Column: Paths should be added to Carmel’s major thoroughfares


So lemme get this straight. The Carmel City Council is under fire for a new rule which would require “multi-use paths” along major arteries, such as 116th Street, Range Line Road, and (I would hope) 126th Street.

These multi-use paths would take the place of bike lanes accompanied by traditional sidewalks. Picture Monon Trails along each major thoroughfare in town. Bicyclers, joggers and dog walkers would share the paths, and (presumably) stay off the streets.

But apparently some homeowners are complaining that multi-use paths would run through their front yards.

I don’t live on a major artery, but I understand the homeowners’ complaint. Still, I have to think any effort to remove bicyclers from our streets should be applauded.

In fact, I’d take the initiative one step further. I’d require cyclers to stay off those streets which have accompanying multi-use paths. I can’t tell you how many times rush hour traffic along Hazel Dell Parkway has come to an abrupt stop because some bicycler refused to use the wide bike paths (provided by the city, using our taxes) on either side of the road.

The “serious” cyclers will complain that they don’t want to share the bike paths with walkers, joggers and “casual” cyclers. My response is always, “So you use the street instead?”

Eventually, a cycler is going to be hit by a vehicle, in what could only be described as a very preventable accident.

I rarely drive the streets of West Carmel, but recently I was returning from an activity at Creekside Middle School along busy West 131st Street. Traffic plodded so slowly I thought there was road construction ahead. Instead, I saw a bicycler taking up just enough of the travel lane that eastbound cars were forced to dart around him in between the oncoming westbound vehicles.

And there was an unused bike path right next to him!

Now I understand that cyclers prefer to use the road when there is no bike path available. Try to envision a bicycler using the narrow sidewalk along East 126th Street at the Cool Creek bridge.

I get that.

But what if the city were to build a multi-use path along 126th Street? And then require that cyclers use it? Our streets would be safer, and so would our cyclers.

A good wide multi-use path is almost a no-brainer along 116th Street east of Keystone Parkway. This is the one section of 116th Street which is not a four-lane road. Even in busy downtown Fishers, 116th Street is four lanes. Given the amount of traffic 116th carries, I would think this stretch of roadway would already be four lanes wide without bike lanes.

Instead, we have just one lane in each direction, with bike lanes. And if traffic backs up behind a slow dump truck, at least the cyclers have a lane to use.

Let’s change this now!

Remember the flack Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard took when he removed a traffic lane in each direction along Broad Ripple Avenue so that bike lanes could be added? We don’t want that in Carmel. Our city is new enough, and our streets have enough room, that multi-use paths can, and should, be added to each major thoroughfare.

Sure, they’ll eat up a little bit of some front yards, but then homeowners who bought property along major streets had to have known something like this (either a widening of the street or the addition of a wider sidewalk/bike-path) would eventually occur.