It has been lauded as one of the best examples of new bicycle infrastructure in the United States and since it’s right in my back yard, I thought I’d share some pictures as well as my thoughts on Indy’s Cultural Trail as it celebrates its second anniversary.
Officially known as the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: Â A Legacy of Eugene and Marilyn Glick, the ICT is both a transportation resource and tourist attraction. Â It officially opened in May, 2013 and since then I’ve covered every inch of its eight miles on more than one occasion.
It took a while for me to get really excited about the Cultural Trail. It’s not perfect, but I have come to appreciate it theÂ more I use it. Â Here are my takeaways as we hit the trail’s two year anniversary.
Calling it the Cultural Trail is really a misnomer. Â It’s much more than a single trail. Â In fact, it’s a hub with a seriesÂ of spokes radiating from the very core of the city….more like a Cultural Trail Network than a singleÂ trail. Â This is an important distinction because trails are typically linear. Â The Cultural Trail connects a lot of real estate because it goes just about everywhere in the central core.
Just as importantly, it serves as a jumping off point to travel to the rest of the city. Â Take the southeast leg along Virginia Avenue, for example. Â Even though the trail officially ends inÂ the Fountain Square neighborhood, connectivity continues deep into the city’s south side via the Shelby Street cycletrack and the PleasantÂ Run Trail.
The same is true of the northeast leg along Mass Avenue which connects to the Monon Trail whichÂ extends all the way to the exurb of Westfield. Â Both legs are vital transportation resources, and at some point the city will likelyÂ completeÂ other trails eminating from the Cultural Trail’s spokes along Indiana Avenue to the northwest and southwest along the White River. Â When they do, IndianapolisÂ will have a world class urban trail network.
The Cultural Trail provides a glimpse of what a large swath of urban space here might look like in the future. Â There are a number of thoughtful, cutting edge features integrated into its design including rain water swales that absorb runoff and help create lush green space. Â This reduces impact on storm sewers, limits street flooding and creates low maintenance landscaping.
The Cultural Trail also integrates a variety of different approaches in terms of trail design. Â These include dedicated paths, shared paths, even shared streets. Â This is important becauseÂ it gives theÂ community a mechanism to observe these different methodologies first hand and see what works and what doesn’t work here.
The Cultural Trail’s design is open and welcoming. It draws people in. Â There are numerous bikeshare stations along the route, and so it’s easy to hop on a bike and cruise. Â It integrates very well with streets, sidewalks, shops, offices, museums and other attractions along its route.
It’s also attracting development dollars thanks to demand from new businesses and residents. Â People want to live and work along the trail. Â Some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods are located here. Â These places are vibrant and alive precisely because the trail encourages the type of street traffic that leads to human interaction in ways that cars never will. This is perhaps the trail’s greatest legacy.
But There’s Still Room for Improvement
The Cultural Trail is an overwhelming success but it can be even more so. Â The dangerous decorative crosswalks that are all but invisible to drivers need to be replaced with something more visible so that there is no confusing where the non-motorized have priority. Standard zebra stripes get my vote.
In addition, theÂ ridiculous valet parking operation in front of the Conrad HotelÂ needs to go, once and for all. Â It is unfathomable that theÂ city would let a private interest run roughshod over one of its crown jewels. Â The symbolism that implies Â cyclists and pedestrians should give wayÂ to parked cars is embarrassing, especially as Indy makes great strides toward being trulyÂ bicycle friendly. Â It would be nice if the Conrad recognized the good publicity that would come from acting proactively but if they don’t, the city should compel them to act.
This post originally appeared at PedalFree.net on May 6, 2015 and is reposted with the author’s permission.