The Time Is Right for Trails in Indy (New Hours, New Opportunities)

Posted 03/09/15 by Katie Harris in Trail Use

Indy Cultural Trail in Indianapolis, Ind. | Photo by Robert Annis
Opening Day for Trails is right around the corner!

On March 28, 2015—people around the nation will be getting out to celebrate their favorite pathways and kick off spring in honor of RTC’s third annual Opening Day for Trails. Visit our Opening Day website, and make your official pledge to hit a trail on March 28.

As we lead up to Opening Day, we’re pleased to highlight another great example of a community doing great work on the ground to make their trails great places to walk and bike.

Indianapolis, Ind., is home to an Opening Day for Trails event this year! Learn how you can get involved.

Spring is a time of transition, longer days and, for many of us, enjoying that glorious sunshine we’ve been deprived of for the last few months!

During this great gateway into long and sumptuous summer evenings—we put that winter riding gear away piece by piece, replacing our gloves and bulky scarves with T-shirts, trail picnics, gentle sunsets…and eventually tank tops and sunscreen.

Indy Cultural Trail | Photo courtesy Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc.

In Indianapolis, however, the change in seasons comes with another change for trail systems around the city: extended hours for trail use! In the past, trails have been open from dusk to dawn, but thanks to the hard work of trail advocates, hours have been extended from 5 a.m. to midnight. Awesome.

Now, biking and walking will be viable transportation options in the early morning hours and in the evenings—elevating active transportation as a commuting choice for residents and visitors.

And there’s more…according to trail advocates, the ultimate goal is to see trails in the region open 24/7 (that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week!)

Connie Szabo Schmucker, advocacy director at Bicycle Garage Indy, points out: People who use trails as commuting corridors benefit immensely from the separate infrastructure. But if the trails are closed when they need them—the infrastructure loses its value.

“Drivers are not told that they cannot use the roads at night,” says Szabo Schmucker. “Why should people who use bicycles as their main form of transportation be asked to use different infrastructure simply based on time of day?”

On the Monon Trail | Photo by Robert Annis

“If they are using trails as their main transportation corridors, what are the options for those with less traditional work schedules?” asks Leslie Gordon, director of communications for Indy Parks and Recreation. She adds that some commuters in Indianapolis want to use the trails before 5 a.m. on a daily basis, and some leave work after the midnight trail closures. These individuals are forced to choose a back-up option that makes them less comfortable, such as on-road cycling. Meanwhile, the infrastructure specifically built for biking and walking remains empty.

Gordon believes the benefits of 24-hour trail use will be extremely beneficial not just for riders, but for people who live along the trail as well. With more eyes on the trails at different parts of the day, the corridors will remain safe places for all users.

There is an “aura of connectivity” that permeates Indianapolis, and as the city’s infrastructure continues to improve, access to that infrastructure is on the minds of many decision-makers. With the support of local and regional government, community members and adjacent landowners, Gordon hopes residents in the Indianapolis region will be able to use the infrastructure not just when the clock is “right,” but when they actually need it.

“This time change has been a long time in the making, and it really is the best practice,” she says. “[People] feel safer on the trails as compared to roads, so why shouldn’t the infrastructure be available? We want to make sure we have the best policies out there for them.”

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