work on a DGF-funded project to fully fund a long-term safety plan for pedestrians and cyclists. Tri-State Trails will spearhead the effort.
“This will provide long-term planning for safe routes for our most vulnerable neighbors,” Butler said.
The effort began after Gloria San Miguel was hit by a car and killed while cycling over the bridge on Aug. 20.
”Gloria was really connected into this community and she was loved by so many people, and I think people really want to see something positive come out of her death,” Butler said before a meeting of the Covington Commission Tuesday night. “And so I think this is that moment where we all need to speak up and tell the city what’s important to us.”
Mark Phipps, 60, is charged with manslaughter and tampering with evidence after Newport police say he fled the scene of the crash.
Last month, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet responded to a petition with thousands of signatures calling for the protected bike lane by offering to create a bike lane marked by sharrows. Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston remarked that wasn’t enough.
“Pavement markings would not have stopped this [San Miguel] from being run down by a vehicle in this hit and run incident,” Johnston said. “What our region needs is protected bike infrastructure and trails that are separated by car traffic.”
Johnston says there are trails for bicyclists in the Tri-State, including the Riverfront Commons Trail in West Covington that opened earlier this summer. But Johnston also concedes those trails are flawed.
“The trails are not very well connected,” Johnston explained. “That’s a big barrier for people to use them more in their everyday life. When you reach that dead end or that pinch point or that scary intersection, it’s enough to deter most people from riding their bike.”
Another local man, Dr. Jefferey Robbin died while cycling in a separate incident the same weekend as Miguel. Their passing follows the March death of Dennis Rahtz, a runner who was hit by a TANK bus on 4th Street in Covington.
Three cyclists died in the City of Cincinnati alone last year.
“The roads are really bad. Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are way up nationwide,” Butler said. “The number-one indicator of injuries and deaths is speed, and through our work, we find that people are commonly going double the speed limit.”