Why Cities Should “Steal” the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Indianapolis' Cultural Trail puts safe, comfortable connections right where people want to be. Image: NextSTL
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail puts safe, comfortable biking and walking connections right where people want to be. Photo: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center via NextSTL

Indianapolis has set a great example for other cities with its “Cultural Trail,” eight miles of biking and walking routes through the heart of the city. According to a recent study, the $63 million project has been well worth it, drawing people downtown and leading to a surge in local business creation and hiring along the trail route.

Alex Ihnen at NextSTL sees lessons for his own city in the success of the Indy Cultural Trail. While St. Louis is developing greenways, Ihnen says its routes are missing the key element of what makes Indy’s example so successful:

The investment in St. Louis is being spent in out-of-the-way places, next to Interstate highways, along old rail lines in residential areas, on side streets and empty land on the edges of successful development, and not as a part of it, in the middle of it, where people want to go. We’re not capitalizing on our investment.

The key is building the trail where it will be used, where it will catalyze development and where it can augment the built environment and existing investment. This is more expensive and more difficult than greenways under power lines next to an Interstate, but it also has an exponentially greater impact.

Ihnen says St. Louis should “steal” the ideas that guided the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. It’s a wonder more cities aren’t trying to do the same thing.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment reports that Midwestern newspapers are lining up against a precedent-setting proposal that would drain water from the Great Lakes to bail out a poorly planned sprawling suburb of Milwaukee. And We Are Mode Shift reports that Detroit is nearing completion of its extension of the awesome Dequindre Cut rail-trail — which is part of a larger network of planned biking and walking paths called Link Detroit.

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