Mayor Greg Ballard has accomplished plenty during his seven years in office, but his most enduring legacy may be in building a bicycle-friendly Indianapolis.
Ballard, an avid cyclist, has made bikes a priority at every step. His Rebuild Indy infrastructure program added dozens of miles of bike lanes as city streets were repaved and repaired. Far from an afterthought, bike lanes were included even when logistics were tricky.
Ballard also championed the Indy Bike Hub at City Market, a unique-to-Indy amenity that includes bicycle parking, locker rooms, showers, a fitness facility and a full-service bike shop.
But the capstone of Ballard’s bicycle legacy arrives this spring: a bike-sharing system with 25 stations spreading out from downtown along the eight miles of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.
The Indiana Pacers Bikeshare will make the Cultural Trail come alive for more residents and visitors and make the path a more practical amenity for those who work or live near downtown. It broadens the lunchtime options for downtown office employees and convention visitors to include spots in Fountain Square and Mass Ave. And it likely will spark investments in proximity to its bike-docking stations.
Workers are installing the bike checkout stations now, and 250 three-speed bicycles should be ready for rides in coming weeks. Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc. is paying for the project with a $1 million federal transportation grant and a gift (undisclosed sum) from the family foundation of Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon.
Users will be able to check out bikes for 30-minute increments, with affordable options for annual membership ($80) and 24-hour passes ($8).
Ballard and his team worked on the bike-share project about three years, starting with a request for proposals in 2011. There were plenty of supporters and champions in the public and private sectors, but there’s no doubt Ballard’s passion for cycling helped propel the project to completion.
We also expect he’ll push for expansion of the bike-share network, which is downtown-centric for now. Extensions could connect to Broad Ripple, Irvington and the Miracle Mile on Madison Avenue to the south.
The Pacers Bikeshare is smartly named for a financial backer of the project. Perhaps one day the Indy Bike Hub will be named for the mayor who strived to make Indianapolis as friendly to bicycles as it is to cars.•
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