Bicycles and America’s Crumbling Roads

I currently work less than a block from Interstate 65 on the north edge of downtown Indianapolis.  The highway is elevated and creates one of those tunnel/moats that surrounds the urban core in many American cities.  It’s hard to imagine a more effective barrier to bicycle and pedestrian movement than the long, dark passageway created by this highway. Very few people venture forth here.

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Interstate 65 at Capitol Avenue looking north from 11th Street and the IU Health parking lot, Indianapolis

Interstate 65 at Capitol Avenue looking north from 11th Street and the IU Health parking lot, Indianapolis.  A more effective pedestrian/bicycle barrier is hard to imagine.

I sometimes am required to pass under this highway to get to where I’m going and it’s never pleasant.  It’s dark and dangerous and provides plenty of good hiding places for people with evil intentions.  There’s wind and noise.  The road above me shakes and groans as fully loaded eighteen wheelers pass on through.    If it was up to me, I’d order it demolished.

As things stand, I probably wouldn’t have to.  It may fall down on its own.  The supports that hold the road up are crumbling.  I know the state knows because they’ve made a half-hearted effort to put some of that expansive foam on it.  I’m not kidding.  Check this out…

Expansive foam. Really.

Expansive foam. Really.

Here’s some more shots that will give you a feel for just how badly these supports are deteriorating.

I'm not sure if it's better to be on top of or under this. Mostly, I think it's better to be far away.

I’m not sure if it’s better to be on top of or under this. Mostly, I think it’s better to be far away.

I'm not an engineer, but I'm not an idiot, either.

I’m not a highway engineer, but I’m not an gullible fool, either.  This doesn’t look good to me.

I'm sure this is safe. I mean, it has to be, right?

Main lanes, I-65 north and southbound.

My goal here isn’t to bash the Indiana Department of Transportation.  I’ll save that for another post.  My primary objective today is to point out what may not be obvious to most folk.  America’s roads and bridges are falling apart and it’s a whole lot worse if you crawl around under them than it is if you’re crossing over them at 70 mph.

For whatever reason, we’ve made the decision as a people not to maintain our infrastructure, so if and when it fails we probably shouldn’t be surprised, nor should we demand someone else’s head on a platter.  Anyone who steals earmarked funds from the public till is complicit, as is anyone who doesn’t want his or her taxes raised to take care of this. Imagine your family on this bridge deck.

I think you know as well as I do that we’re not going to raise the gas tax anywhere near where it needs to be to fix our roads and bridges.  We don’t have the courage for that.  If I’m right, then we need another solution…one that allows our tax dollars to go a lot further.

Bicycles are the obvious solution.  Bicycles require less space which means less pavement.   Bicycles also require less space to park and store, which means you can live in a smaller space with a shed instead of a five hundred square foot garage out back. Because bicycles weigh 95% less than cars, they require a whole lot less road base.

It’s true that we can’t use bicycles for all of our transportation needs, but we can and should use bicycles for a lot of our moving around…especially when the distance is five miles or less.  When that’s the case, bicycles are a no-brainer.

So ride your bicycle.   Ride it proudly.  Let others know that you are part of the solution and encourage them to ride with you.  We’re not going to fix this problem with expansive foam, but we stand a chance of fixing it with bicycles.

So just ride.


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