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Northern Kentucky advocates push for better bike infrastructure after death of popular cyclist

Cyclists ride across the 11th Street Bridge to a Sept. 13 Covington City Commission meeting to advocate for better bike infrastructure.
Nick Swartsell
Cyclists ride across the 11th Street Bridge to a Sept. 13 Covington City Commission meeting to advocate for better bike infrastructure.

About two dozen cyclists gathered in Newport and made a solemn ride across the 11th Street Bridge to Covington's City Commission meeting Tuesday night.

Their goal? Convincing the city to install more bike infrastructure, including protected lanes with traffic barriers on bridges like the one on 11th street. Traffic data shows cars hit speeds as high as 67 mph there.

Elected leaders say they're on board, but they're not the sole deciders.

Gloria San Miguel died on that bridge last month after a car hit her while she was riding her bike with her partner.

Queen City Bikes President Joe Humpert helped organize the ride. Another ride memorializing San Miguel Sept. 9 drew more than 100 cyclists to trace her last route.

Humpert says cyclists want better options on busy streets across the region.

"We're asking the governments of Covington and Newport and really Cincinnati and all the river cities to rethink infrastructure and roadways because streets are for people," he said.

When cyclists arrived at the commission meeting, many gave emotional testimony remembering San Miguel.

Jake Lee, a friend of San Miguel, read a statement from her partner Zach Vickers.

"I've personally been hit twice," the statement reads. "One led to a hospital visit with a lacerated groin. Gloria was not so lucky on the night of Aug. 19 when she bled out in my arms on that bridge. It was something I'll never forget and something no one in this community should ever have to go through."

Cyclists' testimony was about more than the deep sadness over their lost neighbor, though.

Irene Encarnación of Esperanza Latino Center spoke about the needs of members of Covington's Latino community, many of whom commute via bicycle.

"For Latinos, bike riding isn't just a leisure," she said. "It's actually a transportation method to go back and forth to work."

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, along with Covington city commissioners, say they support the idea of more bike lanes, but the state of Kentucky will also need to be involved, since many of the major thoroughfares in town are state roads.

"Covington does not call the shots on any of those streets," Meyer said. "This is the reality that we deal with. We favor protected, designated bike lanes. We're looking for feasible alternatives."

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet put forth a plan to put "sharrows," or paint markings telling cars to share the road with bikes, on the bridge. KYTC has instructed Newport and Covington to submit other proposals.

Meyer and commissioners say they're meeting with Devou Good Foundation, which helps fund biking and pedestrian safety measures, on Wednesday. Devou has offered to fund protected bike lanes on the 11th Street Bridge.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.