Guest Post: Indy’s Most Needed Pedestrian Walkways by Dr. Jill Saligoe-Simmel

Walkable cities contribute to people’s overall health, safety, and quality of life. This study prioritizes missing pedestrian walkways to help identify where investment should be focused in Indianapolis.

Although it has some very walkable areas of town, overall Indy ranks low in nationwide surveys of walkability ( Recent efforts are underway in Indianapolis to enhance walkability, as demonstrated by its recently adopted Complete Streets Ordinance and the Health By Design Indy WalkWays initiative. A large land area and limited budget require the City find tools and strategies to efficiently and effectively develop and maintain its infrastructure. This includes finding ways to prioritize the types of pedestrian infrastructure needed to enhance walkability, and the location of that infrastructure.

The map shows the results from a study of Indy’s missing pedestrian infrastructure (i.e., sidewalks and multi-use paths). It reveals the gaps in pedestrian walkways and prioritizes them based on proximity to destinations, population density, and demographic factors that may contribute to an area’s particular transit needs.

Three basic assumptions are followed:

  1. You don’t have walkability without destinations.
  2. Walkways should go where people are (i.e., population density).
  3. Certain social factors, such as age, income and education, may limit people’s transportation options thus making walkways a higher need (and that need should be a factor in prioritizing pedestrian infrastructure).

About the Map
The map shows missing pedestrian walkways. The walkway segments are color coded from low to high priority based on their proximity to available destinations, population density, and social indicators.

Using 2014 data of Indianapolis’ existing pedestrian network* as a reference (i.e., sidewalks and multi-use trails), missing walkway segments are mapped along primary and secondary arterial roads and collector streets that host major bus routes. The resulting map represent the gaps in the existing pedestrian network along the city’s main road corridors. Each missing walkway segment is then scored based its proximity to population density and social indicators (i.e., net social index concentrations). For example, segments shown in red (high priority) touch areas containing both high net population density and high scores for social indicators representing potential pedestrian infrastructure need, such as income, minority status, education, linguistic isolation, and age (2010 Census; 2013 ACS).

Additionally, missing walkway segments received scores for their proximity to 5- or 10-minute walk radius around destinations. Destinations include public libraries, college campuses, primary schools, secondary schools, vocational schools, museums, supermarkets, recreation facilities, greenways, parks, future Red Line bus rapid transit (BRT) stops, and city bus stops.

The scores for each segment are tallied and the results are used to rank the missing walkway segments from low to high in terms of their priority for future development.
For Further Study
This study shows one way that pedestrian infrastructure gaps can be prioritized for future investment, which is just one aspect of pedestrian infrastructure planning and management. Further areas of interest include: Where are crosswalks and what is their importance in the pedestrian network? What is the role of speed limit control in designing the pedestrian network? What additional prioritization should be considered for Safe Routes to Schools initiatives? How do accident reports factor into identifying priorities? Should we rate short segments of missing walkways higher where pedestrian infrastructure otherwise exists (e.g., prioritizing small gaps)? Where are we investing today versus where priorities have been identified? How do we balance the maintenance of existing infrastructure with the development of new pedestrian infrastructure?

* Special thanks to Kevin Kastner for providing the pedestrian network GIS data used in this study.

Editor’s note: The original article can be found on Dr. Jill’s webpage.

Comments 19

  • I was just thinking about this last night as I drove past a nice (currently being expanded/improved) park near my house and there wasn’t one sidewalk leading to it. It’s a shame. Glad to see it highlighted on this map.

  • This is a great idea. However, I question the accuracy of the map. 52nd St. between Keystone and College has many sections with no sidewalk. None of these sections appear on the map. The area that is marked occurs east of the Monon near the curve in the road. If I’m not mistaken, that entire area has sidewalks (I’m sure it does on the north side of the street).

    • The south side of 52nd Street near the Monon has no sidewalks. I know because my daughter’s school is very close to that curve.

      • Hi Kevin, I only mapped missing sidewalks where they are absent along both sides of a road. This isn’t to say having sidewalks along both side of a road isn’t important. Rather, the study reflects areas of highest need because they have none.

        I think it is an interesting question how we (as a city) might prioritize these missing sidewalks along a 2nd side of a road while working to fill the gaps in the pedestrian network where there are none at all.

    • That’s great feedback, thanks. Let me address your questions.

      First, there are some limitations of the data set. “The map of “Missing Walkways” does not distinguish places where sidewalks may exist along only one side of a road, or where existing sidewalks may switch back and forth between different side of the road, nor the quality of existing sidewalks. It also does not evaluate the existence of crosswalks (another essential component to the pedestrian infrastructure). The data are not field verified. Sidewalks within neighborhood subdivisions and along minor collector streets are not considered by this study.” I have updated my original post to include this statement of limitations.

      I mapped sidewalk gaps using the 2014 existing pedestrian network city GIS data as a reference. On 52nd St between Keystone and College, that data set shows some gaps. Looking more closely, the gaps likely reflect some rather wide parking lot egresses, not actually missing sidewalks. I have verified (using Google Street View that sidewalks do in fact exist along the entire north side of 52nd St along this stretch.

      This was a good catch — I’ve removed these small segments from the map.

  • There are some strange things going on with the map occasionally and I think it could just use some more detailed labeling.

    Example: East St under the rail viaduct near Anthem is labeled orange priority 9. It has fairly large sidewalks so I’m not exactly sure why it is has such high priority. I will make a guess – the road floods and passing cars throw water all the way to the viaduct wall, meaning it is very unpleasant to pass under when there is rain.

    Other places are fairly self-explaining – where Ohio St curves into Pine has no sidewalks. It also is one way, high speed traffic.

    • In general, it’s probably more important to focus on the longer stretches than these short ones, where the data may be a bit funky.

    • A good catch. This section of East St tunnels under a very wide section of railway decking (I haven’t heard it called a viaduct, make sense). The 2014 existing pedestrian network data shows a large gap (i.e., no sidewalks) here. I suspect that is only because this section of the street isn’t visible on aerial photography.

      I’ve verified using Google Street View that this section does indeed have sidewalks and have removed it from the map. Thanks.

      (As a sidetone, the missing walkway segments are ranked and color-coded low (yellow) to high (red) based on their proximity to destinations combined with proximity to areas of highest population density and concentration of people who may have limited transportation options (Net Social Index). I did not look at any quality factors – this segment was ranked high based on those factors.)

      • My fault :). I’ll put the sidewalks in for the next year’s data release.

      • Thanks for the info.

        Is it possible for the public to add information to the maps? Seems like checking the data via crowd sourcing could be very helpful. I would be happy to add how many sides of the street have sidewalks and possibly other data for sidewalks that I use regularly.

    • Since you’d mentioned it, I also took a quick look at where Ohio St curves into Pine on Google Street View. Sad that the fist thing you see is two people walking down the road inside the shoulder since there is no sidewalk.

        • That area overall is terrible, as I walk it frequently from Angie’s list to Mass Ave.

          I’ve been inches from being run over (by a police office no less) crossing College Ave at Market St (on north side, cars trying to turn right on red have a really bad angle on oncoming traffic and as they gun it they don’t see pedestrians crossing). I’ve made complaints that this should be no right on red, or at least when the pedestrian crossing signal turns to walk to not have a green light for cars as well.

          Also crossing Ohio St (south to north, east side) on College, close to that street view screenshot, cars again barely stop as they turn right onto Ohio, meanwhile pedestrians trying to cross to the Easley Winery side are at high risk.

          My 2 cents from a frequent walker in that area.

  • I would take exception to the assertion that Indianapolis has “a limited budget” to sufficiently address the need for more sidewalks – especially if we continue to accept that notion as an excuse for inaction.

    Several years ago we purchased an existing home in Broad Ripple, paying “fair market value” per an analysis prepared by our real estate agent that was based on comparable nearby properties that had sold in the prior six months.

    Yet, the following year’s tax assessment (which reflected the sale) was approximately 25 percent below the fair market value we had paid. Assessments are, by law, supposed to reflect fair market value – and there is no better evidence of that value that the actual purchase price paid by a buyer for a property under normal circumstances (meaning it is not a distressed property, or one being sold under distressed circumstances).

    This experience is not unique to us either. I randomly checked other sales that had occurred around the same time as our purchase, and then compared the subsequent tax assessments to see if there was a difference. And there was.

    The take-away is that, for some reason, the Marion County tax assessor appears to be under-assessing properties where sales have occurred. Not only does that affect the recently sold properties, but it also affects comparable nearby properties where assessments are to be based on market conditions.

    The tax dollars to build more sidewalks, hire more cops, and do other things to improve our city is out there. But our elected officials have to collect it.

    • They’d just hand any of that money over to developers for ‘luxury’ apartments anyway.

      • I assume you believe developers are evil, cater only to the wealthy, and that no tax incentives should ever be provided to enable such behavior.

        Such an attitude, I believe, reflects a lack of understanding about the benefits of tax incentives that spur and/or support growth of jobs and property taxes in future years.

        I am a capitalist, and I believe in the value of market forces. But those forces are not always equal, especially from among neighboring jurisdictions (or even from one neighborhood to another within the same jurisdiction).

        Take the vacant lot at the site of the former Market Square Arena, which generated little in the way of property taxes when it served as a surface parking lot. Compare the future tax revenue, both property and sales, that will be paid by the developer and residents once the 28-story tall apartment tower is built and occupied.

        The site had long been unproductive because the economics of development were a gamble. Tax incentives minimized that gamble, with the odds favoring the city’s coffers in future years.

        I infer from your comment that you believe “luxury” developments should not qualify for these incentives, or that you believe only “affordable” housing should be built downtown.

        It should be understood that affordable housing is such not only because the cost of ownership or renting is low, but because wages are sufficient for the average person or family to pay that (and related) cost. In this regard, Indianapolis actually is now viewed as “affordable” in national rankings when it comes to housing.

        Providing affordable housing is not a public service. It requires capital and courage, faces risk as well as rewards, and should be a goal. Any developer that presents a viable proposal for downtown I am sure would be welcomed with open arms and tax incentives.

  • Hello, I am doing research for my son’s scohol about placing a speed lump/hump on the street that the scohol is on. The scohol is Dudley Elementary in Antelope. There is only one street that runs along that scohol, deep in a residential neighborhood. The street name is Aztec Drive. Drivers continently drive 40+ while kids are trying to use the crosswalk. The scohol can’t afford crossing guards and as a parent I even feel at risk just walking across the street to get to the scohol.I also work for the Sacramento Bee (photo department) and I’ve asked our transportation reporter for info and he recommend that I contact you for any leads on how to go about this. I’ve downloaded the City of Sacramento’s Speed Hump Program Guidelines and am currently reviewing them. The scohol has been denied in the past and I would like to find out why and get some kind of speed protection to the kids of our scohol.Any help would be appreciated.Thanks,Scott Craig

  • This forum needed shaking up and you’ve just done that. Great post!

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