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Your City Has a Complete Streets Policy. But Does It Have Complete Streets?

11:38 AM EDT on July 1, 2015

Is this a complete street? Image: Google Maps via Urban Indy
Is this a complete street? Image: Google Maps via Urban Indy
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Indianapolis passed a Complete Streets ordinance in 2012 to much fanfare. Three years later, how well is the city designing streets for walking and biking?

Mayor Greg Ballard shepherded the fantastic Indianapolis Cultural Trail through to completion in 2013, but Emily Neitzel at Urban Indy says recent street revamps outside the downtown area are hit and miss.

The Emerson Avenue project between Shelbyville Road and I-65 brought a sidewalk to the east side of the road where there previously was no sidewalk, and in this case a strip of grass if not a tree well was added to separate the sidewalk.

However, sidewalks are still lacking on the west side of the street. Furthermore, at the intersections where major businesses like Target, Aldi, and Home Depot are located on both the east and west sides of Emerson, there is no crosswalk to go from east to west. The intersection at Emerson and Southport Road, where more businesses are located on both sides of the street, also lacks an east-west pedestrian crosswalk.

The project document from DPW notes that traffic along this corridor has increased by 600% in two decades, and the project’s increase from two lanes for automobile traffic to five makes this a priority. In fact, the summary of the benefits listed in the document does not even include benefits for pedestrians or bikers; instead highlighting “reduced traffic congestion and better driving conditions” in addition to a longer life for the roadway.

Neitzel notes that, per Smart Growth America, a complete street corridor should "make it easy to cross the street" and "walk to shops." Indianapolis's Emerson Avenue project doesn't do that.

Writes Neitzel: "A sidewalk on one side of a major auto thoroughfare without a safe way to cross the street or a safe destination for pedestrians once they reach the other side really does not a complete street make."

Elsewhere on the Network today: Citizens for Modern Transit reports that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner plans to decimate funding for the state's Amtrak service, Greater Greater Washington explains why Baltimore's Red Line needs to go underground, and City Parks Blog says parks shouldn't be scapegoated for gentrification.

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