Greenwood rejects cross-country bicycle route

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A proposed cross-country bicycle route won't cut through downtown Greenwood and could be rerouted out of Johnson County altogether.

The Greenwood Board of Public Works and Safety unanimously rejected a request to designate Madison Avenue as part of a planned interstate bicycle route.

Bicyclists someday could take the proposed Route 35 from the Canada-Michigan border to the Gulf Coast.

But they won't ride through Old Town Greenwood because the city has concerns about safety and potentially getting sued if someone gets injured, Greenwood Community Development Services Director Mark Richards said.

The proposed route is part of a network that would allow long-distance cyclists to pedal from state to state or on shorter in-state trips, such as to Noblesville or Columbus. The idea of cross-country bike routes has been around since the late 1960s but only recently started to take off with routes in Alaska, Virginia and New England.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation and cycling advocacy groups have been charting a network of long-distance bicycle routes from coast to coast.

Indianapolis-based advocacy group Hoosier Rails to Trails Council has been planning the route through Indiana since last fall and going from community to community to get approval for it pass through.

About two dozen communities have agreed to recognize the route, but the project still is far from completion, council member Richard Vonnegut said.

Route 35 from LaPorte to Jeffersonville will have to be rerouted because of Greenwood's decision, Vonnegut said. The path might be rerouted along U.S. 31 instead of Madison Avenue but might be moved out of Johnson County altogether, he said.

"U.S. 31 would be a strong option, but we'll have to look and see where we go from here," he said. "One reason we went with that route is that every other route has potential problems with it one way or another."

Greenwood is recommending that the route be rerouted from Madison Avenue in Indianapolis along County Line Road and down U.S. 31 through Greenwood.

Richards said he had no comment on whether those roads are safer but said Greenwood recommended the alternative streets because the city is not responsible for them.

People already can legally bike down Madison Avenue if they want to, and the city has long-term plans to extend bicycle paths along Madison Avenue, Richards said. But those paths don't exist yet.

Greenwood has concerns about the legal liability that would come with recognizing the route and cyclists' safety where Madison Avenue shrinks from five lanes to three lanes, Richards said.

The city is concerned about accidents but not that bicyclists could hold up traffic on Madison Avenue, he said.

"The type of cyclists we're talking about could easily reach 30 miles per hour," he said. "Acceleration takes longer, but they could go as fast as the speed limits that are already posted in that area."

The original plan was for the route to follow Madison Avenue through Greenwood to U.S. 31, continue south along the highway and then veer off on Main Street in Franklin for a scenic detour through the downtown. The route would swing by Franklin College before merging back onto U.S. 31 near Amity and follow the highway all the way to Columbus.

Franklin has not yet received a request to allow the bike route, board of public works and safety member Steve Barnett said.

He said that the city should review whether it would be safe but that he's supportive of proposals that might bring more people to Franklin's downtown.

"We want more people to come downtown," he said. "We'd want to carefully look at it, but it could create more traffic to stop by shops and businesses. We're trying to encourage people to go to our downtown area."

The proposed bike route follows highways for long stretches because they tend to be the most direct routes, but it also takes scenic detours through communities.

The route would cater mostly to committed long-distance cyclists capable of biking more than 100 miles a day.

Cyclists taking the route would ride on the road's shoulder or along bike lanes if available, Vonnegut said. Donated money could be used to install road signs that would let cyclists know they're on the route, but most riders would bring maps or smartphones.

Local communities would not have to spend any money if the routes passed through them, Vonnegut said. But they do have to officially recognize the route because the goal is to make it as official as possible.

Hoosier Rails to Trails originally charted a route down Madison Avenue in Greenwood because Madison Avenue in Indianapolis has bike lanes that can take cyclists all the way downtown, Vonnegut said.

Continuing along Madison Avenue in Greenwood is the most direct route, Vonnegut said. Cyclists wouldn't have to make potentially dangerous left-hand turns the way they would if going south from County Line Road to U.S. 31.

The more turns, the greater the chance of accidents or getting lost, Vonnegut said.

"A nice straight line offers a degree of safety," he said. The less turns, the better when you're pedaling long distances. The cyclists might have paper or electronic maps, but it's problematic if they can't go 15 to 20 miles at a time without making a turn. It's harder to stay on the route."

Hoosier Rails to Trails will reroute the path and continue to ask communities for approval, Vonnegut said. The group hopes to get federal approval by as early as this summer.


  • How Ironic
    I grew up in Greenwood, Indiana and graduated from GCHS in 1985. I've been bicycle touring around the world continuously for the past ten years and have ridden on the existing cross country trails many times. The news that Greenwood is rejecting the opportunity to be on a cross country cycling trail strikes me as sad and short-sighted. I grew up cycling every single road in the area. Greenwood would be a nice place to pass through on a cycling trip, but due to the close-minded, insular politics of the city, the tourist dollars that cycle tourists would bring to town will be lost. Thanks a lot Greenwood. Now I know why I left.
  • Greenwood
    Greenwood doesn't even have a continuous sidewalk system to get most people to Simon's mall and a few extremely short trails for cycling, walking, jogging, etc. The Parks Department's Community Center is absolutely wonderful, but other than that, Greenwood is not bicycle friendly. I would love to see this system progress through my home town! Last year I hosted a couple of "bicycle tourists" in my own home, traveling from New York to California. Greenwood would be an excellent route, in my opinion.
  • Cyclists
    The types of cyclists this route would attract are typically in their mid 30s or older, and not concerned about getting somewhere in the quickest time possible, unless it's to a local cafe to catch the last piece of pie.

    Touring cyclists are riding bikes that weigh 50 - 75 lbs. They're not the lycra clad racer guys or the young kids that typically are the ones taking exceptions with the rules of the road. They are looking for food, a campsite or motel, and a quiet scenic ride. Make them feel welcome and they will be happy to stop for a spell and spend some money.
  • Off your duff
    As a bike tourist i can second the 12 mph. We also burn between 4 and 6 thousand calories a day and need to eat often. So the restaurants would like their business. they also need a bed and shower. So maybe a campground or a no tell motel would like to rent them a room. You are not worried about the cyclists or legal issues you are afraid you just may be required to get off your duff and do something
  • Typical
    Greenwood needs to rethink this poor decision.
  • I agree with you David...
    ...but the problem is that many cyclists aren't sharing the road, taking accountability for their own safety wearing proper safety or visibility equipment, avoiding high-traffic roads at high-traffic times, and as I said before, ignoring traffic signals, rules and signs. I think Greenwood's argument is kind of ignorant, but like I say, it would be better for all involved if cyclists had their own dedicated routes away from the roads. I work in Carmel, and the bike snobs will ride on the street even when there is a bike path 5 feet away.
  • Cyclists and motorists are equals
    So they reject the route due to liability and safety concerns? But cars on roads have no such concerns?! Short-sighted is an understatement. I guess we should stop building roads, someone might get hurt driving.

    Cyclists and motorists must be treated equally. For Rusty and others who consider cyclists as owning the road, there is equal responsibility for both motorists and cyclists. And remember, the worst thing that happens if a cyclist hogs the road is that you get delayed a few seconds- is that a big deal? If a motorist hogs the road and cuts too close to a cyclist, we might die.
    • Dumb Down Greenwood
      Read recently future growth in the Metro area will be north and then west. Now we know the rest of the story.
    • About Greenwood
      Greenwood DOES have trails, such as the Polk Hill and Tracy Trails, and their system is slowly growing. Although I'm defending Greenwood on this respect (remember that there are no off-path trails on the South side of Indy south of 465 outside a small subdivsion trail around SR 37)much of the other critques about this city are generally true. This is a city that wanted to get rid of half their downtown buildings to widen Main Street for the extra traffic that makes driving on that street hell for one hour of the day. And US 31 through Greenwood as a bike route? That would make the decision to put bike lanes along Broad Ripple seem like a sane decision. Madison would be a better choice between the two and the only people who would ride their bikes along US 31 have death wishes.
    • I'm all for this...
      ...if only it will get the arrogant bike snobs who won't share the road or obey traffic laws onto their own paths. West Clay is crowded with these road-hogging jerks who refuse to use hand signals, observe stop signs/stoplights, and think that the county roads are their own private road courses.
    • Nothing has changed
      Greenwood government thinks like a depressed small town. The infrastructure hasn't changed in decades. There has never been progressive or creative thinking. They never planned for commercial buildings and signage to be constructed neatly. They have events and never invite people from outside the area. Civil engineering stinks. Greenwood hasn't changed their major roads, US 31 and the other roads, in 40 years. As a result, it's like traveling through a small town of 2,000 on a hot Saturday night, except it's backed up traffic all the time. Bicycle trails in Greenwood are virtually non-existent. They'll never connect to anything outside Greenwood; because the community continues to isolate themselves. It's time to wake up. There's a big world outside Greenwood, Indiana, but they'll never recognize it. Greenwood will never connect to Indy nor the state....let alone the nation...as long as city government continues living in the past.
    • Disappointed
      I'm so disappointed that the route will not utilize Madison. It has less traffic than 31, already has some bike lanes, is more scenic, and will bring business. Greenwood could use the extra traffic. The University of Indianapolis would be on the route as well --- another great detour. I wish Greenwood would reconsider. Aren't most people responsible for their own safety on a bike route, anyway? Especially for these long-haul bikers --- they would know road safety. What a missed opportunity :-(
    • Short-sighted
      It is rather short-sighted for the city to disdain the economic impact of the travelers and visitors long-distance bicycle routes would bring.

      And "The type of cyclists we're talking about could easily reach 30 miles per hour" is plainly wrong. We're talking touring bicycles loaded with 40 pounds of gear, not racing bikes. Their typical speed is probably closer to 12 MPH...
      • thoughts on Greenwood rejection
        Indiana MUST continue to fight for bicycling to beome a way of life around our cities for our health, fitness, to fight obesity, and lower emissions. Even long distance cyclers who want to ride through should be encouraged. Greenwood residents should fight for this! What is your fast food restaurant percentage and obesity rate? Show your children and grandchildren something new - such as long distance cyclers! Then discuss it with them! - from a moderate cyclist from Marion County fighting for more pathways for cyclists!
      • Small Minded Idiots
        The trail would be a good thing for a town like Greenwood. What are they thinking?

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      1. So as I read this the one question that continues to come to me to ask is. Didn't Indiana only have a couple of exchanges for people to opt into which were very high because we really didn't want to expect the plan. So was this study done during that time and if so then I can understand these numbers. I also understand that we have now opened up for more options for hoosiers to choose from. Please correct if I'm wrong and if I'm not why was this not part of the story so that true overview could be taken away and not just parts of it to continue this negative tone against the ACA. I look forward to the clarity.

      2. It's really very simple. All forms of transportation are subsidized. All of them. Your tax money already goes toward every single form of transportation in the state. It is not a bad thing to put tax money toward mass transit. The state spends over 1,000,000,000 (yes billion) on roadway expansions and maintenance every single year. If you want to cry foul over anything cry foul over the overbuilding of highways which only serve people who can afford their own automobile.

      3. So instead of subsidizing a project with a market-driven scope, you suggest we subsidize a project that is way out of line with anything that can be economically sustainable just so we can have a better-looking skyline?

      4. Downtowner, if Cummins isn't getting expedited permitting and tax breaks to "do what they do", then I'd be happy with letting the market decide. But that isn't the case, is it?

      5. Patty, this commuter line provides a way for workers (willing to work lower wages) to get from Marion county to Hamilton county. These people are running your restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and retail stores. I don't see a lot of residents of Carmel working these jobs.