Pleasant Run Cultural Ride
With the end nearing for the USBR #35 project to create a bike route that goes from La Porte to Clarksville, Hoosier Rails to Trails Council (HRTC) started a few years ago to task with the challenges brought by the concept of connecting established trails with routes on streets. USBR #35 takes advantage of the Erie Trail in North Judson, the Nickel Plate in its entirety and parts of the Monon Trail, Cultural Trail, and Pennsy Trail on the east side of Indianapolis. All the rest, except a small portion of the Columbus People Trail, is on roads. This 350 mile, awe-inspiring venture led us to envision an all-new potential of connectivity, associated, of course, with an all-new degree of challenges about safety and suitability.
Going from trails to roads, opens again the long time contention about the unresolved question if biking has to be conceived as a recreational activity or is a way of transportation. What we will see in the next years; an increasing number of bicyclists invading all kind of roads, will make this question futile. But today we still have to deal with some major obstacles which slow down a more extensive use of bicycles in our daily basic activities.
Strictly speaking, I think confidence on biking a road and safety, are the major reasons that hold people back from riding a bike work or shopping. With the increasing miles of bike lanes in our cities, we are getting more used to dealing with bikes in traffic, and I am not referring only to the bikers. Many drivers show by the way they drive, that when they are close to bikers in a road, they have a hard time interpreting the new situation, unprepared to deal with a slower vehicle like a bicycle. This can be dangerous for cars and for bicycles as well as for reckless driving.
To get prepared for what, very soon, will become a very common situation, that we will have to deal with in our daily commuting; cities and communities are developing new ways to educate people on how to manage the entrance of this “new vehicle” in the arena of transportation.
HRTC contribution to this historical change in our society closely follows the experience we had designing the USBR#35 route. We thought to expand the boundaries of an established trail by adding important adjacent districts that could be enjoyed while riding a bike. We call these proposed excursions Cultural Rides.
As a base in our first project we started by using the Pleasant Run Greenway, which is by itself an historical route designed by George Kessler. As it exists now, the trail already has to use two streets, English Avenue and E. Washington Street, to connect the three parts of the greenway. Our intent on designing this route is to bring in two communities that are just touched by the Pleasant Run Greenway; Fountain Square in the south west, and Irvington to north east.
In the fall of 2014, in collaboration with Suzanne Stanis, Director of Education at Indiana Landmarks, we organized a bike tour starting in Garfield Park which followed the Pleasant Run Greenway to Irvington, then made a loop back through Fountain Square. A 14.5 mile easy loop ride spaced out by four speakers who talked about:
|The history of Garfield Park by JoEllen Meyers Sharp. [Watch Interviev]||How this route relates to Kessler’s work by Tina Jones. [Watch Interviev]||The importance of the community of Irvington by Steve Barnett. [Watch Interviev]||An overview of what the future will be of these historical marks by Don Colvin. [Watch Interviev]|
To extend the boundaries of the trail we used bike lanes and the careful use of secondary roads that allowed the taste of what it means to share a street with cars without having to feel overwhelmed by heavy traffic.
This very successful experience, sustained by dozens of enthusiastic bikers, made us think that this could be easily enjoyed by anybody who wishes to spend half a day visiting a corner of Indianapolis so rich in culture, history and in many ways of authenticity of what our roots are.
Our map and video suggests just some points of interest but the ride proposed has much more to offer. Even Irvington by itself hides many layers of interest, architecture, history, the unique urban typology of the town, or just the discovery of good restaurants or fun shopping. With easy parking the streets along the route, the ride can be planned from anywhere, making for example Irvington the starting point and Fountain Square the destination for lunch, thus making for a pleasant excursion.
The underlying reason to propose this first Cultural Ride, which we hope will be followed by many others, is to see bicycles out there; sharing streets with cars, showing that it is possible to reach places, go to locations, spend time with friends and family while using a bike; to become a true example of alternative transportation.
Share with us your experience to let us improve our effort.
Article by Guido Maregatti