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Indianapolis has come to be known as the “Motor City” for hosting the Indianapolis 500, but it is an appropriate title   for another reason. On average, Hoosier’s drive 11,110 miles per year, per capita.With few alternate modes of transportation, it’s no surprise we rely on our “motors” more than any other Midwest state.

According to the 2010 US Census, 55.5% of Indy residents commute more than 10 miles in one direction to work – that means over 20 miles, round trip, just commuting to work. Another 23.3% of residents report commuting more than 25 miles in one direction work work, or over 50 miles round trip! The data further shows that 92.2% of all Indy commuters are traveling by car. A little less than 5% use an alternate mode of transportation: 1.8% commute by bus and 2.9% walk or bike (roughly 3% reported working from home).

Nationally, it’s estimated that transportation contributes to 1/3 of our greenhouse gases. In order to change our climate crisis, Indy must change its transportation behaviors. With nearly 900,000 residents, even small changes can amount to big results.



Sitting just outside the perimeter of the urban core, traditional urban neighborhoods play an important role in the success of the city due to their high levels of ownership and long-term investment in the city. These neighborhoods commonly offer quieter streets, a pedestrian friendly atmosphere, and additional private space for residents.

This article discusses some of the physical design features which make urban neighborhoods pedestrian friendly. A walk through Lockerbie Square, one of Indianapolis’ well known historic neighborhoods, provides inspiration for this post.

1. Tree Canopy Large canopy trees help provide visual enclosure to the street and also have many environmental benefits which relate directly to water quality, energy efficiency, and air quality.

2. On Street Parking On street parallel parking helps provide a buffer between the roadway and the pedestrian zone while efficiently utilizing the existing street R.O.W. The additional use of the road also helps to slow vehicular traffic when individuals access their vehicles.

3. Travel Lane Size A narrow travel lane promotes slower vehicular traffic and lowers the speed differential between vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Streets with lower speeds promote safer cycling and reduce the need for separation between vehicles and bicycles.

4. Building Placement Placing the front of the building in close proximity to the street helps encourage activity between the pedestrian zone and the front steps of the residence. Narrow lots increase the frequency of front doors and the number of residents that watch over the street.

5. Architectural Design The inclusion of a front porch and an actively used room on the front of the residence, such as a living or family room, is important to help provide visual access to and from the street. Refined architectural detail or styling adds to the interests of the residence and provides greater incentive for walking throughout the neighborhood.

6. Alleys Alleys offer additional functionality to the neighborhood by providing a dedicated service entry, the addition of a secondary pedestrian walk, and the opportunity to increase water quality for the neighborhood.

7. Walking Paths The quality of a walking path is often determined by its context. All of the design features listed above are important in establishing a safe, enjoyable, and well-utilized pedestrian zone. A buffer between the vehicular path and walking path is commonly desirable to provide separation between vehicular and pedestrian zones.

Overall, these design features must be incorporated to form a cohesive pattern which emphasizes the scale of pedestrians and bicycles rather than the automobile. Other social, economic, and environmental factors provide additional layers of consideration when creating successful urban neighborhoods. Additional information regarding the Lockerbie Neighborhood can be found through the following link. http://www.lockerbiesquare.org/

We recently read this article on thisbigcity.net that discussed the concept of shared streets, where pedestrians and vehicles are placed on the same surface without any delineation between sidewalk and street. Ostensibly, the theory behind this movement is that streets are safer by making them more risky. The article lists a few factors that contribute to this idea. By making streets shared, it encouraged more people to be closer to cars, which caused vehicles to drive slower and yield more often to pedestrians. The goal accomplished by this was to reduce the dominance automobiles had on the street. Of course there are issues to this concept. Do people feel comfortable walking next to cars along the road? The author also points out issues with those with disabilities, especially those who are blind, who tended to favor separation between pedestrian and vehicle.

This concept of shared streets is already utilized in some form in downtown Indianapolis, IN. The first example is Monument Circle where there are no lights, stop signs, yield signs, or lane definitions of any kind. Pedestrians cross the brick street to visit the monument and back on all 360 degrees of the circle and yet there are hardly any pedestrian/vehicle accidents.

Another example, the newly designed Georgia Street also features a curbless median where people share the same spaces that cars use to travel. Whether this concept of shared streets is an effective solution for all streets or should be reserved for key streets within cities, it is another tool for urban designers and planners to consider. Check out the article here: http://thisbigcity.net/are-streets-more-walkable-pavements-removed/

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