Street slimming.

My latest post went up last night on UrbanIndy.com.  The issue it features is fairly parochial: a minor collector street on the east side of Indianapolis is far wider than it needs to be.  Ritter Avenue, barely four miles long in its entirety, offers a reasonable accommodation for a segment south of East 10th Street, looking more or less like this:




It’s not perfect–no sidewalk for much of the west side of the road, few crosswalks, the southern portion has utilities poles blocking much of the existing paved space for the sidewalk–but the bike lanes are clearly striped with good signage, and the remaining sidewalk has a good setback from the street.  The neighborhood around it (mostly Irvington) is also fairly walkable.

Ritter Avenue north of 10th Street is a different story:


The street received a serious widening and exists solely to serve cars.  Speed limits have increased.  The hard curbs eliminate a safe shoulder for cyclists to ride on.  Why did the City do this?  Most likely it was to accommodate Community Hospital East, a major hub that sits at East 16th Street and Ritter.  (North of East 16th, Ritter reverts to essentially a country road).  Maybe Community Hospital needs somewhat wide streets to cater to emergency vehicles traveling at high speeds.  But East 16th, the other street that the hospital fronts, is not as wide as Ritter, despite being longer, more prominent, and having an overall higher average daily traffic volume.  (Ritter isn’t even a prominent enough street to justify a traffic count.)

If anything, this segment of Ritter Avenue would be a prime candidate for a road diet: reducing it from four lanes to two, or even reducing it to three lanes with a shared central turn lane (the same level of services that East 16th Street offers).  Both options would allow for larger shoulders that could accommodate both bike lanes and sidewalks.  Narrowing the width of the lanes might even allow for on street parking on one side of the street, further calming traffic and promoting a safer environment for a variety of users.

I explore this situation in much greater detail and with more photos on UrbanIndy.com.  Comments as always are welcome.

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