NewsLocal News / April 29, 2014

Indy Selected For Safer Bike Lanes Project

Sam Klemet
Indy Selected For Safer Bike Lanes Project

On a warm, sunny Tuesday afternoon, there is plenty of activity in Fountain Square.

Some are stopping by the library, others are grabbing lunch outside, or some, like Josh Paskoff, are just enjoying the weather and some free time on a bike.

"I was just going to ride up downtown, probably," said Paskoff,  "just kind of take my hour lunch to ride around."

Paskoff is renting a bike through the city’s new bike share program for the first time and is excited to give it a try.

"We have trails all over.  I live at 65th and Dean, basically, and I think I can get from my house all the way to our office here in Fountain Square on bike trails the entire way," he said.  "So, that's pretty cool."

Across the street, Brad Perdue is biking down the Cultural Trail with his 20-month old daughter, Bridgette. 

"She loves it," he said of his daughter.  "It's a beautiful day out, so we live right up here.  We live on the Cultural Trail.  It is easy and relatively safe for us to go out for a couple of hours and some fresh air and do whatever."

Having people like Perdue and Paskoff riding around the city is a focus of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

"We're very interested in improving our bike culture in the city," said Ballard.  "We think that attracts talent in the city, attracts businesses in the city.  I think that is very important to us."

Ballard joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Tuesday, to announce Indianapolis as one of six cities chosen to participate in the Green Lane Project.

The two year program helps cities set up protected bike lanes for safer, more efficient riding.  About 500 people die in bike crashes in urban areas every year.

Last week, a 23-year-old man in Indianapolis was killed when he was hit by a bus while riding his bike.

Tim Blumenthal is the President of People for Bikes, which is sponsoring the Green Lane Project. He says when people don’t feel safe, they don’t ride.

"A white stripe on the road, if that's the only separation between people on bikes and high speed cars and trucks, it's not going to be enough for a lot of Americans," said Blumenthal. 

So, the program will work with city leaders and organizers on strategies to set up infrastructure such as curbs, planters, and posts to separate bike traffic from vehicle traffic.

Indianapolis is part of the second group of cities chosen to participate, and Blumenthal says the first group is already seeing positive changes.

"There has been a decrease in accidents.  There has been no increase in car travel times.  There has been an increase in business along the corrdidors where Green Lanes have been built," he said.  

Indianapolis will receive some grant funds, but Blumenthal wouldn’t say how much.  The money will pay for expert advice and field trips to see how other cities are developing bike lanes.

Neither Blumenthal nor Ballard would say how much the city would have to invest to add protected bike lanes, and it is not obligated to do so.

But, Blumenthal does say his organization wouldn’t have chosen Indianapolis if the city didn’t intend to develop protected lanes.

"We had more than 100 cities that expressed interest in the Green Lane Project.  More than 60 cities applied and, frankly, we picked six that were going to deliver," he said.  "There is no contract that says 'They must.'  Indianapolis would not have been picked if they were blowing smoke."

For now, Ballard says Indianapolis mostly wants to use the expertise of People for Bikes in the design process.

He believes implementing that knowledge can lead to Indy experiencing the same return as other cities who have participated in the program,  which could mean even busier bike lanes on sunny afternoons in Fountain Square, exactly what the Mayor hopes.