Painted Bike Lanes: More harm than good?

DPW is scheduling a public meeting to discuss the implementations of bike lanes on New York and Michigan Streets. This seems like a good thing, but are painted bike lanes safe, or do they just give bikers the illusion of safety? Frequently linked Streetsblog seems to thing the latter. Their solution is physically separated bike lanes. Having seen these all over the place in Amsterdam, I have to admit that they look great there. Now, Indianapolis is not Amsterdam by a long shot, but that does not mean we can not learn from them.

The city is looking to diversify our transportation options, which is badly needed. Bike lanes are a great first step towards recognizing our advantage of being a flat city. I hope that the city does not give up on bike lanes if they are not popular at the outset, and will start looking for ways to go even further. It will be difficult to break the “drive or die” mentality of this city, but cracks are starting to show.

Comments 12

  • The problem, I have found from experience, from riding in seperated bike lanes is that bicyclists seems to be out-of-sight/out-of-mind to motorists. This becomes a big issue as a driver attempts to turn onto a side street and crosses path with a bicyclist who has right-of-way but because it is seperated from the flow of traffic on the street, is not thought about by the motorist. Hence the yield sign along the Cultural Trail whenever there is a street, alley, or parking lot intersection. I feel safer driving on the street where cars are forced to see me. I’m fine with painted bike lanes and look forward to using them.

  • Thanks for the comment Jason. It may sound crazy, but I’ve never biked in either a painted or a separated lane. But then, I live in Indianapolis. There aren’t many of either here.

    Heck, give us both a painted AND a separated lane…ha.

  • Bike lanes!

    I ride with traffic and drivers are “forced” to see me. They still cut in front of me when making a turn. I think having painted lanes with symbols will possibly make drivers more aware! There also needs to be literature, websites, media made available to the general public on how to co-exist on a street with bike lanes.

    I currently ride New York St and Michigan St to and from work without issue due to how wide the streets are, but I will definitely feel more comfortable with bike lanes.

  • I agree with the sentiment that moving cyclists off of the road and onto a sidewalk-type bike lane will reduce their visibility to drivers. Think about how often you recognize cyclists riding through pedestrians on sidewalks now.

    I have also had success so far with riding in traffic on my bike. Cars tend not to travel too quickly immediately downtown due to all the lights and pedestrians during the day. The only problem is when a car is turning right on red, they tend not to look for a cyclist. Same goes for the few seconds after a light turns green and someone tries to pull off a quick turn around you. Just because you’re not in a car doesn’t mean you move as fast as a person on foot.

  • What I’m gathering here is that perhaps separated bike lanes work better in dense places with slower car traffic like NYC and Amsterdam than they would here. Also, I need to ride on the Cultural Trail someday.

    I’m glad that there are people here who are passionate about bicycling. I’m hoping to bike to work sometime this Spring, using mostly the Monon Trail. I do not have a shower at work, unfortunately, so the weather needs to be just right.

  • During nice weather I often bike to/from work on Michigan/New York. I would echo the comments above that the commute feels fairly safe in part because of the width of the lanes (plus the one way traffic means that drivers can avoid me without swerving in to oncoming traffic). I tend to cruise in the right lane near the curb, moving cautiously into the more heavily used lanes to get around the sporadic parked cars. I’ll be interested to see how they work the configuration. Will the bike lane be next to the curb, or will be be inside the parking lane? Will they compress the width of the lanes such that they can have four lanes plus the bike lane? As one of the few using these streets for biking, I suppose I should show up.

    It does seem to me that Michigan and New York would be fine candidates for separated bike lanes. Both streets are four lanes wide currently, but two through lanes plus a parking lane probably would handle traffic adequately. Still, at least if there are painted bike lanes no one can yell at me that I should be riding on the sidewalk.

  • As a cyclist and somewhat regular bike commuter (Southport Road to 13th Street downtown) I’m just happy to be catered to for once. If putting bike lanes in gets more people on bikes, then it’s a good thing.

    The cultural trail is nice, but it’s certainly no way to get anywhere in any sort of hurry. Separate lanes just aren’t that effective without separate traffic signals.

    I’ve found the best way to not get killed is to assume everyone’s a horrible driver – which means taking lanes when needed, yelling a lot, and making myself as visible as possible.

  • Good question about the placement of the lanes John, because I’m not sure of the answer. Even though these lanes have been talked about for years, I have not seen a rendering.

    Good point about separate lanes needing separate signals, Mike.

  • I’ve got to agree with Mike’s comment – if you’ve got separate lanes then you should have separate traffic signals. Painted bike lanes on Michigan and New York is a great first step for Indy. I would also recommend that there be some additional signage to accompany these new painted lanes. Something about fines for cars, perhaps? But seriously. The more attention they get the more effective they’ll be.


  • I went to the open house tonight. It sounds as if they definitely expect to do the project this summer, although the timeline is not set in stone. As for the layout, the number of lanes will stay the same for the most part. For instance, on Michigan Street, right now there are four lanes, two of which are always travel lanes and two that have parking some or all of the time. By removing the parking restrictions, and turning the side lanes in to parking-only lanes, the lanes can be narrower, which is how they will come up with the 5 feet of width for the bike lanes. The lanes will be not on the curb, but beteen the right-hand travel lane and the parking lane. Portland and Chicago layouts are their inspiration, which I presume means something to those who know about how those cities do bike lanes. At intersections with turn lanes and at bus stops, there are indications that the bike lane “ends,” apparently to remind cyclists that that they share the lane and should look for vehicles moving across. It’s definitely beyond the conceptual stage. They had detailed, block-by-block drawings of the configuration.

  • Thanks for the update John.

  • This has screwed traffic during rush hour. They took 2 main arteries to downtown from 4 lanes and trimmed them down to 2 and it has added a good 10 minutes plus to my already hour long commute. And I just read they have lifted parking restrictions during rush hour so there will be parked cars blocking traffic as well. Smart move Indianapolis! I have seen TWO bike riders on these paths since they painted the lines. It doesn’t make any sense to me to cater to the few people this will benefit. I’d like to see a percentage of bike riders to vehicle drivers. I can alread ytell you it’;s not justifiable. So when will they repaint and exclude these lanes if hardly anyone uses them?

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