Thursday, May 10, 2012

Girl, in Transit: Look out for walkers!

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2012 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Ashleybusstop1small.jpg

This is part of a series of stories by Kimmel, who's given up her car and is relying primarily on public transit.

Indianapolis is a very walkable city, and we've received national attention for it since Super Bowl XLVI. It's a small city core and new paths are a feather in our cap. But, ask anyone who is dependent on walking to access all Indianapolis has to offer or those who walk for recreation, and they will tell you some things that aren't in the tourism brochure.

I've had some interesting run-ins this week with drivers as I've been walking around town. Almost getting hit, witnessing the disturbing behavior of some drivers when they feel invisible in their car and getting splashed by a passing truck ... again.

I notice more and more frequently that pedestrians (and cyclists) often aren't a concern to many drivers. They drive in the bike lane and roll so far into the intersections that they block the crosswalk. In many cities I've lived in, every single car has to stop if someone is crossing the street at a pedestrian crossing. Here, if you're not crossing when it's clear, you mutter a prayer under your breath that cars will see you and do the right thing. Even when crossing at an intersection, a lot of times there isn't even a "walk" signal to guide you.

Sidewalks are another story. We need some drastic improvements to our sidewalks. I say this as a walker who often trips on things, but we need to think about people in wheel chairs or with other disabilities. Another accessibility problem is the amount of obstacles in the middle of the sidewalk. How are we helping people to get around if it's impossible to make the full block trip down the road?

If we are going to be a city that's inclusive of all forms of transportation, we have to think about the people who need to use the sidewalks regularly. We need to watch out for pedestrians when we are driving, plan for better accessibility and cultivate a transit-oriented environment.

Indianapolis is not far from a "Complete Streets" ordinance, which will ensure that all forms of transit are kept in mind during future planning. This will allow safe access for all people: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transit riders of all backgrounds, ages and capabilities.

If this is of concern to you, you can sign a petition at IndyGo.net. As far as I'm concerned, this is a huge step in the right direction - one that will vastly enhance the connectivity, safety and economy of Indianapolis and its residents.

I know that none of this diminishes the responsibility of pedestrians and cyclists to follow the rules of the road by obeying traffic signals and staying alert. I've seen my share of walkers go against the signal and bikes blaze through red lights. Maybe I'll start my own PSA campaign...

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