A Bike Path to Progress

7 Mar
Indianapolis Cultural Trail.  From landscapevoice.com.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail. From landscapevoice.com.

That is the way a recent NY Times article describes Indianapolis’ new downtown Cultural Trail, an attractive bike-pedestrian path that connects “six urban neighborhoods, along with restaurants, bars, public art, parks, and museums.”  Click here for a Streetfilms video about the trail.

Count the Benefits

I’ve sung the praises of Indianpolis’ new Cultural Trail previously here, but the Times article really captures the benefits that have already accrued.  The trail is “putting Indianapolis on the map as a place to see bold innovation,” and “more convention planners are now choosing Indianapolis because of it.”  The trail also includes landscaping that helps manage storm water.

If that were not enough:

The trail has also helped spark a sluggish local economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new commercial and residential developments surrounding the pathway have coincided with the trail’s progress…

According to the article, the trail has also helped revive the neighborhoods it connects.  25 new businesses have opened in recent years within five blocks of the trail.  How’s that for an economic development project?

And best of all, it has created a broad-based bicycling culture:

Before the path arrived, Indianapolis didn’t have a mainstream bike scene — just streets designed to improve traffic flow. Now, children and the elderly have joined the spandex swarms of longtime cycling enthusiasts. The pathway has connected people with the places they want to go and encouraged physical activity in a state with the eighth-highest obesity rate in the country.

You know you’re doing something right if children and elderly people are using an urban trail!

The total cost of the trail?  $65 million — paid for with a combination of federal grants and private donations.  So in actual dollars this trail costs less than half what the new baseball stadium and infrastructure improvements in Shockoe Bottom will cost (including interest on the bonds) when all is said and done, and cost the city of Indianapolis itself next to nothing.

No doubt the attention of our city leaders is too focused on the debate over Shockoe development at the moment to take on something of this magnitude.  But how about a bold start as we look toward the UCI championships coming in less than 2 years?

A Modest Proposal

How about something like a Cultural Trail on Broad Street between MCV and Boulevard — right through the heart of the Arts and Cultural District, past many of the galleries frequented on First Fridays as well as VCU’s planned Center for Contemporary Art at Belvidere and Broad?

The People for Bikes blog recently highlighted a simple way to tell whether a street is a good candidate for a separated bike lane: count how many bicyclists you see riding on the sidewalk. My casual observations through the window of Lift Coffee suggest that Broad fits the bill perfectly.  It’s a major corridor for bicycles, but most do not consider it safe enough to ride on the street.

That would be a bold plan that would benefit most if not all citizens of the city, and would have longer staying power than a ballpark.*

*On a side note, let’s hope that if the Shockoe development is built, the city gets creative about transportation.  The traffic and parking nightmares that many envision would be mitigated a lot if a good portion of attendees had a convenient way of getting to the ballpark other than driving a car.


One Response to “A Bike Path to Progress”

  1. Mark Lewis March 7, 2014 at 12:33 PM #

    Sounds like a better option than the Revitalize plan!

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