Proposal calls for city planners to consider non-drivers

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Planners designing roads would formally be required to look beyond the needs of motorists and pedestrians—to also consider bicyclists and public transportation users—under an ordinance to be considered Monday night by the City-County Council.

The so-called "Complete Streets" ordinance claims that a city’s transportation budget can encourage walking, biking and public transportation "without requiring additional funding.”

The ordinance was initiated by City-County Council President Maggie Lewis, a Democrat, and co-sponsored by Democrat John Barth.

The proposal states that 40 percent of Marion County children are overweight or at risk of becoming so. The population of Marion County residents over age 65, which will grow from 11 percent to 16 percent by 2025, will require better public right of way for walking, bicycling or taking the bus, it adds.

In some cases, adding bicycle lanes to a road could simply require additional paint. Such features would lead to long-term cost savings, said Kim Irwin, who coordinates Indianapolis-based coalition Health by Design and the Indiana Complete Streets Campaign.

For example, she said, some motorists would be inclined to park their cars and use bicycles, which would reduce pollution, road wear and health care costs by improving fitness.

“It absolutely saves money in the long run,” Irwin said.

The proposal refers to a report by not-for-profit CEOs for Cities that found that 13 of 15 housing markets that had improved “walkability” features had higher home prices.

The ordinance would apply to city-owned transportation assets and to privately constructed streets and parking lots. Exceptions could include transportation infrastructure such as interstate highways or pedestrian malls, which serve a narrower, more specific use.

Projects that are deemed unnecessary, unduly cost-prohibitive or inappropriate for safety reasons also could be cited for exception by the Director of Public Works. But the ordinance would require that planners document such instances. One problem in the past is that elements originally designated for a road project, such as sidewalks, ultimately were not constructed, Irwin said.

The ordinance would require the city to measure the success of the Complete Streets policy by regularly tallying things such as miles of bike lanes, crosswalk and intersection improvements, rates of crashes and injuries, rates of children bicycling to school, and the percentage of transit stops accessible by sidewalks and curb ramps.

If the council OKs the ordinance, it would be referred to the Public Works Committee for further review. The council could take a final vote on the ordinance this summer.

Other cities nationally that have embraced the Complete Streets program have used design elements such as roundabouts, special bus lanes and more accessible and comfortable public transportation stops.

The Indianapolis ordinance “definitely doesn’t say, ‘Every road has to have this, this and this,’” Irwin said.

Irwin has been working for several months to gain support for the proposal, working with entities including Mayor Greg Ballard’s Office of Sustainability and with City-County Council members such as Lewis.

She said more than 300 Complete Streets policies are in place nationwide. Among those in Indiana are Columbus, Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization, Madison County Council of Governments and the Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization.


  • BR Ave lanes are comfortable.
    I ride the BR Ave. lanes nearly every weekday during peak times to get to/from work, and feel comfortable in them--much more comfortable than I did riding BR Ave. before they were striped.

    Before they were there, I had numerous run-ins with cars trying to edge around me, pushing me into the curb on one occasion, and almost causing me to wreck. Since they've been striped, the only incident I have to report is a car of high schoolers yelling at me as they passed, at a comfortable distance.

    It's nice having a lane on an arterial road between Keystone & College, where I can ride safely and comfortably without having to stop every other block or so for a Stop sign like on 61st St.
  • Focus on the real issues
    It sounds like your problem is with peak travel and a dependence on the car. BR AVE was actually expanded to 7 lanes of traffic......2 sidewalks, 2 bike lanes and 3 auto lanes including a center turn lane. To me it sounds like this area saw a great deal of transit mobility improvement. If you are concerned about peak travel times, alter your schedule. If you are concerned about a multi-modal street, alter your route........
  • 62nd St.
    I wish they would have widened the sidewalk on 62nd street and used that as a walking/biking lane separated from the street. There is plenty of room. The walking/biking lane would essentially function the same as the Monon Trail and it would separate the bike traffic from vehicular traffic making it safer for all. Then you could still maintain 4 lanes on 62nd street. I understand it would cost more money, but with the congestion on 62nd with only 2 lanes it seems like it would be worth it in the long run.
  • Common Sense?
    How about a little common sense when adding bike lanes to our already-crowded streets? I'm a 60-something who rides and walks wherever I can do so "SAFELY." I applaud those that bike and walk for fitness and to reduce the usage of their cars and their gasoline consumption. However, I don't think doing those things are worth getting run over. I agree with Sarah, 62nd Street (Broad Ripple Ave.) between College & Keystone is a dangerous mess. Which "Einstein" came up with this "solution" to urban biking? The only ones who are going to benefit are the ambulance-chasing attorneys. I'm sure they are already parked and waiting! 62nd Street is in grid-lock traffic during peak periods, since 2-lanes of traffic now have one lane to use in each direction. Eventually, the businesses will suffer when the motorists get tired of dealing with this mess. Lastly, having bike lanes in Broad Ripple with back-to-back-to-back-to-back bars is a great recipe for accidents with drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.
  • Cyclists are always at risk, but..
    Cyclists are always at risk, painted lanes or none. However painted lanes give a cyclist a place to be that other vehicles can respect and avoid. Nothing will ever prevent a 2 ton car from plowing into a cyclist or pedestrian that's not paying attention. Separate bike paths would be really awesome but too expensive to put everywhere. Drivers are trained to obey lane markings (mostly). It's that habit that makes bike lanes workable.
  • Painted lines aren't enough
    Painted lanes on the side of a busy road are not sufficient protection for bike riders or pedestrians. Car drivers don't pay attention to those lines and bikers ride at their own (great) risk, especially when the bike lanes are squeezed out of existing roadway that's not really wide enough for it.

    62nd Street between Keystone & College, for example--retrofitted bike lane is convoluted and dangerous for drivers of all types. Definitely not a good solution to the very real need for SAFE biking & walking paths in our great city.

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