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.
The Cultural Trail is moving full speed ahead in the Fountain Sqaure area. I had a rare opportunity to witness some daytime infrastructure work in the city yesterday and snapped some pictures. If the pace of progress in this area is any indication of how quickly it will be finished, shop owners should not have anywhere near the level of headache that businesses on the East End of Mass Ave had when the trail was being constructed there over the past two years. I will dispense with the words, and leave you with some photos. One final thought, it was sad to see the old streetcar tracks being exposed by this demolition work. It is a shame that there isn’t a project actively moving forward that would restore these to Indianapolis’ streets.
This past Friday, I had the pleasure of joining my wife, Casey Jo Ailes, on a tour of Indianapolis’ Fountain Square neighborhood. My wife, who writes for the Broad Ripple Gazette, was aiming to cover a couple of events. Namely the KIB RE-Dome art show and also the IMOCA “Frank Warren’s PostSecret” show.
The evening began at KIB’s headquarters off of Fletcher Ave in the Fountain Square neighborhood. We spent some time walking through and chatting up some familiar faces. The show was somewhat mediocre in that the number of “strong” pieces were outnumbered by the mediocre. But it was inspiring to see a lot of people out supporting an event who’s theme was sustainability. So I can support that.
Next, we made our way to the Murphy Building where we encountered a number of things going on; and a number of people! It was beginning to move towards dusk but the air was still warm which made for some sweaty elbow rubbing. We stepped inside and cooled off a bit and found that quite a number of other people had made the same decision. We went through one studio displaying a lot of artists and I have to be honest, I am not sure what the theme of the show was, or the name of the gallery. I DID however manage to enjoy a Sun King, who were there serving on tap, Sunshine Cream Ale which was delicious! We left that gallery and navigated the back hallway of the Murphy Building and went upstairs were they were even more people. We stopped by the People for Urban Progress space where they are now selling custom branded t-shirts. (pssst… the women’s option is organic!)
Lastly, we made our way back downstairs and out where it was now fully dark outside, still hot, yet did not prevent anyone from mingling. We had to elbow our way through just to make it back to our car and take our 18 week old home, who is now getting a good helping of First Friday thanks to mom and dad. This just goes to show the vibrant city life that some of the neighborhoods of Indianapolis are currently enjoying, despite tough economic times.