Last week, guide lines went down on Broad Ripple Ave between the village and Keystone Avenue. I knew that the thermostriped permanent ones would not be far behind.
Well, the new lines are down and my initial expectations for what the corridor would look like have been exceeded. The new design has caused a small stir in the twittersphere as I noticed some people wondering what the city was thinking of when they designed this. I even received a call from Fox 59 seeking comment on camera. I accepted, but the story was changed and I never got the opportunity to talk about it. Regardless, this tells me that there is some backing to what could potentially become some of the most controversial lanes in Indy.
What was once a 4 lane auto-only corridor (with 2 travel lanes in each direction) has been tranformed into a 1 auto lane each direction design with a center turn lane, and bike lanes on each curb. Coupled with the rebuilt & new sidewalks along the same stretch that were completed last year, I would give this project nearly as high a grade as I gave for the 46th Street project which was comprised of nearly the same elements, albeit in a much lighter auto-trafficed corridor. It should be noted that there has not been any sort of outcry by the local media about the changes made on 46th street. There are some jogs in the bike lanes on Broad Ripple Ave near traffic lights at Evanston and Primrose, and I will admit that this could present some issues while normal drivers of this stretch get used to the new design. The project itself is not yet complete with some cross-walk striping yet to be laid down as well as the cycle icons in the lanes themselves and some light timing adjustments to be made according to Jamison Hutchins from the Office of Sustainability.
Whatever the case, the significance of this corridor’s transformation cannot be underscored. Broad Ripple Ave is a fairly busy auto corridor; especially when the weather is nice and people are out cruising in their cars. The fact that the city had the bold audacity to remove an auto travel lane speaks volumes about the City’s will, as well as the Mayor’s office, to prioritize bicycling facility improvements. Paul Ogden, a frequent reader and local political blogger, recently added some criticism to the blogosphere with his critique of the design.
While there is some validity to Paul’s message, I still think that overall, this project will raise awareness of cyclists on our streets. Additionally, one less auto lane for cars to drive in could effectively slow down average automobile travel speeds on this stretch which are, in my informal opinion, excessive. If you have ever tried crossing 4 lanes of this stretch on foot, the cars come at you pretty quickly. I’ve heard some rumor here and there over the past few days that people are complaining about the added congestion. I have seen the congestion and it is real but we are not talking about 4 light cycle backups; more like an extra minute or two to travel destinations in the village or to get out.
Is the added congestion worth the new-found safety for cyclist and slower automobile traffic speeds? In my humble opinion, the answer is a resounding yes. This is my official kudos to the City.