Buffered Bike Lane coming to Illinois Street

Fall Creek Trail Extension & Illinois St Buffered LanesFall Creek Trail Extension & Illinois St Buffered Lanes
Fall Creek Trail Extension & Illinois St Buffered Lanes

Recently, a massive pile of praise was heaped upon Indianapolis civic leadership with the opening of the Cultural Trail and the soon to come B-Cycle Bike Share. National critics weighed in from many corners finally giving credit where it is due to Indianapolis and the progressive cycling infrastructure finally being implemented here.

Fresh off of that, I am pleased to write about another positive cycling infrastructure investment that will soon make cycling on one of Indy’s busiest thoroughfares a little bit safer and perhaps, entice people to use the facilities a little bit more.

Illinois St Bridge Reconstruction (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Illinois St Bridge Reconstruction (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Currently, contractors are working on repaving Illinois Street from 16th Street northward as well as repairing the bridge over Fall Creek. Last year, the local rumor mill churned out a tidbit regarding potential changes to the bike lane along this stretch that would come with the repaving project and this week I was happy to learn that those rumors are indeed true.

According to DPW,  from 22nd to 32nd on Illinois Street, on street parking will be removed along the east side of the street, the bike lane moved over against the curb, and a 4 foot buffer painted on providing much needed breathing room for cyclists along what feels like a highway during afternoon rush hour. Currently, cyclists are provided a single stripe between them and a lane of automobile traffic. Unfortunately, this will only be a thermo-striped barrier with no physical separations in place however, the double strip design will add a level of separation that does not exist on any of Indianapolis’ other on-street bike lanes.

Double Striped Bike Lane in Portland, OR (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Double Striped Bike Lane in Portland, OR (image credit: Curt Ailes)

According to NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials), a buffered bike lane is defined as,

“Buffered bike lanes are conventional bicycle lanes paired with a designated buffer space separating the bicycle lane from the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane and/or parking lane.”

Something similar to the picture at left, which I snapped on a trip to Portland in 2010, is similar to what we can expect to see along Illinois Street.

While it would be nice to see this treatment added to the entire length of Illinois Street from downtown, this stretch will provide cyclists a much safer means of crossing Fall Creek Parkway compared to what exists today. Additionally, it will provide this access all the way from south of Fall Creek, to the north side of the Children’s Museum.

With the investments in this area taking shape, a much improved level of cycling access will be available for cyclists next year. With the perceived safer cycling conditions resulting from the combination of the Fall Creek Trail extension and the new buffered bike lane, it is hoped that increased bicycle patronage to places such as Ivy Tech as well as the Children’s Museum will occur.

Comments 26

  • I live on Illinois! This is great news!

  • This is great to hear. I’m assuming it will stay northbound only…? Is there a correlating southbound lane somewhere?

    • Capitol is the complementing southbound lane into Indy. It, too, needs a repaving and some buffering, but it’s there.

    • While I disagree with removing the parking lane on Illinois — on-street parking is a precious resource and a component of complete streets design — I do understand that the parking in this section is currently underutilized and the buffer will be a boon to cyclists.

      However, the same can’t be said of Capitol. From 38th down to 16th, it’s a series of consistent parking uses: residential to Ivy Tech to residential to Methodist. The best option is probably to swap the bike lane and the parking lane, putting the bike lane at the curb and buffered from traffic by the parking lane. I wish they had considered the same configuration on Illinois.

      • Agreed, Chris. The east side of Illinois, virtually the whole length from downtown to 34th, functions mainly to serve the building parking lots for buildings fronting on Meridian.

        I don’t really see that changing too much, so I’m not sure taking away street parking on that side is much of a loss.

  • It’s too bad that this is costing Illinois street on-street parking, that will increase the speed of traffic and discourage people from walking on the sidewalk. Ideally you would have bike lanes in between the parked cars and the curb. Space is obviously the largest restraint.

    • Agreed, that would have been optimum. This does however represent a step forward for Indianapolis bike lane design with the buffer, something that many people complain is lacking with other bike lanes on high traffic streets.

    • Ideally, there would be a two-way north-south separated bike track (like the one on Shelby) on Illinois from the Cultural Trail to 38th, joining another (east-west) one along the north side of 38th St. between the Monon and Canal Trails (State Fair and 100 Acres).

      • Agreed, and the road certainly seems wide enough for that. I’m also a fan of the option listed above — a bike line buffered by parking. Surprised neither of these were on the table, but also happy to see any buffering going on. This is why I won’t ride on BR ave. I’ve ridden it a few times, it still feels like a highway. I saw deep in a BR planning doc that there are plans to turn 61st into a Bike Boulevard, but haven’t heard a peep on it lately.

  • What I find worrisome is that every new bike lane seems to be created from a different set of rules. That can only lead to confusion for drivers and cyclists alike.

    • Agreed. It feels like the city is probing, trying to figure out the best way to do bike lanes based on driver/rider feedback. The re-do of bike lanes in Broadripple and Illinois south of the Childrens museum come to mind. It makes me wonder if DPW is doing it alone, or using consultants.
      This has all been done before.

  • Every bike lane seems to translate well to drivers. I do not think they are confusing to the public.

  • Will I am not familiar with that stretch of road…think of the amount of bikes you can fit in one parallel parking space. It doesn’t hurt anyone replacing these. Not only can more people be filtered through a buffered bike lane, it can also spur more small less intensive uses along it.

  • Here’s the thing: if replacing an existing 5′ bike lane and 7′ parking lane…that’s 12 feet of width. More than enough for a separated bike track.

    Something else I’ve not seen discussed: why not put an impressed rumble strip in the pavement (similar to the ones between travel lanes and shoulders on freeways) between vehicle and bicycle lanes? Nothing says “don’t drive here” quite like a rumbling car.

    • That is a good point. I was talking to my wife, who rides somewhere from 25-50 miles a week on the Monon and other slow streets, about the Illinois St buffered lanes. She said, “So there isn’t anything to prevent cars from just coming over the lines?”

      That statement really illustrates one of the major hurdles that we need to consider in our designs when it comes to influencing wide spread buy in to using bicycles on our busy streets.

      Like you said Chris, even the little bumps would go a long way towards discouraging cars from coming over and they can’t be all that expensive in the whole scheme of things.

    • I wonder what the cost would be of separated bike tracks built with rumble strips and those rubberized plastic stakes every 10-20 feet, as opposed to a hard curb like Shelby. Impressing asphalt when hot shouldn’t really cost that much extra, if any.

  • Please, just no more ‘cycle tracks’ — unless something better than the ugly thing on Shelby Street is possible.

    Now, I do like being isolated from the cars but it’s just hideous.

    Having said that, it would be really nice if there were bollards to keep the UPS driver who delivers daily to the IU Health facility out (they have a nice big parking lot), as well as the drivers who inexplicably drive down it a block or two when leaving the businesses on the west side of Shelby.

  • On the one hand this sounds like good news. But this is just another effort that will likely fall short. Anything less than world class separate and elevated ( 3 to 5 inches) lanes are a compromise. Slowly inching towards perfection is a waste of time. We need to do it correctly, or not do it at all. After spending some serious time in Europe the past couple of summers, I feel like we are hurting ourselves by not embracing strategies that are proven to work for millions of cyclist. We deserve better than a compromise. Our cycling infrastructure is a joke. Getting excited about the crumbs that our city planners throw to us only adds insult to injury. Seriously, show me one piece of Indy cycling infrastructure that someone from Copenhagen would not laugh at. That we get excited about a half assed bike lane on Illinois is shameful.

  • A. The Shelby St. bike track works well but is very, very ugly. I speculate that it was inside design by DPW without outside design input. DPW needs outside design input.

    B. On the map above, shouldn’t all or most of the Fall Creek Trail extension be shown on the south side of Fall Creek?

    • It’s not on the south side of the creek. It’s on the south side of Fall Creek Parkway, North Drive.

      Only the orphan segment to which this extension will join (already built between Central and Meridian) is on the south side of the creek.

  • Are these really BIKE lanes, or BUS lanes? I see the buses using them more than bicyclists.

  • So I just drove up the portions of Illinois St that I could (the areas immediately south of and including the Fall Creek bridge are still closed). Looking at the temporary/initial lane markings, I see no indication whatsoever of a buffered bike line. It looks like it’s going to be the same configuration as it was before.

    Has anyone else noticed this?

  • I noticed the same thing over the weekend. I passed along my observations to Jamison at DPW, so hopefully this gets remedied in the short term.

    Thanks for being observant Jon!

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