Indiana State Trails, Greenways and Bikeways Plan

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Transportation are preparing a plan to guide development and expansion of a statewide system of trails for recreation and transportation throughout Indiana. Indiana’s goal is to provide an easily accessible trail opportunity within 7.5 miles of all Indiana residents by 2016. Details on the evolving State plan are available here: Indiana State Trails, Greenways and Bikeways Plan

Madison Area Bicycle Club, applauds the INDOT and Indiana DNR and other contributors for their efforts to develop the Indiana State Trails, Greenways and Bikeways Plan. We appreciate the thought, planning and effort that has brought the project this far along and are grateful for the opportunity to provide public input on a project that will bring so much benefit to the citizens of Indiana and those who visit our state. We appreciate that the scope of this project is broader than just to provide a place for bicyclists to ride, but outlined below, are our main thoughts for the part of the project that deals with bicycling in Indiana.

We believe that the State of Indiana already offers tremendous scope for bicycles. Some have said that we already have 90-95,000 miles of bikeways in Indiana: they are called roads! We feel the most important step is to make Indiana’s roadways safe for, and inclusive of, bicycle traffic. This is particularly important since, under Indiana Code, Article 21, cyclists on the roadway have all the rights and duties that are applicable to a person who drives a vehicle, except for some special provisions relating specifically to bicycle operation. We believe it is important to encourage the public to share the roadways and to help both motorists and cyclists become knowledgeable and observant of the traffic rules for both types of vehicles. We hope there will be funding for public service advertising to support this. Public educational messages will have a better chance of acceptance by motorists and cyclists where a good system of bikeways and lanes exists.

The following are some initiatives we support to create dedicated bicycle lanes in Indiana’s roadways:

  • support services to ensure lanes are free of glass and debris, and to ensure that lanes remain structurally sound and free from hazards, such as holes and “rumble strips” used at road edges to warn drivers who drift to the edge of the lane.
  • construction of lanes on both sides of the roadway, which flow in the same direction as car traffic.
  • continuity of lanes—elimination of sudden lapses in the course of a lane, which force cyclists into traffic, and later resume the bike lane where its presence is convenient.
  • 3-4 feet of additional lane width for more heavily trafficked routes and routes with higher speed limits; we recognize that this can add 25-30% to lane costs.
  • designation with prominent signage where bikes ride as part of normal-width traffic lanes on lightly traveled roads.

A good example of dual-function routes on normal-width traffic lanes is the old Hoosier Hills route, originally developed by the Indiana DNR as the Hoosier Bikeway System. This route connected Indiana’s State Parks for the recreational rider, but also provided superb routes from town to town within the county or the general area. This route had road signs and directional indicators on the road pavement and utilized low-volume rural roads and streets. It was utilized by Joe and Barbara Anderson of Bloomington, Indiana, for their summer bike tour TRIRI (The Ride in Rural Indiana). However, the Hoosier Hills route has fallen into disuse, the pavement markers have been paved over in many places and the signs are gone. Bringing this network back to life would be an outstanding boost to dual-function cycling lanes.

The subject of dedicated off-road bike lanes, such as rail corridors, has many positive factors going for it, but currently, these trails cannot be as comprehensive as the basic roadways of Indiana , which reach into all communities. Cyclists are naturally concerned that dedicated bicycle trails may cause the perception or expectation by the motoring public that cyclists should ride only on the dedicated trail and not on the roadways. Nonetheless, these corridors can serve a great purpose for commuters, for family rides with children, for fitness riders, and in the case of longer distance corridors (such as the Katy Trail in Missouri) as a great venue for cycle touring. Crowding is a problem on many corridors, too, and we hope there will be traffic volume studies before deciding the appropriate width and structure of such trails.

In the corridors described above, a major concern is the “multi-use” trail, if the trail is not wide enough to accommodate various types of users and does not clearly designate which type of use is permitted in which lane of the trail. As cyclists, we have found ourselves contending with walkers who sometimes string themselves across the trail so they can walk abreast and talk. We’ve seen kids who dart into a bike’s path after making a temporary escape from holding a parent’s hand. We’ve observed dog owners with pets on long leashes that make a considerable hazard for a bicycle even at low speed. The other trail users probably have noted a few faults among the cyclists, too! If a trail is to be truly and safely “multi-use”, it must separate vehicle (bicycle) traffic from foot traffic to avoid the risks of vehicle/pedestrian accidents.

The success of these dedicated off-road bikeways, however, is overwhelming in many of the places where they have been constructed and we warmly welcome future thoughtful constructions, especially in disused rail corridors that could provide long distance fitness riding opportunities and serve to connect communities in rural areas.

Other areas of the USA and the rest of the world accommodate bicycles readily on roadways. Some examples include:

  • Holland’s world-famous bike lanes that are part of every road system throughout the entire country.
  • Germany’s construction of bike lanes and requirements that all new bridge and roadway construction include accommodation for non-motorized traffic.
  • California’s bicycle lanes on highways. Wherever a solid white line exists along the right side of the road, the road-space to the right is the bike lane. Bikes are required to ride here and motorists are expected to respect this accommodation.
  • Columbus, IN with its outstanding local People Trail network of bike lanes that stretches all over this medium-size city, parallels Highway 46E into town, and even goes under the I-65 corridor on the city’s west side.

In summary, we envision the Indiana State Trails, Greenways and Bikeways Plan fostering a statewide system with connectivity between all the various types of accommodation made for bicycle and other trail traffic. When such a system exists and is adequately supported, it may not be necessary to create a specific network of roads to link the scattered group of lanes and trails we currently have. With a statewide system in place, many local communities will see the benefits, feel the encouragement of their citizens, and respond with community initiatives such as those that could be funded with assistance from Local Transportation Enhancement Grants. Again, the example of Columbus, IN springs to mind.

Anyone can observe the Monon Trail in Indianapolis on a Saturday afternoon, and note how crowded it seems, and not just with bicyclists. The same observer could then glance at Westfield Boulevard, running along the Trail as it comes out of Broad Ripple, and note that no one is biking on that roadway, even though it is beautiful, well paved and shady. Borrowing a familiar phrase from the movies, “If you build it, they will come.”

We believe that this will hold true—and “they will come”—if INDOT and the DNR can work with the public to create bike lanes that integrate with existing roadways, more off-road cycle corridors, and a system for safe shared use on the low volume rural roads.

Tom Pritchard, former MABC President
Byron Nagel, MABC Secretary

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