Indianola Realignment to Include Bike Lanes, but Advocates Pushing for Better Ones
A planned resurfacing of Indianola Avenue from North Broadway to Hudson Street will provide an opportunity to rearrange the street and add bike lanes.
The City of Columbus has picked its favorite option for the realignment, and has presented the design to the neighborhood. The project picks up where a previous effort left off – a “road diet” that added bike lanes to Indianola from Morse Road to just north of North Broadway – and would also connect up to the city’s only protected bike lane, the two-way Summit Street cycletrack that extends from Hudson to 11th Avenue.
The changes north of North Broadway have slowed down cars, reduced crashes, and encouraged more cyclists to ride along the stretch, according to the city (a recent count found about 50 cyclists using the lanes in a single day).
Justin Goodwin, Transportation Planning Manager for the City of Columbus, said that a similar count south of North Broadway found 110 cyclists on a single day. Since more people currently bike that stretch of the corridor – despite the lack of any bike facilities at all – the proposed upgrades could have an even bigger impact.
Most of the stretch under consideration is currently five lanes wide, consisting of a center turning lane and two travel lanes for cars in both directions, with parking available in the curb lanes any time except for rush hour.
The city’s preferred design would keep one lane open for parking at all times, and add painted (non-protected) bike lanes on each side of the street, although there are several “pinch points” where the bike lanes disappear and cyclists would have to share a lane with cars.
Three other alternatives were analyzed:
- Alternative 1: “No-build” option.
- Alternative 2: Two-way protected bike lane (like the Summit lane), with parking removed.
- Alternative 3: Buffered bike lanes on each side, with parking removed.
Goodwin said that the city and its consultant concluded that each of those options was “either…infeasible or inconsistent with achieving project objectives,” but the deadline to submit comments on the plan has been extended to October 6, and there is still a chance that the the design could change before a final decision is made.
“We’re seeking feedback on the recommended concept, and should there be adjustments based on feedback that we’re getting…or should we find that there isn’t sufficient support for these concepts, then that’ll inform how we will move forward,” said Goodwin.
A sample letter posted by the group encourages people to contact the city.
“Overall, Alt 3 provides the best opportunity to improve the corridor for everyone,” the letter reads, adding that the city’s choice “has legitimate benefits but also some drawbacks.”
When the Summit Street bike lane opened in 2015, it was celebrated as the first protected lane in Columbus – cyclists were protected from car traffic via a buffer of parked cars and plastic bollards.
Although many cities have built out large protected lane networks in the last decade – citing studies that show how they expand mobility options for underserved residents, and even boost local businesses – Columbus has not built any since Summit Street.
Goodwin said there are several reasons why protected lanes weren’t chosen as the preferred alternative for Indianola, including concerns from some neighbors about losing parking spaces.
Asked why protective bollards couldn’t simply be added to the Alternative 4 scenario (on the side of the street without a parking lane), he said that there isn’t space even for the narrow bollards the city used on Summit.
There is also “an equipment access issue that we have to date not been able to address,” Goodwin said, explaining that the city does not have a way to clear snow or other debris from more narrow, single-direction bike lanes.
The Department of Public Service is “discussing and exploring options for being able to do that and acquiring the equipment, and the labor impact of that sort of thing,” he added.
The University Area Commission also submitted a letter to the city regarding the plans for Indianola, expressing concern that the recommended changes do not directly address issues the neighborhood has with speeding cars and dangerous traffic conditions on Hudson.
Goodwin said that the city and its consultant did look at the possibility of extending the two-way Summit bike lane onto Hudson to connect it up to Indianola, but decided against that approach due to a lack of space and the potential for too many conflicts with cars turning into businesses along that stretch. Although nothing is currently scheduled, he added that Public Service is interested in undertaking a larger study of Hudson, looking at improving the pedestrian and cycling experience from the Olentangy Trail to Linden, where improvements are now underway.
Even after a final decision on the realignment is made, it likely won’t be implemented until late 2023, which is when the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to resurface Indianola between North Broadway and Hudson.