Imagine a city where bikers and walkers are just as important as cars. That is, wherever cars can go,bikes and pedestrians can go there too, only more efficiently.
So, if you needed a gallon of milk you might consider hopping on your bike or even walking to get it instead of hopping in the car. Or sending your kids down to the store on their bikes. Considering Indiana’s obesity rate and low fitness levels across demographics (both adults and children), it seems we could use more opportunities to get up and move around a bit.
Our schools, hospitals, the Department of Health, even the NFL (see their Play 60 program) recognize that we have a fitness problem. So, what is the city doing to help solve that problem?
Yes, we have trails but they are almost all recreational. They are designed for people to use in their spare time for exercise. They don’t go to places we need to go regularly, like the grocery store, to work or to church. We need to rethink where we are building our trails and what we’re connecting with them.
We need new ones that we can use to live our daily lives so we can work exercise into our regular routine.
What would that take?
It would take a dedicated urban bike trail somehow protected from cars. That means it wouldn’t necessarily follow streets and roads but use other rights of way. It would connect trails so walkers and riders wouldn’t have to share streets with cars. It would mean building bridges over creeks and busy streets. It would connect neighborhoods to businesses, schools and parks, and neighborhoods to each other. I call it the Noblesville Trailway.
It’s a tall order and it would not be built overnight. But we have a great infrastructure with which to work in or historic city built on a grid pattern. We have railroad rights of ways in town that could easily be transformed into bike- and walkways. We have alleys and little used roads that could be used predominantly for bikes and walking. We have lots of potential. But we need to think differently.
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be changing the culture. We are so used to using cars as our primary vehicles that alternatives will take some getting used to. But that’s the future. People want alternative transportation and cities that fail to accommodate those desires will fall behind. Let’s lead the effort on this one and become Hamilton County’s most walkable and bike-able city.
We’ve been losing ground over the past few years but it’s not too late to catch up. With a change in priorities we can make it happen.