The Cultural Trail in front of Conrad Hotel: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The crown jewel in our city’s livable infrastructure, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail has been cited in almost every publication or promotional piece. Most recently, it was mentioned in The Vogue magazine. But there is one half of a block where it basically stops in deference to a hotel’s valet parking zone. The Conrad has insisted that it is trying to be a good neighbor, but that it has no choice but to use this zone for vehicles. A few weeks ago, this was the hilariously sad scene:

Photo Credit: Nathan Smurdon
Photo Credit: Nathan Smurdon

After seeing this photo, I tweeted out a joke that they might as well host a tailgate party on the remaining sidewalk and call it a day. But this is not a joke. This invited a dangerous situation upon what should be a safe space for biking and walking.

There’s plenty of space for Conrad to have their valet zone on Illinois Street, like it had been temporarily when this section was under construction. It’s clear that they use this location for prestige and visibility. The rest of the city just has to work around it.

Comments 35

  • ABUSE* the location for prestige and visibility… I bet if a few cyclists scratched up the vehicles on their way through the hotel might move back to the street.

  • put up some bollards.

  • I just don’t understand how this can go on! I cycle the trail almost every day, and one day I saw a father and his little son trying to maneuver their bicycles between the parked cars, then all of the people standing on the sidewalk. Can nothing be done?

  • The Conrad needs to do more to co-exist with this community.

  • Seriously, this is a safety issue! Human lives are placed in danger if they have to swerve out into traffic, motor or pedestrian to avoid the “Convenience” they are providing their guests. This clearly makes a statement.

  • My family and I bike past on the regular. While it’s been mostly a non-issue, the occasions when you’re crowded out stand out and are really uncomfortable. Today a young woman walking from the Conrad’s restaurant feigned shock when she saw me riding my bike through the area. I was going extra slow to look out for folks on their phones. The “Oh my gosh” was just sad.

  • A Little picketing can go a long way to embarrass the hotel make sure there are children. Pick a busy convention day.

  • I go through here regularly, the entire block is usually busy with people walking, just go slowly and you can get safely through.

    Celebrate that people are out walking and visiting our city.

  • Usually the valets park the cars far enough apart that I can ride between them fairly easily.

  • A painful reminder cars and their storage are still valued above sustainable transportation and recreational spaces. The cycling community needs to continue pressing how ridiculous and unsafe it is, and it will eventually change.

  • The scene on Illinois by the Conrad was as follows: a 100ft section was coned off from the corner at Washington up to the alley north of the Conrad with NO CARS parked there at all. Meanwhile, the Trail was nearly impassable.

    I’m down for a picket line.

  • Is this legal? If not, how about if the police start issuing tickets?

  • A couple times recently the Conrad has had their little stand-up sign (I forget what it says offhand) right in the middle between the parked cars where there is usually barely enough space to bike through. The sign makes it completely impassible.

  • I would think they’ll have to move their valet area, anyway, when the dedicated lane of the Red Line goes right in front of the hotel.

  • Unless you want to ride as slow as pedestrians, just ride on the street. It’s not as unsafe as people think it is. Just ride smarter than the drivers and understand that you are the smaller (and smarter) vehicle.

  • This is an urban area for crying out loud. We want an urban density to life, let’s not whine about it when we actually achieve it. I wouldn’t have any problem getting past the Conrad as it is pictured here. If it was comfortable to ride by on the left, do it. Or get off your freakin bike and walk past on the right. Any time you need to reduce speed to a walk due to congestion, you can always dismount and turn yourself into a pedestrian like the people without a bike.

    • Why does the Conrad get special treatment, though? Every other business has been able to coexist along the trail without making people get off of their “freaking” bikes. Also, the Conrad could have a viable alternate location, and they choose to use this one instead.

      • Fair enough point about special treatment. From the other perspective, have the other businesses been intimidated into not getting the best use out of the urban space close to them? If it causes them to provide an inferior level of service, we all lose.

        • I won’t call it intimidation, but South of Chicago had to take down a fence they set up on the pedestrian portion of the Trail because it was blocking the public right of way. They still have tables set up in the “median” between the ped and bike sections though, which I have no problem with.

      • My understanding is that the Conrad had a preexisting agreement with the city basically granting it something like an easement for its valet parking. When the Cultural Trail was being constructed there were long and tense negotiations with the Conrad and the final result was determined to be the best compromise that could be achieved.

  • I would encourage those who are disturbed by the special treatment granted to the Conrad with little regard for safety to write to the City-County Council. Personally, I find it baffling that some Council members had a fit when a tiny handful of parking spaces were given to BlueIndy, but have remained silent on the blockage of Downtown’s greatest asset.

  • Picket, yes, when tour bus us sit in the bike lane. Write to Councilman Zach Adamson.
    He celebrates biking in Indy —and chairs the public works committee.

  • When Enrique Penalosa built Bogota’s famous system of ciclorutas (bicycle paths) he had much the same problem. Parking on the sidewalk was common and the business community fought back. Penalosa fought harder and won. Today, the business community is mostly on board because they have seen how it benefits them. That’s what blows me away. The Conrad would actually benefit by playing nice. Unfortunately, I have yet to see a leader in Indy with Penalosa’s courage. That’s too bad. There’s an excellent video on Bogota and what Penalosa accomplished at YouTube. Search “Bogota, Cities on Speed.” Well worth the hour it takes to watch, even with subtitles.

  • Grew up Indy, lived there for 24 years. Recently moved to better city where there is much more to do on any given day. The fact the “Cultural Trail” is viewed as an attraction is hilarious. It’s a sidewalk.

    • So basically, you are a 24 year old kid that thinks he knows everything and derives self-worth from gloating about an unnamed city on the internet?

      • 33 years old. Indy blows.

        • John, the other poster’s point, which seems to be lost on you is why are you even searching for obscure blogs about Indianapolis if you moved on to some unnamed “bigger and better” place? Shouldn’t you be enjoying your new home city instead of worrying about the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis? If the unnamed city where you live truly has so much to do on any given day, then why aren’t you out doing all those things instead of wasting your time on the Internet posting comments about Indianapolis?

    • Honestly glad you’re gone.

    • Agreed. Indy is continuing to fall further and further behind our peer cities.

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