Vision Zero for Indianapolis

2015 is sadly shaping up to be a poor year for pedestrian safety in Indianapolis. Today, there has already been a crash on the south side with a person listed in critical condition. My fear is that it may end up being the worst year on record for deaths and injuries, as it seems to be an almost daily occurrence. It happens all over town, but it always seems to be the worst in places where cars are moving the fastest and pedestrians are a rarer sight.

Last month, a pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run accident at the intersection of Crestview and Kessler Boulevard. This portion of Kessler has no sidewalks or crosswalks, but it does have 4 lanes of fast-moving vehicle traffic. What is most glaring about this predicament is that it is just a few blocks away from the Monon Trail, pinnacle of the Rails-to-Trails movement that helped destroy myths and raise property values. I decided to make a map of a potential sidewalk where it would meet with the Monon, which has a bridge over Kessler:

Right-of-Way in Red, sidewalk in black

Just to the east of this bridge is where Kessler turns into a 4-lane auto speedway.  It then gains and loses sidewalks at unpredictable intervals.  Kessler narrows to 2 lanes right before the Monon bridge, but I still think there should be room for sidewalks under it as well. At the very least, there should be a ramps up the hill to the Monon Trail from this street.

Indianapolis has not committed to anything like the Vision Zero plan in New York City to reduce pedestrian fatalities all the way to 0. And I think it may actually be a larger challenge here. There are so many stroads to tame, and walking is less a part of the culture in much of the city. It’s not uncommon to read the comments sections of the articles about the crashes which basically lay blame to the victim, especially if that victim is on a bicycle.

So, consider this post a call out to the campaigns of Joe Hogsett and Chuck Brewer. Is the current situation acceptable? If not, what are your plans to make it better?


Comments 11

  • OK, that’s a fantastic idea in theory. Individuals own these plots of land though, what hoops will the city have to jump through to be able to take these parts of the homeowners’ yards for city use? How much will they have to pay to do so. Clearly, pedestrian safety is an issue we need to keep pressing, but this isn’t as cut and dried as it may seem.

  • Once again, I’ll point the finger at Unigov. If old city limit tax revenue was spent on sidewalks and other infrastructure within the old city limits, this would be much less of an issue. How much money has been spent over the last 50 years on hooking up sprawling neighborhoods in the townships to city water and sewer? A densification of the old city would have been much easier had Unigov not happened.

    So what would it take to untwine the two?

    • UniGov created some issues, yes, but without UniGov, there is little chance that all the downtown redevelopment occurs. Although I don’t have any research on hand, I’m positive that much of the cash balance necessary to help redevelop downtown Indianapolis and its surrounding neighborhoods came from an influx of dollars from the collar townships, as well as Center Township. There is no way the city looks like it does without UniGov. Does it have faults? Yes. But if you separate the two, you will lose tax revenue from Pike Township (heavy industrial base) and Washington Township (wealthy), not to mention the industry near the airport.

      The structure poses problems but there is little chance that it will disappear.

  • I lived in the neighborhood when the Monon was built, and the early design concepts had access from Kessler, I think via stairs. (This was just before or at the dawn of the ADA era, so obviously one couldn’t build stairs now.)

  • The issue not only sidewalks (or the lack thereof), but also speed limit enforcement (or the lack thereof). Consider that the stretch of Kessler indicated in this story has a posted limit of 35 miles-per-hour. Yet most vehicles travel at anywhere from 45 to 50 miles per hour, even through the school zone less than a mile to the east. I have even witnessed IMPD vehicles traveling at these higher speeds. Often times, drivers (including police) are talking on cell phones. In other words, distracted driving. Speed limits should be reduced in residential sections to 35 max, and strictly enforced. I would even support camera-enforcement. I’d bet the fines alone could be sufficient to support a lot of new and improved pedestrian infrastructure.

    • Quality street design is a more consistent deterrent to speeding than policing. What better way to slow down the cars than with traffic calming? Personally, I’d rather have calm streets, and law enforcement that focuses more on other crimes around town.

      • This is a very good point. I wonder how much conversation there is at law enforcement conferences about urban design and planning, traffic calming, and other interventions that might lessen the needs for some types of policing.

        I’m guessing there is some, but it seems like police could be a strong and vocal advocate partner at the local level, as well as spotlight the need or opportunity at the national level. Regardless of what one thinks of the broken windows model, it certainly got a lot of national visibility (and yes, Malcolm Gladwell writing about it helped as well).

  • Most traffic calming approaches involve speed bumps, reduced traffic lanes, more frequent traffic lights, and serpentine streets – all of which come at a high cost. If Indy cannot afford sidewalks, what hope is there that it would find the funds to calm traffic? Besides, I did not propose using uniformed cops to enforce traffic laws. I do endorse the use of photo camera enforcement in key locations. Also, especially at school zones, electronic signage that shows the speed of passing drivers helps to raise awareness of driver behavior. There are places where having an increased police presence, as is done with sobriety check points, can be helpful as well. It is not uncommon for the police to pull someone over for a moving violation and then discover the driver is wanted on an outstanding warrant for a more serious crime. No single approach is best, but leadership is sorely lacking to protect pedestrians, bicyclists, and yes other motorists in our city.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *