Walking on Bike Lanes

Westlane Road in northwestern Washington Township was among the first in the county to feature bicycle lanes.  On a few recent car trips that way, I have noticed a large number of citizens walking on or near the bike lane.  Unfortunately, my instinct as a driver is at first a hot-headed “those people are crazy”, followed by a more measured “those people have no other option.”  And here is why:

Westlane Road has a bike lane, but no sidewalks

Westlane road has no sidewalks along its entire length.  It’s a staggeringly common occurrence in this part of the inner suburbs.  The area that surrounds it also has a rather large population.  According to the 2010 Census, there are over 15,000 people living in the adjacent Census tracts.  A quick look at the buildings also show us a large number of apartment complexes in the area.  It’s not hard to conceive of the notion that there are people living in this area without the means to afford a car.

Allisonville Road has a similar story, a bike lane without sidewalks, which is destined to attract pedestrians who have no other choice:

Photo Credit: Curtis Ailes

I applaud the bike lanes as a general rule, as anything that can give people another option of transportation is usually supported on this blog. However, it is also important that we complete the streets for all users. I know that sidewalks are expensive and require more infrastructure than striping bike lanes, but what kind of city are we when we fail to also provide a space for the most basic form of transportation?

Comments 20

  • I already have plans to run on the bike lanes from Fountain Square to my parents’ in Greenwood once they get finished with the striping. I plan on running against traffic so hopefully that will allow me to see oncoming bikes. Madison Ave from Shelby to Countyline is about 90% covered by sidewalks, but they alternate sides of the road the entire way. Last time I did that run, I swapped sides of the road about a dozen times.

  • As long as they face oncoming traffic, as they should on a street anyway, I don’t have any problem with it. I’m not keen on coming up behind a runner wearing earphones and has checked out of the real world.

  • To the answer Kevin’s question on which he ended, I’d respond “A lame one, in which it’s extremely disappointing to see that this issue is hardly even on the mayoral candidates’ radar.”

  • While I agree with sidewalks being needed, how do we prirotizie construction of sidewalks?

    Me personally, coming from someone who doesn’t understand urban planning and all that jazz, I’d rather re-pave sidewalks that are broken down in neighborhoods, or slap a sidewalk down so a working class neighborhood can get to an IndyGo bus stop, than put one up in the more affluent area of northern Allisonville.

    • Actually, Allisonville Road does have a bus route. Any road that has a bus route should automatically have sidewalks. But I sort of agree with your larger point. There are plenty sidewalks that need repaired as well.

  • One way in which sprawling places deal with this is multi-user paths. I’ve seen them in Norman and OKC, as well as Albuquerque and Eugene, OR. And of course Fishers and Carmel. Those might be the best choice for “the townships” in Marion County.

    • That is a fair solution, and I think it should be looked into here.

      • Id be curious to see the cost difference between traditional concrete sidewalks vs an asphalt side path like what you are describing. My first choice obviously is a nice looking concrete sidewalk, but I will be frank, if it meant getting sidewalks down a lot of our urban neighborhood streets that lack sidewalks, Id take the asphalt alternative if it saved money.

        • Would you accept a completely anecdotal answer? We looked in to repaving our driveway with concrete, as it was originally laid down as concrete, and then it was asphalted over. It cost twice as much as the asphalt estimate.

          • Interesting. Although it does not have the durability that concrete does, pedestrian and foot traffic are much less abusive on asphalt… interesting thoughts.

        • In this instance (71st Street) the expense is not necessarily the concrete for the sidewalk, but if you look at the cross section, the City would also have to put in storm drainage to accommodate the sidewalks in the right of way. This increases the cost exponentially. That said – it should have been done here. That area always has people walking to the bus stop & the shopping (Marsh Marketplace). It is dangerous for walkers and bikers.

  • E 56th Street between Emerson and I-465 (near Cathedral H.S.) is another area with lots of pedestrians and no sidewalks (or bike lanes). I frequently see runners on the very narrow curb area and walkers in the median as cars pass by on the 4 lane road at 45-50 mph.

  • While not familiar with this area, I too have noticed many joggers and walkers using bike lanes. Other reasons include better visibility, especially in areas with many intersections where sidewalks cross streets. Drivers are simply not concerned with peds, they are paying attention to the street, not the sidewalks.
    Also, smoother surfaces. Especially older neighborhoods with lots of mature trees, sidewalks often present safety hazards and inconvenience of uneven surfaces from deteriorating and poorly maintained sidewalks.

  • Has anyone seen the asphalt sidewalks and on-street sidewalk bypasses along northern Michigan Ave. (around 79th Street)? I’ll take a picture next week and post, but it looks pretty ridiculous.

    • What do you mean exactly by an “on-street sidewalk bypass”?

      I just assumed the asphalt was like…a first layer, and it’d be finished later. What do sidewalks normally get constructed out of?

  • You want ridiculous? Drive the “new” Illinois Street and Capitol Avenue that have been reconfigured for bike lanes (about 4600 up to Westfield) . I have kids who attend school in that area, and the automobile lanes, with the addition of the bike lanes, are now so narrow someone is going to get killed. Seriously.

    If one of you guys who are more knowledgable than I am on this subject could take a look, let me know how this makes any sense whatsoever. It leaves you wondering who made this decision, and even further – why?!

  • I took the opportunity to ride those lanes yesterday. I felt they were adequate for the job. The switching between turn lanes with the green section and the sudden change into sharrows is unusual and will take some getting used to for both cyclists and drivers, but the widths seem fine. People will still need to slow down and pass with caution when a cyclist is present just as when a cyclists is riding in lane. My bigger concern is that the illinois portion from about 16th to 38th or 40th is quite bumpy. Propbably the worst condition of any of our bike lanes. I also wonder why the goal was to allocate money to bike lanes when streets were resurfaced yet, Illinois received bike lanes without resurfacing and 10th street was completely resurfaced and only received about.5 miles of bike lanes with no signage?!?!?!

  • Illinois was resurfaced south of 16th, where th bike lane starts.
    10th was rededsigned and substantially narrowed east of Woodruff Place and that design is to be carried across the Near East Side. Since it’s two-way, two bike lanes would be required and there isn’t enough room for both streetscape and dedicated bike lanes in most places.

  • I appologize for lack of details. I realize Illionois was resurfaced south of 16th, but the nike lane now extends north of Butler to the Canal. Many portions along this route are filled with holes and dips. As for 10th street, I was speaking about the west side as it is my commute. They resurfaced the entire stretch from Speedway to Raceway Rd which is all planned for bike lanes, yet only lynhurst to 465 received them or about .5 mile. I just wonder if this is a policy we should toss as it clearly wasn’t followed.

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