Could horses soon stride the Monon?

(Photo illustration)

(Photo illustration)

By Karen Kennedy

At the Oct. 7 City Council meeting, Councilor Ron Carter addressed a long-tabled ordinance on bike use in the city. The ordinance was first considered in May, and Carter sponsored it as an effort at increasing pedestrian safety on the Monon Trail.

In its tenth reading at the Sept. 16 council meeting, Councilor Eric Seidensticker addressed the delay in the progress of the ordinance by stating that it had been referred for legal consideration to City Court Judge Brian Poindexter and City Attorney Doug Haney, and that the two of them had encountered numerous scheduling conflicts.

On Oct. 7 Carter read aloud from an email from Haney in which Haney said that he would not entertain any version of the ordinance which contained “horse language.”

Carter went on to state that he had recently come to understand that Poindexter had written in language allowing horseback riding on the Monon and that he had also removed the 15 to 20 mph speed limit on the trail from the ordinance.

In a statement issued by the office of Community Relations, Haney responded: “While our schedules have not allowed Judge Brian Poindexter and I to get together to discuss this proposed ordinance in person, the Judge’s most recent draft still allows for horses to be ridden on the city’s multi-use paths and trails, including the Monon Greenway. For a variety of health, safety and practical reasons, I do not support the inclusion of horses as an approved use on the trail. In addition, I feel it would make taxpayers liable for issues that arise out of this additional trail/path use that brings with it a great deal of risk that is inherent to horseback riding. When horseback riders are mixed with pedestrians, bicycle riders, skaters and other trail users, that risk is increased.”

But horses on the Monon are not an unusual sight in Indianapolis.

“Our officers patrol the Monon regularly on horseback,” said Lt. Chris Bailey, a public information officer for IMPD. “You’ll see them out there two or three times a day, interacting with dog walkers and cyclists. I’ve never seen civilians on horseback on the trail, but it’s not illegal.”

The original ordinance was crafted by Haney on April 18, and it set out to address basic issues such as:

  • When and how bicyclists are to yield to cars and pedestrians.
  • When and how cars are to yield to bikes and pedestrians.
  • How dog walkers are to handle their pets.

There is universal confusion as to whether or not cars should yield to Monon traffic as it crosses city streets. According to state law, motor traffic has the right of way. After questions arose as to whether or not any specifications in the ordinance might conflict with state law, the ordinance was handed over to Poindexter and Haney for review. It has been in their review for five months.

Poindexter declined to comment for this article.

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