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Indiana town says “No” to bicycle tourism

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A city commission in Greenwood, Indiana (map), is turning away a proposed U.S. Bicycle Route that would take traveling bicyclists through the middle of its historic downtown.

Members of the Greenwood Board of Public Works and Safety rejected the bike route because of concerns about safety and potentially getting sued if someone gets injured, reports a story in the Indianapolis Business Journal.

It seemed surprising to me that a town would turn away tourism dollars, especially from those with such a low impact as touring bicyclists on the U.S. Bicycle Route System, a proposed 50,000-mile network of bicycle byways that will span the nation.

Rejection exception

I asked Ginny Sullivan, the Adventure Cycling Association’s coordinator for the bike route network, whether this is common.

“Yes, it happens occasionally. … However, it tends to be the exception. Most rural communities see bike tourism as an economic opportunity.”

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is “owned” by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which designates the individual route numbers after they’re requested by the individual states.

The first two USBRS routes were USBRS 1 in Virginia and North Carolina and USBRS 76 through Virginia and Kentucky and into Illinois. Later, in May 2011, USBRS 1 was designated in Maine and New Hampshire and USBRS 20 was approved across Michigan. Most paved roads in Alaska also are USBRS routes.

USBRS 35

In Indiana, volunteers with Hoosiers Rails to Trails Council have been going to communities to get approvals for the proposed USBRS 35, which would run from Michigan’s border with Canada in the north to the Gulf Coast in the south. About two dozen communities have supported the route.


The Greenwood Board of Public Works and Safety, however, found a problem with having cyclists ride into town on Madison Avenue, which passes through Old Town Greenwood. They suggested removing the bike route onto roads not under the town’s jurisdiction.

Sullivan told me that they’ve been able to resolve some towns’ rejections of a US Bicycle Route by rerouting onto state routes.

“I think over time, we’ll be able to show communities that they really don’t have anything to fear. Again, most communities see the designation as a good thing for their community,” she said.

Liability

The newspaper story quotes city officials saying that while bicyclists currently can ride through town on Madison Avenue, there are plans for bicycle paths along the street but they don’t exist yet.

“The city is concerned about accidents, but not that bicyclists could hold up traffic on Madison Avenue.”

Adventure Cycling has an online collection of studies about the liability of towns regarding bicyclists. Essentially, lawsuits against cities or road agencies usually arise when they’ve been notified of a hazardous condition but fail to either correct it or provide a warning.

It seems if a town is prudent about keeping its streets in safe condition, then the liability would be more than offset by the positive economic and community benefits of bicycle travel.

Let’s hope this liability concern doesn’t become an overriding issue.

Thanks to Adventure Cycling volunteer Kerry Irons of Michigan for correcting some facts about the USBRS.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2012/04/02/indiana-town-says-no-to-bicycle-tourism/

17 comments

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  1. C2Cin2006

    OMGosh Gee Willikerz!

    What an enlightened city Commission! We don’t want them smelly dirty bicyclist coming into our town and throwing themselves in front of the motor vehicles of OUR fair citizenry! Keep those vermin at bay.

    Why they would only buy a ice cream cone or bottle of pop anyway. Everyone knows that bicyclists are only traveling that way (on a non-motorized vehicle) because they are too cheap to be navigating in a giant fuel guzzling pick up or SUV!

    Send them around our fair town. Away with you silly peps on 2 wheels AND no motor!!

  2. David Fullerton

    Here in Memphis, we also have a street named Madison Ave. and we had lot of trouble getting people to accept bike lanes along the whole street, but we finally got a few blocks done and it is so nice to have them. Also, we have a bike lane being built across our old Mississippi Bridge. The benefits will be enormous, especially if all these streets are eventually connected with a national bike highway system. Apparently this will not happen without ongoing logisitical and legal issues, but we will overcome these obstacles.

  3. Jack

    Cyclists are just too inconvenient for auto drivers is the real story. How unreal are their perspectives? Greenwood Development Director Mark Richards states that “The type of cyclists we’re talking about could easily reach 30 miles per hour.”

    Really? Touring cyclists with full loads reaching 30mph? “The city is concerned about accidents but not that bicyclists could hold up traffic”.

    Typical drivers’ excuses and yes cyclists prefer to travel oil free. That Google map makes this obvious.

    1. Gene Bisbee

      Yeah, Jack. I was thinking I’d like to go long-distance touring with that guy who goes 30 mph on a touring bike — he could carry some of my stuff.

  4. Jack

    By the way, a MO rep has introduced a bill to require all cyclists to wear reflective vests while cycling on MO roads.

    Insanity rules our leaders?
    http://mobikefed.org/2012/03/hearing-tuesday-bill-requiring-mo-bicyclists-wear-reflective-vest

  5. Steve Fuller

    I think that it would help if Adventure Bicycling and the city would step back and take a realistic look at this. The city is worried about liability in case of an accident, but are their concerns based on unrealistic expectations of the number of cyclists they would see during a season? My *guess* is that we’re not going to be talking about hundreds over a summer, but maybe 10 – 20?

    I’d be curious why the city feels that designating a particular street as being on the route opens them up for more liability during an incident than it would if it was just someone riding through town? I would imagine it might change some levels of maintenance WRT cracks and potholes, but I’m not sure. One would think that if they have a liability issue for cyclists, that there’s a potential for one to exist for motorcycle drivers or cars as well.

  6. Ginny Sullivan

    Greetings – and thanks for running this article Gene. By the way, I forwarded the story to Mario Vian at Indiana Rails to Trails Council, one of the volunteers working on the route and he replied, “Shelby County had requested that we route USBR #35 through there and so we are altering the route as best venues become apparent.”

    This is great news! A community that is vying to be a part of the system instead of ignoring all the research and documentation that dispels the liability myth of designating bike routes (see our website: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/nbrn/usbrsresources.cfm#liability)

    And Steve Fuller, you are correct, the impact the city would see from long-distance touring cyclists is minimal but they do bring economic and social benefits. Maybe they will come around in the long-term.

    Ginny

    1. Gene Bisbee

      That’s great! Let Shelby County get the all the benefits of locating a national bicycle route through their jurisdiction! Odd how some communities would be so welcoming, while others oppose it. I’d bet you’d find some bicyclists among the folks working at the Shelby County office building.

  7. Tim Travis

    Greenwood Indiana is my home town. I moved to Arizona in my late 20’s but spent all my early years riding road and track bikes in Greenwood.. I always knew I came from a stupid redneck place – but now I know. I hang my head in shame. I will never move back.

    1. Robert

      I’m sure Greenwood Indiana does not miss your sorry butt one bit. Insulting a town and its residents by calling them “stupid rednecks” shows what little class and maturity you have. Grow up!

      1. Emmett

        Spent a few years in Greenwood, Indiana. That town is the poster child for being redneck!!!! You need to see the rest of the world before you speak. There really are places out there where inbreeding is the exception not the rule. BTW, not meant as an insult to you Tim.

        1. Robert

          FYI, I have travelled all over the world and have met a lot of great people both rich and poor, but never have I have seen the need to call anybody, either here or abroad derogatory names. BTW, some of these people you and Tim consider “redneck” are actually smarter and stronger than you…and definately have much more “class” than either you or Tim

  8. Mario Preston,Canada

    When I read stuff like this I’m so glad I leave in Canada as far as that goes…

    1. Mario Preston,Canada

      Sorry “live” not “leave”.

  9. Bicycle Tyro

    Critical Mass anyone?

  10. Mel

    I live north of Greenwood and totally understand this decision. You can’t tell from the photo, but Greenwood is not a rural town. It’s a busy and often congested suburb of Indianapolis. The intersection at Madison and Main (Old Towne) is very narrow and dangerous with no shoulder and barely even room for narrow sidewalks between the street and the densely packed old buildings. You can’t see cars coming from the north, much less bikes or pedestrians. I avoid Old Towne Greenwood at all costs if it’s anywhere close to rush hour–even in a car. Going through Shelby County is a much better route, truly rural and scenic.

  11. Al

    I live south of Greenwood and totally agree with Mel.

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