Transportation

The Two-Wheeled Revolution is Here and Street Design Has Never Been More Critical

“SCOOTERS.”

The very utterance of the phrase will not garnish a shrug. Someone will give you a hard opinion on whether or not they love them or hate them. They’re instantly accessible, have low-income user programs, are all-electric, and can be picked up or dropped off anywhere. There have been challenges, to say that least. Scooters are often ridden on sidewalks, parked on curb ramps, or left in other inconvenient places. Some who have a personal vendetta with the scooters have pushed them over into the sidewalk, thrown them into the river, or dropped them into the canal.

Some of these problems have begun to wane as the scooters become less of a novelty and gain regular users (there is still an issue when visitors from the suburbs come into the city and use them on weekend nights). Anecdotally, the parking is becoming less of a problem as people encounter inconsiderately parked ones.

Despite the angst, the scooters are likely here to stay, and the City should work to ensure that this is the case. It’s in the best interest of the City, and the public, to reduce the usage of polluting, heavy, and dangerous motor vehicles (at the time of writing this, five pedestrians in Indianapolis had been hit and killed by drivers) and encourage the use of a mode of transportation that covers trips that are too short for driving, but too far for walking, and can serve as a great first/last mile connector to other modes of transportaiton.

Unfortunately, our current designs and policies don’t reflect this need. Signage regarding scooters is non-existent, save for a few recently positioned signs along the White River Greenway behind the Zoo, which is managed by the State. Ordinances regarding the scooters aren’t posted anywhere except for a brief excerpt on the app when the user first books and ride and in small print by the feet (but even that does not display the nuances regarding the greenways and the Cultural Trail).

The current set of policies is deeply confusing for users, especially those who are new. Scooters are treated as other two-wheeled vehicles (bicycles), except when they aren’t. Our safest infrastructure for bicycles in the city center and throughout the city, our greenways and Cultural Trail, are off-limits to scooters (but there is no signage for this). Quite frankly, scooter riders simply do not feel safe on our current city streets. Our current on-street bikeways system has made enormous strides since 2008, when we have virtually no bike infrastructure at all, but still needs much work. Thankfully, the City has worked incredibly hard to put together the IndyMoves plan, which is open for its final round of public comment until November 1.

A frequent concern regarding the scooters is safety and the spike in hospital visits due to their presence. The dark reality is that this is not a new problem. Street safety has been a major issue in Indianapolis for some time. However, with the sudden proliferation of two-wheeled vehicles being available city-wide, this safety problem is thrown into the Limelight (pardon the pun). Vehicle miles traveled on two-wheeled vehicles is suddenly spiking, more people are now considered vulnerable street users than ever, and our existing right-of-way allocations are almost exclusively dedicated to the movement and storage of a single mode of transportation.

If we, as a city and a county, want to achieve the Thrive Indy goal of becoming carbon neuatral by 2050, then we need to have policies and street design standards that support and prioritize using low-cost, small-scale, and low- to no-energy transportation modes. This means aggressively refining and implementing the IndyMoves plan, the Pedal Indy plan, and completely rethinking what streets are for in Indianapolis.

Posted by StrongIndy in General Article, 0 comments