Indy Walkabout

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.

Why is Roanoke Street between 10th and Michigan a linear parking lot? Remove these cars and you have the perfect shared street. That's the state capitol in the distance.

Why is Roanoke Street between 10th and Michigan a linear parking lot? Remove these cars and you have the perfect shared street, a real honest to goodness bicycle boulevard and pedestrian promenade. That’s the state capitol in the distance.

Free on street parking is not a constitutional right. Why are roads being used to store private vehicles?

Free on street parking is not a constitutional right. Why are roads being used to store private vehicles?

Parking on the right side of the street is free. It's metered on the left. No, I don't know why. Make people pay and the cars mysteriously disappear.

Parking on the right side of the street is free. It’s metered on the left. No, I don’t know why. Make people pay and the cars mysteriously disappear.

Vehicular Cyclists

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.

West 11th is a high speed, one way arterial. This woman is taking the lane. That makes her my hero. You go, girl.

West 11th is a high speed, one way arterial. This woman is right where she should be.  The bollard-looking thingies behind her are charging stations for the city’s new electric car sharing program, Blue Indy.

Cyclist on Roanoke Street. This is the same street that is being used as a linear parking lot.

Cyclist on Roanoke Street. This is the same street that is currently being used as a linear parking lot.  It’s such a natural cycling route that people are taking their chances with the door zone.

Crumbling Roads

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.

Muskingum Street between 12th and 13th. Hot patch isn't going to get'er done here.

Muskingum Street between 12th and 13th. Hot patch isn’t going to get’er done here.  My Krampus will navigate this just fine, though.

The bridges aren't much better. This is Interstate 65 over Capitol Avenue. Out of sight, out of mind.

The bridges aren’t much better. This is Interstate 65 over Capitol Avenue. Out of sight, out of mind.  Ignorance is bliss,  until it isn’t.

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.

Cars parked on the sidewalk directly in front of a no parking zone in downtown Indianapolis. No tickets. Business as usual.

Cars parked on the sidewalk directly in front of a no parking zone in downtown Indianapolis. No tickets. Business as usual.


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!

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