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Separated Bike Paths: Safer, More Useful, and Possibly Less Controversial

Few subjects draw the ire of neighborhood residents like bike lanes. Our posts on the Broad Ripple bike lanes featured comment threads that got almost out of control. And to this day, I still think in general these lanes are a positive change, as vehicles drive slower through the section now, and the road feels safer to the user (including pedestrians and drivers, as well as cyclists). The lanes are basically a simple coat of white paint. The pavement that was a 40-mile an hour 4 lane road is slightly less of a stroad now.

I haven’t talked much about bike lanes since the Broad Ripple Avenue ones were installed. Partially because most new bike infrastructure has tended to be separated from the road. But the new lanes on Michigan and New York are significantly different. Separated by concrete barriers, with separate traffic signals:

Image Credit: Austin Gibble

Image Credit: Austin Gibble

Image Credit: Austin Gibble

Image Credit: Austin Gibble

Image Credit: Austin Gibble

I’ve recently wondered if part of the controversy behind painted bike lanes is that drivers can easily see where they used to be able to drive. That’s not a problem when the lanes are separated by concrete and grass medians. If the street undergoes some fundamental transformations, it’s less obvious that this used to be a speed track. This street is different from the bike laned portion of Broad Ripple in another significant way: It featured parallel parking along both sides. If there is controversy, it will be with taking away some of that parking. But I don’t see that lack of parallel parking as a deal breaker here. The side streets should have plenty of parallel parking.

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24 Responses to “ “Separated Bike Paths: Safer, More Useful, and Possibly Less Controversial”

  1. Otterbell says:

    Considering how up in arms some folks have been about the Cultural Trail taking lanes of traffic away downtown, I don’t think there is a lot of correlation between type of lane removal and lack of controversy. I think the MI/NY street protected bike lanes are less controversial because:

    1) if you don’t live on the near eastside, you probably didn’t realize there were bike lanes on MI/NY to begin with. Complainers from outside the area are unlikely to think much about MI/NY streets in the same way they are downtown or Broad Ripple streets.

    2) If you live on the near eastside along MI/NY, you probably are not doing that by choice and have no real vested interest in the area OR you chose to live there hoping things like protected bike lanes would help transform the area

    3) No one is losing lanes of traffic with this project

    If you want to stir up controversy, ask Irvington residents what they think of converting MI/NY into two way streets on the near eastside. That’s where the controversy is.

    • Chris B says:

      If you want to stir up controversy, ask Irvington residents what they think of converting MI/NY into two way streets on the near eastside. That’s where the controversy is.

      Because they fit into your second group in #2: people who moved there on purpose. Irvington has never declined as far as the rest of the east side, and that long-time stability has provided a bit of an anchor to neighborhoods like Little Flower and Christian Park at the northeast and southeast edges of the NESCO area. [Disclaimer: at different times in the past 30+ years, I lived or worked in the area, never both, and commuted daily on the one-way pair during those times.]

      One thing for certain: between about State and Emerson, the people who live right on NY and Michigan lose a significant portion their street parking in a change to two-way operation. Neither street consistently has rear alleys, and so this would be a real (not imagined) problem that would make the housing fronting the street less valuable.

      • John M says:

        The addition of these protected lanes should (but perhaps won’t) put to rest the notion of a two-way conversion. I think that the concrete bus islands will be great, and bikes won’t have to play cat and mouse with the bus anymore. But a two way conversion now would mean that it’s impossible for cars to pass the bus, without making a dangerous (and probably illegal) pass in the oncoming lane. I’m all for traffic calming, but not necessarily to 15 mph on an arterial.

      • erika says:

        There are not very many houses that face New York and Michigan between State and Rural. Most of the houses face the side streets. There are more between Rural and Emerson that face NY & MI. Most of the areas that do face NY & MI do have alleys (but I don’t know what condition they are in). If the city is wise, any conversion to 2-way would also include alley upgrades.

        • Chris B says:

          Pretty much everything (residential) between Sherman and Highland on Michigan is oriented toward Michigan. And you’re right, most of those blocks are served by parallel alleys.

          New York is more of a mishmash, but there are definitely a couple scattered blocks of houses that front the street without alleys.

  2. Matt says:

    These are amazing. I hope the city finds some cash to do more!

  3. Bill says:

    Fantastic! Make more of them!

  4. LastBoyScout says:

    Protected bike lanes like these need to be the standard for all bike lanes on arterial streets. The higher the traffic speed, the greater the risk of serious injury or death from a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian. The risk of serious injury or death rises dramatically once cars are moving faster than 25 mph. https://nacto.org/docs/usdg/relationship_between_speed_risk_fatal_injury_pedestrians_and_car_occupants_richards.pdf

  5. shhhh says:

    I live in Irvington and bike commute to/from downtown. I’m pretty psyched about these lanes as long as they don’t make things harder for the folks who live along the way. I like how the protected lanes on Penn downtown didn’t eliminate street parking. There are a lot of near east side residents who bike or take the bus out of economic necessity, though, so this has the potential to be good news for them.

  6. Bradley says:

    I currently live in Irvington, but spent a year living downtown at the corner of Meridian St. & 21st St. I commuted by bike to work at Angie’s List off E. Washington St. & Southeastern Ave. unless the weather was too bad at which I’d take the bus. I applaud the work Indy has put into new bike infrastructure & the upcoming increase in mass transit. I personally always felt uncomfortable riding my bike to work everyday. I would take different routes all the time just to make the ride more interesting. I always felt uncomfortable with the fear of getting into a accident with people driving. Over the course of that year I had lots of close calls with drivers either not paying attention, not caring, or just seemed to think they had the right of way (even when they didn’t) because they were in a vehicle and I was just a annoyance in their way. I was actually in an accident once. Long story short…I was at a stop waiting for a lady leaving work. I watched her look both ways & I was completely in her vision, but for whatever reason she didn’t notice me. The way she turned out onto the road was not in a way I anticipated & she ended up running over my front wheel which mangled my bike, but luckily didn’t harm me. A few more inches & she could have ran over my body instead. These bike lanes shown above should be the standard with all bike paths. It’s safer for bikers, drivers (as I think it makes them pay more attention & drive a little slower), and I think they’re much more aesthetically pleasing. A nice clean path for riders & drivers safely separated with trees, shrubs, flowers, and art. I hope Indy continually puts these in place! I do wish that Indy would put much, much more investment into mass transit. The work being put into the bus system is great, but I do wish we could start truly looking into additional opportunities like a subway, high speed rail, and heck! I’ve even thought that downtowns core would be really cool if we put a small monorail system in place. Even if it started off very small…a circle around the downtown core with connections to Mass Ave., Fountain Square, etc. Something downtown residents & visitors could utilize to get from let’s say their work or hotel downtown & just take a quick trip to Mass Ave. for dinner or shopping without having to use a car & searching for parking. Or maybe IUPUI or Ivy Tech students to make little trips. I know I got off of the bike lane subject here at the end, I apologize. I just think Indy could really benefit from all modes of transportation upgrades. As our downtown core continues to become larger we’ll have to look into more options in the future & hopefully it’s something that’ll come to fruition. ❤️❤️❤️

  7. Paul says:

    We should work hard for a completed protected bike lane from Irvington to the Penn Street Bike Lane. Studies show that cities need to complete an entire system to really start bringing people who are nervous about bike commuting out.

    • Chris B says:

      I would love to see an IRV to DT connection, but would love to see the City create it by using the existing Pleasant Run Trail from Washington & Emerson down to English & Belt Line, then take a lane of English away all the way to Fletcher Place at Shelby. just short of the interstate, then jog north and use the disused rail bridge south of Bates, or even Bates itself…which then gives a straight shot into The Cultural Trail at Virginia & Anthem HQ.

      Takes the Michigan/New York argument out of the picture. Helps put more bike infrastructure and Downtown connection into Twin Aire, one of the next “Great Places” neighborhoods and future home of the county Justice Center.

      • A says:

        While I agree that there need to be substantial improvements to the Pleasant Run Greenway, I don’t agree with using it as a reason to leave a gap in the protected bikeway network through one of our cities densest and most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I would also advocate for sending the protected bike lanes to Irvington down the rest of New York and Michigan. These are heavily traveled corridors and shouldn’t be left behind simply because it might be challenging.

        • Chris B says:

          Given the level of reinvestment and the amenities added over the past 10 years, I’ve reached the opposite conclusion: it is time to add investment south and north from the NESCO area.

          Twin Aire (and the neighborhood east of Fletcher Place over to Rural) and Martindale Brightwood are more disadvantaged today, and building off the Pogue’s Run and Pleasant Run trails is a good beginning.

      • John M says:

        I think it should be both. Now that the double bike lanes exist between Rural/downtown on New York and State/downtown on Michigan, it doesn’t make a ton of sense unless they ultimately connect to the PRT and Pennsy network in Irvington. At the same time, English certainly does not need to be a four lane street and easily could afford to give up a lane for a protected two-way bike lane, particularly in light of its proximity to the new justice center. English is a mile south of Michigan Street and .85 south of New York Street, so this would not be redundant infrastructure. (and if they decide it is too close, they could use Prospect instead. Prospect already has painted bike lanes in both directions, so they could create a protected lane without taking away any current parking or traffic capacity). As noted, and particularly in light of the justice center, the PRT needs some attention. There needs to be a real crossing of Washington and Emerson and some sort of solution at the rail underpass just north of Brookville Road. The crossing of Shelby Street should be upgraded. But the most gaping problem in the PRT is at English. Even if they ultimately chose Prospect over English as a route into downtown, something has to be done for the PRT on that awful stretch.

        As for parking along New York and Michigan, I have commuted both streets for over a decade, and the street parking is pretty lightly used except between Linwood and Emerson. Both streets do have alley access between Wallace and Emerson, but it’s true that some residents will be upset about having to park across the street or around the corner from their houses. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but that’s life in the big city. Residents don’t own the street in front of their houses.

    • Matt says:

      Not that I think this is remotely possible in 2017 Indianapolis, but if we’re really serious about quality of life, the environment, wellbeing, etc. shouldn’t the standard be a bike lane on every street? Why is the conversation always about where to connect the system? (which, I do agree desperately needs connecting)

      • Paul says:

        Well I would say that every street does not need one because most secondary streets are perfectly comfortable for people of all ages to ride on. Shared space & calm streets should be a goal for all of those streets. Arterials are where they are needed because of 1. The need to separate higher traffic volumes from cyclists 2. These roads are often direct routes to different parts of the city 3. These roads often have plentiful destinations themselves.

      • ahow628 says:

        Every arterial, for sure. Every street? Nah. I ride Alabama from Fall Creek to downtown and there really isn’t much of a need for dedicated lanes on a street like that.

        • Matt says:

          Every street might be overkill, but it sounds like both of you are adults who are experienced and comfortable riding bikes. How do you push the cycling rate up when you don’t design for the elderly or young kids?

          • Chris B says:

            You don’t design for the elderly or young kids. You teach.

            Adults teach young kids how to ride on streets. Then the kids become the adults, and the adults become the elderly. Since people have muscle and brain memory, the lessons are not generally lost…hence the phrase “it’s like riding a bike”.

            I haven’t gotten mine out of the garage in 10 years but I am pretty confident in my ability to ride a calm street, the PRT, or a bike lane/track tomorrow if I want to. (I would not tackle an arterial, even one with a painted bike lane.)

  8. Jamison says:

    We are getting ready to update our bicycle master plan. I would be great if UI collected ideas on routes, connections and the such to contribute….

    • A says:

      That would be fantastic, Jamison! I would bring StrongIndy into the group as well. Maybe we can have UrbanIndy and StrongIndy sit down and hammer out some ideas in a group session?

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