Is Indy Friendly to Bicyclists?

PeopleForBikes (PFB) is an industry coalition of bicycling suppliers and retailers, as well as a charitable foundation. Each year, its PlacesForBikes program assembles data about bike use, infrastructure and advocacy based on five criteria: Ridership, Safety, Network, Reach, and Acceleration. The results are published as City Ratings. In a five point rating system, Indianapolis rated 1.4. The rankings combine cities of varying population size, so it’s more helpful to look at comparably sized cities like Columbus, OH, and Nashville, Tenn.

Indy Midtown Magazine asked Damon Richards, executive director of the bicycle advocacy group Bike Indianapolis, for his observations. –TPH

Damon Richards: Because of Unigov, Indianapolis has far more area than many similar-sized cities so we still don’t do well when comparing populations. Nashville is also a consolidated government with about 100 square miles more area than Indianapolis. Fort Worth is 100 square miles smaller than Indianapolis. Columbus is almost 200 square miles smaller. In reality, the best use for this number is to compare to our previous scores rather than comparing to other cities.

Our rating went down from last year. This is because PFB didn’t receive data from the City and that greatly lowered our Acceleration score. In the transition from Jamison Hutchins to Jamey McPherson as the City of Indianapolis Bike/Ped Coordinator, the task got dropped. Had the data been submitted, our score would have been closer to the 2.5 we received last year.

The Indianapolis Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee is taking steps to ensure the data is submitted for future ratings. PFB will only accept the data from a city source.

I don’t want to sound like I’m rationalizing our low score. Indianapolis does need to do more for bicycling, but we deserve credit for what we have done. We have more than 100 miles of trails and greenways along with another 100 miles of bike lanes. The City is currently expanding or upgrading several prominent greenways (Canal Towpath, Fall Creek Greenway, Pleasant Run Greenway, Pennsy Trail, Skiles Test, Monon Bridge). The City also plans to add two-way cycle track on 22nd Street from AJ Brown to Capitol and buffered bike lanes on Allisonville between 46th and 56th. We’ll see our first signed Neighborways this year as well.

These projects are creating a more connected network, but our residents on the southside will still be stuck with nowhere to ride that is truly safe. Getting across town from east to west will continue to be a challenge. Bike parking is lacking in most commercial districts and office buildings. Residential areas with the lowest car ownership have few cycling options. Bike lanes are often cluttered with detritus from lack of cleaning.

It’s nice to condense everything down to a single number for convenience, but the reality of alternative transportation can’t be made that simple. We need to keep pressing for more and better bicycle infrastructure that creates a connected network that will allow residents to get from their homes to the places they need to go for work, education, shopping, and recreation. The option of taking a bicycle should be available to everyone.