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Friday, December 3, 2021

‘This isn’t motorists vs. cyclists’: Group calls for safer roads for all

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On a recent fall afternoon, Alice Avidor rode her bike downtown. She said she had the right of way at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and East Illinois Street when a driver accelerated to beat her to a left turn. Avidor said she’s lucky: she walked away from what easily could have been a fatal collision with minor injuries. She’s confident, though, that the city can do better when it comes to road safety.

“I don’t see this as a blaming game,” Avidor said during a candlelight vigil for victims of road accidents Nov. 21. “This isn’t motorists vs. cyclists; this is an urban design issue.”

From 2019 to 2020, the number of fatal collisions in Indianapolis rose 31%, compared to an 8% increase nationwide. According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, there have been over 180 collisions involving pedestrians, as well as over 50 reported collisions involving people on bikes. In 2020, nine cyclists died as a result of a crash. By July, seven Indianapolis cyclists had been killed in a collision.

Workers at Bike Indianapolis, a nonprofit striving to increase cycling in Indianapolis, want to see safer roads for everyone who uses them.

“We’re on track for one of the deadliest years for traffic violence in Indianapolis, right after setting a record last year,” Damon Richards, executive director of Bike Indianapolis, said in a statement. “People keep saying something has to be done but assume someone else has to do it. Our mayor and city-county council must act to make our streets safer or more people are going to die.”

At the vigil, members of Bike Indianapolis shared their recommendations for the city with a group of roughly 20 cyclists assembled at Lugar Plaza outside of the city-county building:

  • Create a crash response team led by city-county employees and includes independent citizens to review crash sites which involve either pedestrians or cyclists following collisions in order to detail infrastructure, document contributing conditions and recommend improvements to streets to prevent future deaths.
  • Develop a clear channel of communication and database that publicizes crash data and collision reports promptly following inspection by crash response team.
  • Respond to recommendations provided by the crash response team and execute plans to update infrastructure and policy in order to avoid future crashes.

Among the crowd at Lugar Plaza was Councilor Crista Carlino. As a member of the Public Works committee, Carlino said there’s a lot local government can do to impact safety on the roads. Carlino echoed DPW Director Dan Parker in advocating for narrowing lanes, as well as reducing the speed limit on main roads and neighborhood streets.

“We all have a part to play in this,” Carlino said after the vigil. “We need folks to slow down. Our streets are built to be the racing capitol of the world, and that’s a dangerous sport to play. We’ve got pedestrians and cyclists to protect, and I’m going to make sure our dollars go to keeping people safe.”

Carlino also suggested that the city could institute a crash reporting system through the Mayor’s Action Center, similar to how residents can report a pothole.

Improving the roads and sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists, Bike Indianapolis representative Lane Wolf said, benefits everyone.

“Motorists, people on bikes and pedestrians, all benefit from safer roads,” Lane said. “… We want to create a safe place for all people, not just cars.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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