With the creation of the Cultural Trail, Indy Greenways and the SustainIndy Bikeways Plan, which aims to create more than 200 bike-lane miles, Indianapolis is becoming more bicycle-friendly by the day.
With the promotion of cycling gaining speed, INDYCOG, an Indianapolis bicycle advocacy group, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) have joined forces to help five underserved urban neighborhoods develop bicycle infrastructure plans.
Much of the project is made possible by a $10,000 grant given by Bikes Belong, a national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers. The project is one of eight others that received a Spring 2012 Community Grant from Bikes Belong. The grants were awarded based on support of innovative bicycle projects and studies.
The five neighborhoods involved in the project are: Near East, Southeast, West Indy, Near West and Crooked Creek. Each of these areas includes several individual neighborhoods in need of a better bicycle infrastructure.
The infrastructure planning must be completed by the end of the year, but the actual building will take years to finish, according to Kevin Whited, INDYCOG's executive director. Discussions are already started in the Near East and Southeast. Near East is the farthest along with initial talks starting last winter. In fact, Whited said, it was those discussions that inspired to apply for the Bikes Belong grant application.
While INDYCOG educates the residents in the neighborhoods about bicycle safety, efficiency and infrastructure options available, Whited said most of the planning is up to the neighborhoods.
"It's up to the neighbors in the area," he said. "We have public meetings, but they decide. We tell them about different types of infrastructure and tell them what they are and why they might need them. They show us areas that need it most."
Indianapolis is above average when it comes to bicycle infrastructure, Whited said. But, he noted, the city did not make the cut for Bicycling magazine's 2012 America's Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities. In 2011, Indianapolis ranked 45 due to the Monon Trail.
"I was disappointed by the ranking, because I've been to some of the cities listed and they were not as good of a cycling city," Whited said. "Some cities have no where near the infrastructure we already have."
INDYCOG is currently pushing for a Complete Streets Ordinance, which would create roadways that are better designed for safe access among all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorist and public transportation vehicles. Some features of Complete Streets may include, but are not limited to, sidewalks, bike lanes, special bus lanes, median islands, roundabouts and curb extensions.
"We hope to see cycling number increasing and the number of crashes decreasing," Whited said. "We hope to improve the quality of life in those neighborhoods."