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Joe Smoker

I grew up on the far west side of Indianapolis in a 1960′s-era subdivision in a three-bedroom, ranch home with my parents and two brothers. I attended, what was at the time, Fulton Junior High School (see Chapel Hill 7th and 8th Grade Center) and Ben Davis High School.

Set on becoming an architect, I went to Ball State University and graduated with a degree in Urban Planning and Development. As it turns out, I didn’t care much for certain architecture professors. Fortunately, my interests in large scale urban interaction played well into my degree.

Shortly after graduating, I accepted a job in the western suburbs as a Town Planner. Prior to this, I knew I wanted my life to be centered in an urban environment and ideally Indianapolis. So, instead of looking for a relatively new and poorly built apartment out west, a friend and I found shelter in a character-filled downtown apartment building.

My university days had elevated my interest in both urban environments and alternative transportation, specifically the bicycle. In fact, I ended my interview out west by declaring my desire to travel by bike and ensuring this would not be an issue to my employer. My first year, I would ride on generally nice days. If it rained or was too cold, I took my car, but every time I could feel the drain emotionally, physically and economically. I gradually adapted my bike, and my clothing, to allow for more consistent commuting by bike to the point where the car simply sat still for weeks, patiently awaiting its chance. My commute was 35 miles round trip. I traveled through some of the more bike-hostile environments in the city. It was at this time that I realized the car was unnecessary. I was able to sell the car to my roommate in August of 2012, the year I was officially set free. Through a combination of riding the bus, biking and walking, I was able to meet my daily needs and then some simply in the community surrounding me.

My residence changed a number of times, also varying my commute distance and route. I started at 9th and Penn, floated up into two different homes in Fall Creek Place and now reside back downtown. Also, after just over three years working out west, I was finally offered the chance to work with the Department of Metropolitan Development for the City of Indianapolis. Without hesitation, I accepted. A 15-minute walk now represents my commute to work. I have everything I need within a short walk or bike trip and I am at the heart of the city’s bus service. It is the best decision I have ever made.

In general, my life consists of work, training for various running events and enjoying what Indianapolis has to offer. I am fortunate to have been accepted to the Board of Directors for Freewheelin’ Community Bikes at 34th and Central. It is really a joy to be a part of such a growing, diverse community. We all take varying routes and use different terminology, but ultimately, we are after the same thing. How can we make our community the best it can be? How do we create the best Indianapolis? I can’t wait to see what our city looks like in the next decade and more, but the journey is as exciting as the end product.

- “A Citizen of No Mean City”