I’m sure we’ve all seen it or experienced it a time or 10 here in Indy. Walking down the sidewalk (when there is one available) and someone either comes at you on a bike, or brushes past you from behind on a bike. Some go fast, some go slow but the fact that they are cycling ON THE SIDEWALK is the point I wish to examine with this post.
I have thought about this one for a long time but a recent brush really called me to action. I was crossing West Street to get to classes at IUPUI. I saw someone riding up the sidewalk of West Street and when I got across, we were in close proximity to one another. He turned and went another way, then apparently changed his mind and turned around and almost mowed me down. I did not stop walking so I don’t know if he though I was going to stop for him or what, but I put my hands up and grabbed his handlebars and angrily pointed at the now freshly re-painted bike lane on Michigan Street and said, “You’ve got lane for this thing, watch where you’re going.”
Was I in the right? According to the City of Indianapolis, the cyclist technically did nothing wrong. I’ve been unable to find any code city or state, that prevents someone from cycling on a sidewalk. In fact, all that I could find about sidewalks period was in the state code and it states that MOTORIZED bikes are allowed on sidewalks provided they do not interfere with pedestrians.
Whatever the case, as Indy grows it’s cycling culture, more people are getting out and pedaling to their destination. I have no issues with that whatsoever. What I DO take issue with, is that pedestrians again, must be the ones who have to take it in the hind end when someone on wheels, whether it be bikes or a car, decides that they aren’t happy with the current conditions. Case in point, the Michigan bike lanes. Are they dangerous? You can ask 50 people and the odds of that person saying the Michigan Street lane is unsafe are good. We have debated the merits here over and over again. So, when a cyclist gets onto the sidewalk on Michigan, I get it. But in the same breath, I don’t get it. There are other slower streets such as Ohio, Vermont as well as others that one can get across town. These streets are two way, slower, and generally I consider them to be more safe for cyclists to ride with traffic. Is it so much to ask them to move to those streets if they feel Michigan is unsafe?
I may be breaking ranks with my fellow cycling advocates and maybe even with fellow members of this site. With a budding cycling culture, there are likely to be head-butting conflicts such as those that I have described. Having a healthy conversation about how cyclists should be using the streets and sidewalks, is good for all of us.
2011 has been a busy year in Indianapolis with road repairs, sidewalk fixes and creation and the addition of more cycling infrastructure. Generally, I feel like I should leave coverage of cycling in the city to the folks over at IndyCog. My recent observations however, have spurred me to action.
This year we have seen a lot more construction of the Cultural Trail. I have reported fiercely on this project and given a lot of heated criticism in the area of the Conrad. However, at the core, this project has expanded vastly this year and should be mostly completed by the time the Super Bowl occurs providing weather and utility companies cooperate.
Shelby Street between Fountain Square and Garfield Park has been subjected to what I believe to be the most ground breaking project for cycling in Indy. On most spec sheets this project is simply termed “bike lanes” but what transpired was a healthy stretch of 100% separated two way bike track. Beyond Garfield Park, the rest of the project is normal on-street bike lanes. This project too, has not been without heated criticism from me. Our efforts combined with a citizen who lives in the area managed to get a utility pole moved out of the sidewalk. The project stands tall on it’s core design though.
In general, many miles of on street bike lane have been created. Downtown, street crossings are being subjected to green-colored paint to indicate where cyclists switch lanes. On Michigan St and New York through the downtown area, former angled in parking spaces have been converted to reverse-angle. This gives drivers much more visibility of cyclists coming their way and reduces the chance that a collision will occur. On 46th street between Keystone and College Ave, a former 4 lane road was reduced to three lanes and bike lanes striped. This is a HUGE step forward. Not only were bike lanes added which have statistically been proven to improve safety through reduced automobile speeds, but an entire automobile travel lane was removed.
Michigan Road is the subject of a new side trail being constructed. Other side trail projects are set to break ground soon on 62nd street between Keystone & Allisonville Road as well as 71st street from Binford Blvd to Hague Road.
In the City Market downtown, a cycling hub will be opening this month that features bike parking, showers, lockers and a repair shop.
This year, the MPO has also released a long term fiscally constrained bike plan for the entire Central Indiana Region which recommends many new bike facilities as well as policy changes that could have a long lasting impact on Indianapolis and how it approaches cycling for commuting & recreational purposes.
Taken on their own, these projects seem like small pockets of success for cyclists. However, if you consider that all these projects have taken place THIS YEAR ALONE, that is huge and for that, I can give Indianapolis a lot of credit. What I didnt cover in-depth for this post, but are included in my bikeway plan analysis, is how to leverage this year’s success into the future through better design.
I feel that we still aren’t seeing enough fundamental design changes to improve safety and encourage more people to move around by bicycle. Improvements like double lines for on-street lanes, more buffered tracks like Shelby Street and more changes like 46th street where 4 lane auto streets were improved to 3 lanes and added bike lanes; those are REAL improvements. The bike plan doesn’t paint a lot of that picture, and those are things that would really improve Indy’s budding bicycle culture.
Urban Indy is a huge champion for cycling improvements within the Indianapolis area. Cycling is a low cost, low emission and healthy way to get around for short trips to the store, to see friends, get to work, school, etc. It is with these thoughts, that I am happy to pen this review of the recently unveiled Central Indiana Regional Bikeways Plan (click to open 79 page .pdf).
The Indy MPO has been gathering input over the past year from people via the Indyconnect site as well as some other public meetings. Existing bicycle plans were taken into account and a fiscally constrained long range plan for bicycling has been rolled out. Much like the region’s LRTP with covers roads, transit, etc the bike plan is constrained by the amount of funds available. Indeed, the bike plan itself was built upon the recently adopted regional long range plan. In that plan, 7% of all funds collected will be put towards bicycle & pedestrian plans with a grand total in 2010 dollars of $13.5 million available each year; $7.5 million per year would be used to fund bicycle infrastructure.
So what will this fund exactly? A look at the map and a perusal of the plan text itself shows a large amount of bike lanes for Marion County (Indianapolis), a large amount of side paths for the suburbs, and a large amount of trail projects dispersed around the entire MPO planning area. The planning horizon extends to 2035 and that period is sub-divided into 4 periods in which projects are to be built. Extensions of many existing trails are included in the plan with the extension of the Monon north, the completion of the Pennsey as well as extension of the B&O.
An in depth analysis shows that the trail projects seem to be the ones that account for the largest share of capital expenses. That is a shame since they are the safest and considered the most attractive to potential riders; the report even covers submitted comments. Respondants said one of the biggest hurdles to cycling in the region was the proliferation of roads and interaction with motorists on those roads. That hits at the heart of something we debate often here at Urban Indy in that making streets calmer for cyclists and pedestrians is a key concern to improving street-life. This report brings hard data to support that notion. Something else that strikes me is the disparity between bike lanes in the city and side paths in the suburbs. Indeed, side paths that already exist in the suburbs are cataloged with a large portion of them in Hamilton County. The plan breaks down the cost of side paths vs bike lanes, so it is easy to see why bike lanes are prescribed in most places instead of side paths. Going forward, the amount of bike lanes far surpasses side paths over the planning horizon. It should also be noted that there is no mention of facilities such as the Shelby Street bike track.
Something that makes me wonder is the lack of “special” projects that we have been overly excited about here at the blog. Projects like Georgia Street, the Cultural Trail and such seem to be absent from the plan. Indeed, these projects themselves were special expenditures not likely to be captured in a fiscally responsible and “practical” long range plan that spread money out to create more facilities. Also absent is a pedestrian plan where the other $6 million per year is to be spent. This will likely go towards general upkeep of sidewalks and such if I had to guess. Each project was assigned a score depending on how it served population & employment centers, how it integrates with present transit corridors as well as a multitude of other factors such as proximity to parks, libraries, health institutions, etc.
The plan also lays out policy implications and some dubious ones at that. They are big and could impact the quality of cycling in Indiana. They include first and foremost, the adoption of a cycling master plan. After that, they trickle down into supportive recommendations that include adopting a Complete Streets policy, establishing a bicycling advisory committee, hiring a dedicated staff for cycling programs (something that is now handled at least in Indy, by the DPW), requiring bike parking by new development, REDUCTIONS TO AUTOMOBILE PARKING, and ensuring bike-transit integration.
What the plan does NOT do, is lay out how bike lanes themselves may be constructed from a design perspective. I have personally advocated for larger buffers between automobile travel lanes and bike lanes. There is no mention of this in the report. There is mention of painted crossings which is nice however, there is nothing about painted bike boxes, something else I have spent keystrokes covering.
In that regard, it is good that this is a draft plan and it is now open to the public for comment until September 23rd, 2011. Go check out the report and submit comments so that you can voice any concerns that you may have about the plan.
Last week I blogged about a tremendous project taking place on the south side of Indianapolis. That project of course is the Shelby Street bike track.
However, I received an email with three pictures from an Urban Indy reader that showed how someone is already screwing up this project. You can see that a familiar theme is rearing it’s ugly head once again in the shape of old utility poles being disregarded as new concrete is put down; in this case one that would be easy to relocate.
I forwarded the email I received to my normal contact at the DPW and I was told that it was being discussed with engineers. Lets hope that this once is remedied quickly.
Earlier this year, Chicago elected a new mayor; Rahm Emanuel. Upon entering office, he wasted no time going to work on his campaign promises of improving mobility for citizens. Among his first visual changes, were the introduction of a new cycle track along a half mile stretch of downtown street; Kinzie Ave from Milwaukee Avenue to Wells Street.
Upon being in office for only a few short weeks, Emanuel has demonstrated his firm commitment to transportation alternatives.
When you look at what “IT” actually was, bike lanes were striped to create a reasonable barrier between motorists and cyclists, soft bollards were installed, driveway and street crossings were painted a recognizable shade of green and in a short couple weeks worth of work, a fantastic new public space for cyclists-only was created.
What’s more, the symbolic nature of this new, and for Chicago radical bike infrastructure, underscored the take-no-crap approach that our big city mayors should be taking when it comes to tackling innovative transportation issues.
What does this have to do with Indianapolis? Locally, there is a project similar in nature that is taking shape on Shelby Ave on the city’s southside. This bike track, the first of its kind in Indy, will connect the Fountain Square terminus of the Cultural Trail with Garfield Park via the Pleasant Run Trail and by doing so, create a more connected bike trail system. Taken together, this will represent many miles of dedicated, separate, biking facility for cyclists with which to travel. The track on Shelby is now under construction however, it produced significant push-back from the residents of the Fountain Square neighborhood during early public meetings; most notably in the form of residents complaining about the loss of automobile parking.
I inquired to Molly Deuberry at DPW and she sent me pages of data on the project. In looking at the plans for the lanes (click to open .pdf), innovative practices are evident. 2 way (or Contra-flow) bicycle right of way, 12 foot wide right of way (for both lanes) in some places (normally 10 feet), as well as what appears to be a glut of unique wayfinding signage to indicate the Cultural Trail as well as the Pleasant Run Trail, are just some of the new features Indianapolis cyclists will be subjected to once this project is completed by November; the lanes themselves may be open sooner.
The Rebuild Indyproject has repaved a lot of downtown’s streets over the past year. Notably absent in restriping efforts have been bike lanes on Michigan and New York. Furthermore, a huge opportunity to place painted bike boxes that give cyclists priority and also make the street safer for them could be implemented at key intersections such as New York & West Street or Michigan & West Street. The Shelby Ave bike track shows that the city is willing to design & build innovative bicycling infrastructure, so it makes me wonder, will the city take the Rebuild Indy opportunity to do that in other places like Michigan & New York? Only time will tell.
In conclusion, I think while Indianapolis is taking great strides to improve cycling facilities for residents, there are places that could be greatly improved for very little amounts of money and political capital. The Cultural Trail is arguably one of the most innovative cycling projects in the country and Mayor Ballard’s commitment to adding bike lanes is admirable. However, where are the bike boxes? Why aren’t we seeing more bollard separated lanes? There are places where some of these improvements could be cheap to do and would create a much safer area for local cyclists, and by extension, drive more wide spread usage. As I started the post with, Chicago’s new mayor has already taken great strides in a short amount of time. Will Indy be playing catch up to Chicago in terms of innovative cycling infrastructure?
Editor’s note: HUGE thanks to Steven Vance for usage of Chicago’s bike-track images. Steven writes his own blog Steven Can Plan as well as Grid Chicago. Both of these are worth the time spent, so check them out. A complete analysis of the Kinzie Ave project including partial financials as well as more photos can be seen on Grid.
When one mentions that they went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC, visions of complete streets and urban design do not spring to mind. For years, I remember friends who’s parents took them to Myrtle Beach on summer vacation. I had never attended until recently, when my wife proposed that we take a summer trip there. I am a major lover of the beach, and sunburns, so it did not take any amount of arm twisting.
We spent 5 nights just south of the major N/S split along Ocean Blvd, so we were front and center for what I observed to be the changing of a familiar built form; that being one that gives over priority to the automobile. Indeed, for decades towns like Myrtle Beach have promoted their long and skinny cruise strips. Every year people make the trip to places like this and other coastal Atlantic cities to cruise up and down the strip looking for a relationship on the quick or to show off their ride. And while that draw has not changed, something that has is the amount of space that they are given to do it.
As you can see from the photographs in this post, a major effort is underway to implement bike lanes (check) add pedestrian islands to facilitate easier crossing (check) and widen sidewalks for the large number of foot-traffic (not complete, but getting there). Additionally, one who is well versed in the subtle styling ques of modern urban design can see attention to detail in the form of lower mast lighting. Narrow lanes for cars. Wider sidewalks with paver styling ques.
They have even started lengthening their boardwalk south of it’s location by adding a concrete pathway that is also accompanied by shade structures periodically located. Under these, vendors sell ice cream, lemonade, shaved ice and other similar refreshments. An effort to rebuild the dunes adjacent to the beach was also ongoing as signs in some places advised pedestrians to stay off of them.
The transition is not complete however. One can still see in many places wide automobile travel lanes, narrow sidewalks and the old-style high-mast street lighting. Perhaps the city has exhausted it’s budget and is waiting on coffers to replenish so that the transition can continue. Even along the concrete boardwalk extension, I could see where it appears that they left the design open for the next phase of the path.
Additionally, and something that impressed me, is that you can tell that the civic leaders in power know how to manage tourists. We made many walks to the Boardwalk’s central gathering park where a new, large ferris wheel is located. Every time we visited, there was some sort of programmed event taking place. Whether it was a concert, street performers or what not, there was always some sort of buzz being generated by officially planned events of some sort. It was ironic to me that the same week that I was there, the Monument Circle Design Competition was releasing their top 12 submissions. Urban Indy’s own Greg Meckstroth is one of those finalists and his submission proposes more programmed events on the circle. In a single moment it made so much more sense to me.
We also made a trek to the old Air Force base which has been turned over to a redevelopment commission. What has transpired there hints at a new urbanist colony in the making not unlike others that have cropped up around the country. I was able to visit Celebration, FL a couple years ago and this redevelopment felt similar. Dubbed the Market Commons, a vast commercial and residential complex is opening up on the old grounds. There feels like a town center area with fountains and restaurants located there. Additionally, many residential units are housed in the same buildings with living areas being located over the restaurants and retail shops. However, the biggest downfall that I observed was the vast amount of parking.
There were many surface lots as well as two large multi-story garages. It appeared that they at least tried to quell this by adding greenery to the garages. One can almost chalk up the amount of parking to the small nature of the Myrtle Beach area; wikipedia lists the metro area as containing 324k residents. Even considering their size, they had a somewhat impressive amount of transit lines that criss-cross the area. However, the routes that are there, are still pathetic in their overheads. Even during the week, they are listed at 1 hour between arrivals. Additionally, the service’s website lacks a good system map. I witnessed a lot of transit buses while there, however we did not use any on account of being able to walk to nearly all the destinations that we intended on visiting; except the Market Commons area. Maybe it is this tourist nature that has drawn overheads to such a lofty level. Whatever the case, if we HAD chosen to ride, we would have been stuck in the same slow traffic that cruise traffic was creating. It was much nicer to walk and experience the environment anyway.
In conclusion, I would say that the town is headed in the right direction at least in it’s tourist areas. Outside of the immediate ocean Blvd area, there were lots of multi-lane surface highways in addition to the freeway par highways that funnel people in and out of the region. Additionally, the transit service could use some smart thinking in how to focus usage around actually moving people around the cruise traffic while still providing good access to people staying in the resort areas. Perhaps a hybrid sort of BRT with passing lanes or something. My wife commented once that it would have been nice to have a trolley that ran up and down the strip in it’s own right of way to get around on. Additionally, I wonder just how much the locals use the service. I saw a lot of empty busses…
I’ve spent plenty of keystrokes complaining about poor sidewalk construction whether it be new or rehabilitating in nature. 46th street between College Ave & Keystone Ave is the scene of another Rebuild Indy road resurfacing project. With this, is the reconstruction of some of the sidewalks and also construction of brand new sidewalk where none existed before. I stepped out for a moment before work the other morning to snap a couple of photographs of the current progress. Obviously, the new sidewalks look really great being separated from the roadway by a small grass strip. It’s too bad that more of the old sidewalks could not be reconstructed in this fashion, but at least they are devoid of utility poles like the reconstruction on 52nd street which was completed earlier this year. When this project is completed and restriped, it should have bike lanes to compliment the new pavement and sidewalks.
In 2010, Mayor Greg Ballard used bonding capacity against equity in our water/sewer utilities as well as future rate increases to fund a program that is called, Rebuild Indy. The first injection of funds came in to the tune of $55 million. It was used to jumpstart the program and largely includes resurfacing streets, repairing some sidewalks, and constructing a trail on the NW side of Indianapolis by adding a trail from Cold Springs Road to Kessler Boulevard along Michigan Road. A couple of weeks ago, $32 million more in projects were announced. Some bridge reconstruction work is planned for Meridian Street across Fall Creek as well as the Morris Street bridge over the White River on the city’s south side.
Much more work is said to be planned when and if the “sale” of the sewer/water utilities to Citizens energy is approved through the IURC who is currently deliberating on the matter. The announced sum that the city would have to spend on infrastructure (including what has been spent already) would be $425 million.
I have inquired repeatedly to the Mayor’s office about what the rest of the projects would entail and even received some off the record information regarding some specific projects. However, there doesn’t seem to be a clear intent to release all the planned on projects that Rebuild Indy plans on tackling. I’m sure there is political headache at risk for such a move.
However, and what should concern most of us living within Indianapolis urban neighborhoods, is what are planners REALLY going to do with this money to preserve and improve the quality of life for residents? The Mayor’s recent State of the City address pointed out the need to focus on our inner city neighborhoods. The census recently opened our eyes that suburban flight continues unabated in the Indianapolis area except where we have created pedestrian friendly environments. Urban Indy author Greg Meckstroth recently tackled this issue. Although there have been a few projects of noteworthy pedestrian mention such as the Michigan Road trail, the first round of Rebuild Indy projects have largely focused on simply repaving our existing roads, and restriping them in the same fashion despite repeated attempts by not only myself, but those of IndyCOG to improve our bike lane designations downtown. Furthermore, a project in my own neighborhood this summer had a Rebuild Indy sign posted and when the sidewalks were repaired, it could be debated whether or not they were repaired at all. The project aims to add bike lanes however, once the weather warms which will be a welcome addition.
Personally, it concerns me that the status quo of road design is not being examined in the least and we are borrowing money from tomorrow, to simply repair areas that in 5-10 years from now, will suffer similar breakdowns. With Complete Streets type of projects taking place in our city (Meridian/Westfield & 10th Street SB Legacy) and world class projects such as the Cultural Trail in progress, the bar has been raised. As residents, how can we not demand more for our invested dollar?
Perhaps I will be proven wrong and there is a vast plan of adding NEW sidewalks through neighborhoods that don’t currently have any. Perhaps there is another Georgia Street project lurking in the weeds that hasn’t been announced yet. Perhaps our side streets where cars speed through can be calmed so that the city has a fighting chance of attracting families with children to live in the neighborhoods that they lie within. If so, I will drop my criticism and get on board. As it stands though, I fear we are on board to spend a lot of money on projects that have an opportunity to tremendously improve the quality of life for Indianapolis’ residents, but which fail to do so.
Indiana House Bill 1354 was read on January 18th 2011. The bill as proposed would require INDOT to include “complete streets” guidelines into INDOT’s approved design manual. A summary of the bill, along with it’s travel through the legislature, can be read here.
When I first read about this, I pumped my fist in the air. Finally, someone has gotten to the lawmakers and a plan is in place to start moving forward in a progressive fashion. However, upon further examination, it appears that there may be a gaping loophole in the middle of the bill. There are stipulations that allow INDOT to wave complete streets policies in the event of:
- (1) pedestrian or other nonmotorized usage is prohibited by law on the highway, street, or other roadway that is the subject of the project or part of a project;
- (2) the cost of incorporating complete streets guidelines for the project or part of the project is excessively disproportionate to the benefits, as determined by the department; or
- (3) there is a demonstrated lack of present or future need for complete streets for the project or part of the project.
It is the 2nd bulletpoint which worries me the most. There is no criteria for justifying whether or not a project is excessively disproportionate to the benefits. If we leave it up to INDOT, history has shown that ALL complete streets guidelines are disproportionate to the benefit, or else they would already be included. Now, there are times when it may be hugely prohibitive to include items that may make pedestrian life simpler. If that is the case, a robust justification should be given by INDOT. However, the bill should carry with it some guideline for justifying this instead of leaving it up to the existing highway department. If that is the case, then it is the opinion of this writer, that we will be no closer to complete streets in Indiana, then we are today.
If you feel the same, I urge you to contact your state representative today and voice your concerns. It probably wouldn’t hurt to contact Nancy Dembowski (D) 17th District.
Years ago, a construction project brought some of the first bike lanes to Indianapolis on 52nd street in midtown Indianapolis. The reconstruction stretched from Keystone Ave on its eastern-most point and ended at the Monon Trail on the west end. With this reconstruction came the addition of a bike lane in both the eastbound and westbound shoulder, abutting the sidewalk. The project failed to address points west of the Monon, and what resulted was a divide in the landscape with the west side appearing as a bombed out and depleted looking stretch of street from the Monon to College Ave.
This summer, budgets finally opened up enough to continue what was started east of the Monon on 52nd street. The reconstruction of 52nd street from the Monon to College Ave and the continuation of the bike lanes all the way to College Ave. The realization of this accomplishment may not have came to fruition however. In early July 2010, road demolition crews made their way to 52nd street and started to eat up the pavement. Details on-site indicated the obvious road reconstruction coming, but neglected to address bike lanes; something that has been added to the Indianapolis Bike Plan for the next 2-5 years.
A viral campaign was mounted by Indy Hostel shortly thereafter that started out as a simple inquiry to anyone who would listen including local neighborhood associations. It quickly grew to an online petition and reached the ears of the IndyCog who, through their connections to the Indianapolis DPW’s Andy Lutz, insured that the bike lane extensions to College Avenue will in fact be laid.
What this displayed was a community’s desire for the right thing to happen instead of mindless road paving as has been the history of Indianapolis. The petition was started mostly regarding the absence of bike lanes, but it also addresses the awful looking sidewalks and the utility poles that randomly jut out of the sidewalk. In the long term, it would be nice to see the utilities relocated. To be sure, this an amazingly expensive task and while the outcome is a nice looking street with safer sidewalks, it is not likely to happen in cash-strapped Indy anytime soon.
We will continue to keep you posted as the final layers of pavement are laid, and striping begins later this summer.