Shelby Street Bike Track under construction

Kinzie Ave Cycle Track (image credit: Steven Vance)
Kinzie Ave Cycle Track (image credit: Steven Vance)

Earlier this year, Chicago elected a new mayor; Rahm Emanuel. Upon entering office, he wasted no time going to work on his campaign promises of improving mobility for citizens. Among his first visual changes, were the introduction of a new cycle track along a half mile stretch of downtown street; Kinzie Ave from Milwaukee Avenue to Wells Street.

Kinzie Ave Bike Track
Kinzie Ave Bike Track

Upon being in office for only a few short weeks, Emanuel has demonstrated his firm commitment to transportation alternatives.

Painted lane indicators on Kinzie Ave (image credit: Steven Vance)
Painted lane indicators on Kinzie Ave (image credit: Steven Vance)

When you look at what “IT” actually was, bike lanes were striped to create a reasonable barrier between motorists and cyclists, soft bollards were installed, driveway and street crossings were painted a recognizable shade of green and in a short couple weeks worth of work, a fantastic new public space for cyclists-only was created.

Painted lane across intersection on Kinzie Ave (image credit: Steven Vance)
Painted lane across intersection on Kinzie Ave (image credit: Steven Vance)

What’s more, the symbolic nature of this new, and for Chicago radical bike infrastructure, underscored the take-no-crap approach that our big city mayors should be taking when it comes to tackling innovative transportation issues.

Shelby Ave Bike Lane (image source: SEND Master Plan)
Shelby Ave Bike Lane (image source: SEND Master Plan)

What does this have to do with Indianapolis? Locally, there is a project similar in nature that is taking shape on Shelby Ave on the city’s southside. This bike track, the first of its kind in Indy, will connect the Fountain Square terminus of the Cultural Trail with Garfield Park via the Pleasant Run Trail and by doing so, create a more connected bike trail system. Taken together, this will represent many miles of dedicated, separate, biking facility for cyclists with which to travel. The track on Shelby is now under construction however, it produced significant push-back from the residents of the Fountain Square neighborhood during early public meetings; most notably in the form of residents complaining about the loss of automobile parking.

Shelby St at Morris St; note green stripping - Click to Enlarge (image credit: Indy DPW)
Shelby St at Morris St; note green stripping - Click to Enlarge (image credit: Indy DPW)

I inquired to Molly Deuberry at DPW and she sent me pages of data on the project. In looking at the plans for the lanes (click to open .pdf), innovative practices are evident. 2 way (or Contra-flow) bicycle right of way, 12 foot wide right of way (for both lanes) in some places (normally 10 feet), as well as what appears to be a glut of unique wayfinding signage to indicate the Cultural Trail as well as the Pleasant Run Trail, are just some of the new features Indianapolis cyclists will be subjected to once this project is completed by November; the lanes themselves may be open sooner.

Shelby St Cross Section (image credit: Indy DPW)
Shelby St Cross Section (image credit: Indy DPW)

The Rebuild Indyproject has repaved a lot of downtown’s streets over the past year. Notably absent in restriping efforts have been bike lanes on Michigan and New York. Furthermore, a huge opportunity to place painted bike boxes that give cyclists priority and also make the street safer for them could be implemented at key intersections such as New York & West Street or Michigan & West Street. The Shelby Ave bike track shows that the city is willing to design & build innovative bicycling infrastructure, so it makes me wonder, will the city take the Rebuild Indy opportunity to do that in other places like Michigan & New York? Only time will tell.

Shelby St Paint Detail (imge credit: Indy DPW)
Shelby St Paint Detail (imge credit: Indy DPW)

In conclusion, I think while Indianapolis is taking great strides to improve cycling facilities for residents, there are places that could be greatly improved for very little amounts of money and political capital. The Cultural Trail is arguably one of the most innovative cycling projects in the country and Mayor Ballard’s commitment to adding bike lanes is admirable. However, where are the bike boxes? Why aren’t we seeing more bollard separated lanes? There are places where some of these improvements could be cheap to do and would create a much safer area for local cyclists, and by extension, drive more wide spread usage. As I started the post with, Chicago’s new mayor has already taken great strides in a short amount of time. Will Indy be playing catch up to Chicago in terms of innovative cycling infrastructure?

Editor’s note: HUGE thanks to Steven Vance for usage of Chicago’s bike-track images. Steven writes his own blog Steven Can Plan as well as Grid Chicago. Both of these are worth the time spent, so check them out. A complete analysis of the Kinzie Ave project including partial financials as well as more photos can be seen on Grid.

Comments 15

  • This is great news, coming from a Southsider who has seen little in bike infrastructure witht the exception of the Pleasant Run Trail and sidewalks along the streets of the near Southside. It’s a shame there isn’t a Monon-like trail that would go through the southside toward Greenwood. Anyhow, I live further south near the Madison Avenue corridor and I’ve seen some construction signs and cones along stretches of that road, I know that bike lanes are supposed to be installed along that road from Shelby Street down to County Line Road. Are there anything in the plans that show how this will be accomplished, I am assuming it won’t be like Shelby Street near Fountain Square and I’m not expecting it, but does anyone know of what the lanes will be like there?

  • I just want to comment that I really enjoy this blog and I read it regularly. I was born and raised on the Southside of Indy and currently live in Portland Oregon going on 16 years. It’s exciting to see all the things that are happening in Indy with respect alternative infrastructure and urban renewal there. I’m looking forward to checking some of them out on my annual trip home later this summer.

    Anyway with regard to this story on Shelby Street I’m curious too about the bike lanes down to County Line as well. When I visit I’ve always wanted to be able to safely bike from where my folks live near Epler and Meridian into downtown.

    Keep up the great work. I think sites like yours are so important in informing people and influencing change!

  • It’s great to see the city investing more and more in bike infrastructure. I have been waiting for this type of bike lane…as I saw many instances of this on my recent trip to Vancouver. The next step beyond this would be to have the bollards replaced with a landscaped median…something I think would be great for a street like West Street which is ridiculously too wide as it is. We are getting there though.

  • “The track on Shelby is now under construction however, it produced significant push-back from the residents of the Fountain Square neighborhood during early public meetings; most notably in the form of residents complaining about the loss of automobile parking.”

    This is a mystifying reason for objection. There is NOT a lack of parking for business or residences in Fountain Sq. The upsides resulting from better bicycle connection to/from Fountain Sq businesses is great, as well as a solid asset in making all the near southeast side neighborhoods attractive to new residents (among the greatest challenge facing Center Twnshp.) All I can attribute it to is a reluctance to change or fear of the unknown.

  • Don’t Michigan and New York both have another layer pf asphalt to go down? Maybe that’s why striping has been done for the bike lane or in reality the car lanes.

  • If I understand correctly, the Shelby Street track and Madison Ave bike lanes are all captured under the same project heading. I havent seen any of it in person yet, but the bike track will stop at the Pleasant Run Trail and traditionally striped bike lanes will continue south of there to Madison and then on to the Johnson County line. The information I got was limited to the Shelby Street track however, it did show the regular lanes continuing south. The quoted figure for the entire 8 miles of project would indicate that it is the entire length.

  • As an Irvington resident, I’m thrilled with this and had no idea it was under construction. Currently, the Pleasant Run Trail, while nice, essentially stands alone. This will connect it to the Cultural Trail and the rest of the network.

  • Great news indeed – Once again Urban Indy is the source for getting the word out (thanks Curt). Residents can’t rally if they don’t know what is brewing. Hope Karin Haley and all those involved with the Cultural Trail are advocating and pushing this effort.

  • I have no issue with creating bike lanes, et al. What I do have problems with is when we are graced with these amenities, and they are not used. I.E. Why aren’t bicyclists “ticketed” and/or punished for weaving in and out of parked cars on E. Michigan??? There is a dedicated bike lane for cyclists, which has actually created more of a problem for cars driving in the far left lane, than it has helped cyclists. Cars parked on the left cannot even park close enough to the sidewalk to stay within the lined bounderies. Then, you have all the idiots on bikes, not using the purposely built lanes for the bikes (on the right/north side), instead using the left side (south) to weave in and of of parked cars.

    Have seen tens of near misses, many of them involving myself while driving. And as soon as a bicyclist is killed in this area, doing this, there will be next to no mention from the “cycling” community placing the blame where it is deserved…would be my best guess.

  • Thomas,

    I know there are a lot of cyclists out there that assume no law applies to them. They should be ticketed or fined, but know it goes both ways. I try hard to obey all laws to repair the name cyclists are given, but still receive great disrespect when riding. I am shouted and cussed at daily and nearly hit as often. Cars assume all rights to a roadway and my life means so little to them that 3 seconds of lost time is unavoidable. Just slow down and provide a safe passing distance.

  • It is frightening the anger that comes from some motorists when I ride my bike in the center of the lane at 20-22mph. I have to ride in the center of the lane because impatient motorists will try to sneak by when there is no passing room otherwise.

    On the other hand, I agree with Joe that there are some bikers with complete disregard for traffic laws that is pretty much giving us all a bad name.

  • Thomas, you make a lot of good points but “your tone is all wrong”. You already sound pissed off at cyclists without even considering life on the road from the perspective of one on the bike lane. Perhaps I am wrong, but you already sound jaded

  • I have begun to get worried about the Shelby bike track where it intersects Palmer. This is the south side of the I65 overpass. Already I have seen many motorists going east on Palmer not stop until they are smack in the middle of the bike lanes.

    This is bad because of the building on the SW corner blocks their view southward, and the drivers appear to be concentrating only on seeing what’s southbound on Shelby. The I-65 bridge impacts the view of southbound traffic by being a dark ‘tunnel’.

    So they have their view of northbound bikes obstructed, they are straining to looking left (north) and they are still rolling at a good clip across the cycle track lanes.

    Be careful along there!

  • I am glad they have extended bike paths to the south side. But the paths going up Shelby are doing to get a biker killed.

    They have place a portion of the bike lanes in the inside lanes running north and south. At Madison and Shelby they run the bike paths down the outside lanes, then with no waring at an intresction the move the lane to the inside lane with no way for the bike rider to get to it other then cross over in the middle on the intersection.

    So when the bike rider needs to make a righthand turn they are going to have to turn in front of traffic in the lefthand lane.

  • Sorry, but you true bike riders don’t know the stupid ass drunks that ride up and down Shelby St. at all hours of the day and night. There have been 2-3 people killed on this street in the past few years and now we’re down to one of traffic and the lane juts in and out at all different locations that you can’t see until you’re right on top of them (lanes). There are bike/arrow paint marks even in the traffic lanes. Have you seen those. Does this mean I’m at fault when I run over one of thes people because they’re in the flow of traffic. I’ll bet I am. I’ve seen cars almost sideswipe each other at different locations as the lanes go “in and out”. I think I’ll get my bike out and find a slow moving vehicle and bump into it and sue the city. No, wait a minute. My luck I’d fall on my head and become a vegetable. Ha Ha. Ok, venting over. Mark my words though, you all WILL see a person killed before long. Ok, let me have it, I’m ready.

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