It has been a beautiful autumn in the Midwest. The temperature today climbed into the 70s yet again here in Indianapolis, making it a perfect day for me to go on Walkabout and explore the pervasiveness of car culture in downtown Indianapolis. These are random observations, all shot within two blocks of the office where I work.
On Street Parking
I’m beginning to think that the easiest way to make cities better is to simply eliminate on street free parking and ban parking altogether on many streets including all narrow ones. If businesses need parking, let them provide it. There’s simply no reason to clog our streets with stored automobiles. This is not the function of a street.
These folks are becoming a more common sight throughout downtown Indianapolis and this is a very good thing. They are doing so in spite of a relatively hostile environment. Interestingly, many are eschewing the award winning Cultural Trail and taking their cycling game to the streets where it belongs. Note to city boosters and admins…instead of building fancy infrastructure, it might be more cost-effective and productive to enforce existing traffic laws and educate motorists as to their responsibilities around other road users.
Our streets are falling apart. There’s lots of grumbling about it but very little being done to fix them. That’s fine with me. They’re perfect for a 29er with wide tires. My next car is going to be a Surly Krampus. It’s kind of like a Jeep Wrangler only more fun.
Motorists Behaving Badly
When I first became interested in active transportation, I remember watching a movie in which Enrique Peñalosa said that one of the most important things his team did to change the mindset about bicycles and transportation in Bogotá was to ban parking on the sidewalk. Apparently it was quite common. I thought it was odd thing to say. I’d never seen that before. Turns out I just wasn’t paying attention. When a car wants to park on the sidewalk in Indianapolis, the car always wins. Some of the biggest violators are large hotels like the Conrad and Westin. So much for the “roads are for cars” argument. In Indy, sidewalks are for cars, too.
By shining the spotlight on this stuff, it is my hope is that we will steer the discussion and cause people to think differently about the place of cars in our cities. Even with all the positive changes, too much of our space is given over to automobiles without a second thought. This needs to change. As it does, cycling will become more attractive and more people will choose their bikes, especially for trips of five miles or less!